Caleb Perry Patterson, teacher and author, was born in Saltillo, Tennessee, on January 23, 1880, the son of Robert Henry and Mary Elizabeth (Creasy) Patterson. He was married to Tommie A. Cochran in Sardis, Tennessee, on August 8, 1907; they had no children. Patterson earned thirteen academic degrees, among which were B.A. and M.A., Vanderbilt University (1911); M.A., Harvard University (1916); LL.B., University of Texas (1921); and Ph.D., Columbia University (1923). At Columbia he studied under the leading authorities in the field of constitutional history and law. Patterson was an instructor in literature at Vanderbilt (1910–11); professor of history and government, West Tennessee Teachers College (1912–17); and instructor of history, Columbia (1918–19). He began his thirty-eight years as a teacher at the University of Texas as an instructor in government in 1919. He became an associate professor in 1920 and full professor in 1925. He served as chairman of the department for eight years and became a professor emeritus in 1955. Patterson was a Carnegie Foundation research professor in Europe (1926) and studied the judicial system of Great Britain on a Laura Spelman Rockefeller Foundation award (1931–32). He was well known as a public speaker in the 1920s. He urged entry of the United States into the League of Nations, abolition of lame-duck sessions of Congress, and reform of the electoral college system. With the coming of the New Deal, Patterson testified before congressional committees against President Franklin D. Roosevelt's court-packing proposal. In his writings he opposed centralizing government in Washington to the extent that it would eventually lead to the destruction of states' rights. Patterson was the author of numerous books and texts and coauthor of many more; he also wrote an extraordinary number of articles on constitutional law and edited D. C. Heath's political science series. Among his books were The Negro in Tennessee, 1790–1865 (1922), The Administration of Justice in Great Britain (1936), Presidential Government in the United States (1947), and The Constitutional Principles of Thomas Jefferson (1953). Among his many books on Texas was A Civil Government of Texas (1925). Patterson was an early member and president of the Southwestern Social Science Association (founded as the Southwestern Political Science Association; he was its first secretary-treasurer) and editor of the Southwestern Social Science Quarterly (1925–35); he founded Pi Sigma Alpha, a national honorary scholarship society in political science. In 1953 the Texas legislature commended Patterson for bringing honor to the University of Texas and the state in his writings and in his teaching. He retired from teaching in 1957. The C. P. Patterson-Thomas Jefferson Collection, established by the University of Texas in 1961, contained important resources assembled by Patterson for the study of Jefferson's life and writings. He died in Austin on November 29, 1971, and was buried in Austin Memorial Park.
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Austin American-Statesman, November 29, 1971. Carl John Eckhardt, One Hundred Faithful to the University of Texas at Austin (197-?). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Patterson, Caleb Perry,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 11, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
May 1, 1995