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Waggener, Leslie (1841–1896)

William James Battle Biography Entry

Leslie Waggener, Confederate soldier, professor of English, and university president, was born in Trenton, Todd County, Kentucky, on September 11, 1841, the son of S. T. and Elizabeth (Ross) Waggener. He graduated from Bethel College, Russellville, Kentucky, in 1860 and from Harvard University in 1861. While serving as a private in the Confederate Army he was badly wounded at Shiloh but was saved by his faithful servant, promoted to lieutenant, and again wounded at Chickamauga; he again recovered and took part in the famous Hundred Days' March from Dalton to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1864. At one time he served as adjutant of his regiment and later as assistant adjutant of his brigade. After the war Waggener became principal of the preparatory department of Bethel College, professor of English in the same college in 1870, chairman of the faculty in 1873, and president in 1876. His success was so conspicuous that he was elected professor of English and history in the first faculty of the University of Texas. In this capacity he served from 1883 until 1888, when he was relieved of teaching history. From 1884 until 1894 he was also, by annual faculty election, chairman of the faculty. When the office of president was established, he was elected president ad interim and served for the school year 1895–96. Waggener was a great influence in the development of the University of Texas. The university had two million acres of land and great hopes, but very little actual money. Against all the difficulties of the first years-lack of operating funds, hostilities of church colleges, and wide-spread indifference-the chairman of the faculty was the natural leader, but he was hampered by the fact that his office was annual and, though it conferred responsibility, did not carry authority. Waggener's courage and high standards sustained the university through a difficult period and prepared the way for later development. He married Fannie Pendleton on June 27, 1867; they had seven children. In 1875 Waggener was made LL.D. by Georgetown College, Kentucky, and in 1895 he was elected president of the Texas State Teachers Association. He was a Mason and a Baptist. He died at Manitou Springs, Colorado, on August 19, 1896, and was buried in Austin. Waggener Hall on the University of Texas campus was named in his honor in October 1932.

Austin Daily Statesman, October 25, 1896. Daily Texan, April 15, 1932. Lewis E. Daniell, Personnel of the Texas State Government, with Sketches of Representative Men of Texas (Austin: City Printing, 1887; 3d ed., San Antonio: Maverick, 1892). 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.


  • Education
  • Educators
  • English and Journalism
  • University Presidents and School Administrators
  • Military
  • Confederate Military

Time Periods:

  • Civil War

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

William James Battle, “Waggener, Leslie,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 16, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: