Monday, May 2, 2011

Texas A&M - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly


If you hang out in Texas for any length of time, you'll get exposed to Texas A&M University. It is a large state school that generates legions of proud and boisterous graduates. It is a school defined by its traditions.

Occasionally I find old editions of the school's yearbook. Here are some highlights from the 1943 edition.

THE GOOD

1943 was, of course, a key period of Word War II. Long before WWII, Texas A&M was a male-only military school that trained reserve officers through its Corps of Cadets. Looking at this yearbook you can't help but to wonder how many of the boys pictured gave their lives fighting fascism and Imperial Japan. Two of them - 1943 Seniors Thomas Fowler and William Harrell - were destined for greatness on the battlefield as winners of The Congressional Medal of Honor (you can read their stories by clicking on their names).



Traditions that are still strong are illustrated, such as midnight yell practice -





- and the Fightin' Aggie Marching Band - a marching band actually worth watching.


THE BAD

Although Aggies hate the admit it, their yearbook used to be called The Longhorn. The school, whose hatred of the University of Texas Longhorns is ingrained even into their school song, "The Aggie War Hymn," changed the name of their yearbook to Aggieland after WWII. Here are some of the lyrics:


Good bye to texas university
So long to the orange and the white
Good luck to dear old Texas Aggies
They are the boys who show the real old fight
"the eyes of Texas are upon you"
That is the song they sing so well
So good bye to texas university
We're gonna beat you all to…
Chigaroogarem , Chigaroogarem
Rough, Tough, Real stuff, Texas A&M
Saw varsity's horns off
Saw varsity's horns off
Saw varsity's horns off
Short! A!
(Seniors: WHOOP!)
Varsity's horns are sawed off
Varsity's horns are sawed off
Varsity's horns are sawed off
Short! A!
(Freshmen: AAAAAA!) (Sophomores: A-A-A-A-A!) (Juniors: A-A-A-WHOOP!) (Seniors: WHOOP!)

THE UGLY

The Ku Klux Klan was reborn in the early 1920's. Unfortunately, it flourished at Texas A&M during that period as a student club called the Kream and Kow Klub. They had a faculty sponsor and appeared in yearbook group photos starting in the 1920's. I understand they took their group photo in full sheets in the 1926 edition. The popularity of the Klan faded in the 1930's, but it persisted on the College Station campus until well after WWII (I've seen the group photo in the 1949 edition). I know many Aggies who have never heard of this unseemly tradition in their alma mater. Here is their 1943 group photo:





UPDATE: an anonymous reader shared these scans of the 1906 yearbook cover and the photo therein:



9 comments:

Rosemary said...

That is absolutely terrifying. I wish I could say "shocking," but I guess it really isn't, given the context. Still...thanks for the education.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information it really helped me understand the school more

Anonymous said...

The William Harrell that you have pictured is not the William G. Harrell who is the Medal of Honor recipient for Texas A&M. While SSgt William George Harrell was in the class of 1943, he had to leave after only four semesters at A&M to earn money for school. With the outbreak of WWII, he enlisted in the Marine Corps on July 3, 1942. The Fifth Marine Division landed on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945.

Anonymous said...

Oh my lord I think this is my Grandfather's yearbook. If you have this, can you please find William Frank Ellis, Captain?

Anonymous said...

The part about the KKK is not true. My father attended A&M in the 40s, and in fact, I have this same yearbook. If you will look up the names of the students in this club, you will discover that they are all majoring in Dairy Science or Animal Science or some such subject. These young men are certainly NOT members of the KKK, nor were the ones dressed in robes. If you look at photos from the University of Texas yearbook from the same period, students dress in blackface. In both the A&M and the Texas yearbooks, you find young men dressed in drag. I do not believe that proves that these men were part of a public QLBT club. In short, these are young men doing funny things for the yearbook.

Anonymous said...

W. Frank Ellis, nicknamed "Turk," from Terrell and majoring in Chemical Engineering, is indeed in the '43 yearbook on p. 85.

Anonymous said...

Just to continue the same thought about the Kream and Kow Klub, I have looked up at random several members of the club in the 1943 and the 1948 yearbooks. All of the individuals I looked up were majoring in Dairy Science or Dairy Husbandry. In short, what you have uncovered is a club for people who want to be dairy farmers and cattle ranchers. In fact, in looking at the 1948 annual, only one member of the KKK is in uniform; all the other members are in civilian clothes, because they are veterans returning from the war, as my father did, and thus not subject to the required military training. Do you really think that these veterans of the Pacific and Europe had nothing better to do than to join the KKK on their return to the states?!? How ridiculous. Now, it is entirely possible that when this club war formed in the early part of the 20th century, some prankish, immature students chose as its name some words with a scandalous allusion. Today they might have named the club Farmers Union Cattle Klub (note the initials). The name of the club is a poor attempt at humor, and nothing more. The latter half of this blog should be removed; I would think that the university, the members of the club still alive, and their descendants would have a good case for libel.

Anonymous said...

I am a current student at Texas A&M University and I actually spent the afternoon in Cushing Library looking at yearbooks, archives, and historic collections for a research paper. I am a white female and I am a proud Ag, but I have to admit that, for a time, Texas A&M was essentially run by the KKK. The football team's financial success and mass popularity across the state of Texas and with alumni world-wide can be largely attributed to contributions and support from the Klan. The Klan robes of head football coach Dana X. Bible are in the archives in Cushing Library. I know because I held them in my hands less than 6 hours ago. I don't know if the information provided here about to on-campus "KKK" club is valid (and I doubt it is, seeing as so many Ags have found evidence that these young men were seeking degrees specific to the title of the club), but I can definitively say that there were KKK meetings held regularly on campus for many years and that there are still monthly KKK meetings held right outside of College Station to this day. This is not a part of Texas A&M history that any of us Aggies are proud of, but we can't deny that our beloved university was once (and still is) entrenched in racial discrimination and all that comes with it.

Anonymous said...

I was a student at a&m in the early 80s. The student catalog made mention of the library's KKK collection. The campus was still almost all white.