Winston, George Tayloe (1852–1932)

By: W. J. Battle

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: March 26, 2019

George Tayloe Winston, teacher and university president, was born on October 12, 1852, at Windsor, North Carolina, the son of Patrick Henry and Martha Elizabeth (Byrd) Winston. He attended the University of North Carolina from 1866 to 1868 and then studied at the United States Naval Academy from 1868 to 1870, standing at the head of his class of seventy. He could not overcome violent nausea at sea and resigned. In 1870 he went to Cornell, where he received a B.Litt degree in 1874 and won membership in Phi Beta Kappa. Later honorary degrees included an A.M. from Davidson College in 1877 and LL.D. degrees from Trinity College, North Carolina, and the University of North Carolina in 1911. He was married on June 5, 1876, to Caroline S. Taylor of Hinsdale, New Hampshire; they became parents of four children. When the University of North Carolina was reopened after the Civil War, Winston, although only twenty-three years old, was elected adjunct professor of Latin and German. Promoted to professor the next year, he taught Latin and German and served as secretary of the faculty until 1891, when he was elected president of the university at the age of thirty-nine. He went to work with great energy and ability to make the state conscious of the university. He had a difficult task for North Carolina was still miserably poor from the effects of the war, but in five years the university's income was doubled, and its enrollment was almost trebled. Winston was invited to deliver the commencement address at the University of Texas in June 1896. Discussing the influence of universities and public schools on national life and character, he spoke so effectively that the board of regents shortly elected him the university's first regular president. Leslie Waggener had been president ad interim. Winston entered on his work in Texas with the same vigor that he had shown in North Carolina. He made speeches, wrote articles, attended conventions, and labored with all classes of people to make them look upon the university as their own. He infused a new spirit into the institution itself. The curriculum was revised, able instructors were brought to the faculty, the University Record was inaugurated, B. Hall and the Main Building were enlarged, but Winston was unhappy over slowness in improvements and accepted the presidency of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of North Carolina in 1899. He was successful in his new position, but poor health led him to accept a Carnegie Pension and retire in 1908. He died in Durham, North Carolina, on August 26, 1932. Winston received many honors, among them the presidency of the Association of Southern Colleges and Secondary Schools in 1895. His publications included numerous reports, addresses, and articles, and one book, Daniel Augustus Tompkins, a Builder of the New South (1920).

Samuel A. Ashe, Stephen B. Weeks, and Charles L. Van Noppen, eds., Biographical History of North Carolina (8 vols., Greensboro, North Carolina: Charles L. Van Noppen, 1905–17). Kemp Plummer Battle, History of the University of North Carolina (2 vols., Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1907–12; rpt., Spartanburg, South Carolina: Reprint Company, 1974).


  • Education
  • University Presidents and School Administrators

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

W. J. Battle, “Winston, George Tayloe,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 29, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 26, 2019