Looking Back at Baylor: The Spirit of Abe Kelley

This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in September 1976, then was reprinted in Looking Back at Baylor (1985), a collection of Keeth and Harry Marsh’s historical columns for the Line. Blogging about Texas periodically features selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.

This January marks the 91st year since the accident that took the lives of the Immortal Ten. We take a moment to remember those were lost, and learn more about one individual in particular. Please note, that this publication stated the Immortal Ten accident occurred on January 21, 1927 but further research shows that the accident occurred the following day, January 22, 1927. 

January 22, 1927 LariatFront Page

One of the greatest tragedies that Baylor has ever experienced occurred on January 21, 1927. On the morning of that day the university bus carrying the Bear basketball team to a game with the University of Texas, travelling in a misting rain on a slick road, collided with an Illinois and Great Northern railway train at a level-grade crossing in Round Rock. Ten students were killed in the accident, and most of the other passengers were injured. The university, Waco and the state were stunned by the catastrophe. Hundreds of messages of condolence poured in from individuals, groups and other universities; and a crowd of three thousand attended the memorial service held on campus for the victims. Among those killed was Clyde “Abe” Kelley, Baylor’s all-round athlete and star halfback of the 1926 season. Described as being equally proficient in football, baseball and basketball, Kelley had been selected only a month before his death to be captain of the 1927 Bear football team. In tribute to his ability, and perhaps also as a memorial to the “Immortal Ten” who died in the wreck, Kelley’s captaincy of the team was not rescinded. A newspaper article datelined Waco, August 6, 1927, (sent to the Baylor Line by James A. Fox Jr. ’28 of Lufkin) announced: “The spirit of Abe Kelley again will direct the Baylor Bears when the Green and Gold jerseyed football team takes the field next month to make a try for honors in the Southwest conference. It was decided not to elect another captain, but to let “Abe” continue to run the team in spirit, if not in actuality. A member of the team will be appointed before each game to act as captain.” The “spirit of Abe Kelley” continued to manifest itself on Baylor’s campus for some time. Nearly five years after the accident Dave Cheavens, who had traveled with the team that day as sportswriter for the Lariat, described the incident to the student body. “I saw Abe Kelley pick up his best friend and throw him out the [bus] window when he could see the train bearing down to a certain crash. That was the true Baylor spirit.” The impact of the tragedy was not confined to Baylor. Among the many Texas newspapers which editorialized against the level-grade crossings used by railways throughout the state, the Daily Texan, student publication of the University of Texas wrote: “The slaughter of ten men of Baylor University . . . brings home to Texas the tragedy attendant on the grade crossings which at resent exist by the thousands in Texas. The only thing that will entirely remove grade crossing deaths is their complete elimination. This accident was preventable.” Other publications and groups continued to prosecute the campaign against level-grade crossings, and with the recent Baylor incident to support their arguments, they succeeded in bringing their message to the ears of state highway planners and railroad officials. The November, 1937, issue of Texas Parade—at that time the organ of the Texas Good Road Association—published a photograph of a recently completed railroad underpass at Round Rock. The picture’s caption read: “Had this underpass been in existence eight years ago several Baylor students would not have been killed.” Because the 1927 Round Rock tragedy epitomized the need for improved standards of safety in highway construction, its long-term effects have been beneficial. Texas motorists for the past fifty years have traveled under the protection of the spirits of Abe Kelley and the others of the Immortal Ten.

Posted in Baylor University, Clyde "Abe" Kelley, Immortal Ten, Kent Keeth, Looking Back at Baylor | Leave a comment

Remembering Their Sacrifices: Baylor Faculty and Students During World War II

by Thomas DeShong, Project Archivist

World War II witnessed the rise of the United States as a global superpower and the establishment of a new world order.  Historians, amateur and professional alike, devote their entire lives to studying the complexities and intricate details of “The Good War” including its battles, politicians, military commanders, causes, effects, etc.

BU Records: Armed Services Representative, Accession #BU/12, Box #2, Folder #25, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.<br />

Ray Priolo wrote this letter to Merle McClellan after his transfer from Baylor. Note that he only has kind words to say concerning Merle, Baylor students, and the campus. He even gives BU President Pat Neff a vote of approval.

While seeking to comprehend the broader historical and social implications of World War II, we sometimes forget how these events impacted the life of an individual.  Activities that we might take for granted, such as teaching and learning in a peaceful collegiate setting, were dramatically altered in a nation at war.  Over the past few months, I have processed two small but fascinating collections concerning Baylor University during World War II.  As a result, I have come to appreciate the sacrifices made by some of Baylor’s faculty and students during that time.

Merle Mears McClellan was one such remarkable faculty member.  Merle had earned a double major in history and science from the University of Texas in 1917 and had taught for years in the Gatesville area.  Following the death of her husband William, she earned her Master’s degree in 1941 at Baylor University where she taught various history courses over the next few years.  In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Baylor University President Pat Neff appointed Merle as the university’s Armed Services Representative in the spring of 1943.  In this role, she acted as a liaison between the university and the military.

Reflecting on her experiences, Merle was one of the few women who had been appointed to such a task.  In explaining why Neff had chosen her, she wrote, “He said, ‘You are a mother of one son in the Pacific.  Your normal reaction would be to send everyone to help him fight.  So if you say a boy is entitled to exemption no one on the McLennan Co. Draft Board will question your decision.  Furthermore, I know you and I know the Baylor boys will get everything to which they are entitled.”  Continue reading

Posted in archival research, Baylor University, military history, United States Armed Forces, United States history, World War II | Leave a comment

Research Ready: December 2017

Each month, we post an update to notify our readers about the latest archival collections to be processed and some highlights of our print material acquisitions. These resources are primed for research and are just a sampling of the many resources to be found at The Texas Collection!

December’s finding aids
By Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

  • Letter from Charles Wellborn to Elma Merle Mears McClellan Duncan

    Letter from Charles Wellborn, student at Baylor and future evangelist and pastor, to the Armed Services Representative for Baylor University. In the letter, Wellborn describes drilling for the past week, after enlisting in the United States Army in July 1943.

    • BU Records: Armed Services Representatives, 1942-1945, undated (#BU/12): Collection contains correspondence sent by former students, parents, and government officials to Merle Mears McClellan, Baylor University’s Armed Services Representative during World War II. Baylor President Pat Neff appointed McClellan as the acting liason between the university and the military, in conjunction with Baylor University becoming a training site for Army officers prior to World War II.







December’s print materials
By Amie Oliver, Librarian and Curator of Print Materials

Cunningham, Eugene. Famous in the West. El Paso, TX: Hicks-Hayward Co., [1926]. Print.

Cunningham, Eugene. Famous in the West. El Paso, TX: Hicks-Hayward Co., [1926]. Print. 

Originally published in El Paso as an advertisement for Rodeo Outdoor Clothes, this volume contains info on cowboys such as “Jim” Gillett, Dallas Stoudenmire, Billy the Kid, and Tom Threepersons. Click here to view in BearCat.






College, Belton: For Women. [Belton, TX?]: [publisher not identified], [between 1925 and 1929?]. Print.

College, Belton: For Women. [Belton, TX?]: [publisher not identified], [between 1925 and 1929?]. Print. 

The purpose of this volume is two-fold. The many photographs of the grounds and student body show a beautiful, thriving Baylor College campus while the new development campaign seeks $500,000 to pay university debts and $250,000 to build a permanent endowment. Click here to view in BearCat.





Waco 52 Playing Cards. [Waco, TX]: [publisher not identified], [2017]. Print.

Waco 52 Playing Cards. [Waco, TX]: [publisher not identified], [2017]. Print. 

Though not a traditional book, this set of playing cards is unique to Waco. Each card is designed by a different artist and contains images of locations throughout the city, including the ALICO building, Waco Suspension Bridge, Hippodrome, Lake Waco, etc. Click here to view in BearCat.

Posted in American West, Amicable Alico Building, Belton Texas, Books, Charles Wellborn, Cowboys, El Paso, Hippodrome, Lake Waco, letters, military history, Photographs, Research Ready, Texas, United States Armed Forces, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Waco, Waco suspension bridge, West, World War II | 1 Comment

The 12 Days of a Baylor Christmas

by Sylvia Hernandez, BULAA Project Archivist

‘Tis the season to decorate trees, bake some cookies, visit our loved ones, and sing along to our favorite holiday tunes. Undoubtedly at least one version of “The 12 Days of Christmas” will grace our ears before the season ends, but which one? Will it be more traditional in the style of Burl Ives or more outlandish in the way of Jeff Foxworthy? How about one you may not know exists? How about a Baylor Football version?

Walter Abercrombie displaying his moves on a carry against Texas Tech.

The 1980 Baylor Football team finished the season as Southwest Conference Champions with an invitation to play in the 1981 Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day. Support for the team was shown with the creation of memorabilia – think bumper stickers, Dr Pepper bottles, t-shirts, etc.—and a few songs. Yes! More than one.

Tackling, catching, passing; all are represented in “The 12 Days of a Baylor Christmas” as follows:

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, Grant Teaff gave to me:

Robert Bledsoe kicking against Rice.

  • The Bears high in Cotton,
  • Joe Campbell tackling,
  • Doak Field Crushing,
  • Buzzy Nelson snapping,
  • McGeary blocking field goals,
  • McElroy’s interceptions,
  • Radar Holt catching,
  • Ab-er-crom-bie’s moves…
  • Singletary sacking,
  • Jeffrey throwing passes,
  • Robert Bledsoe kicking,
  • And a Baylor Bears Cotton Bowl Team.”

With lyrics written by Jean Kettler, Mack Hayes, Sandra Hayes, and vocals sung by Darrel John, the tune conjures memories from over 35 years ago as it recounts the feats of athleticism displayed by our beloved Bears. Although the Cotton Bowl didn’t end as hoped, songs and other items stand as the testament of ongoing support for our athletic programs.

Author’s Note: This song was played on local radio and released in local record stores. If you have a copy, let us know, we would love to hear it!

Posted in Baylor University, Christmas | Leave a comment

Herman Moll and His Distorted Map

by Rachel DeShong, Special Event Coordinator and Map Curator 

“Recalculating” is a term that many of us are far too familiar with. We hear it when the GPS navigation system on our phone is telling us how to get from Point A to Point B, but we somehow managed to miss the turn. It is hard to imagine a time when maps were unable to give accurate directions in real time. Modern maps are expected to be flawless and up-to-date. So, what happens when maps are wrong?

A New Map of the North Parts of America Claimed by France Under Ye Names of Louisiana, Mississippi, Canada, and New France with Ye Adjoyning Territories of England and Spain. 1720. Drawer 1 Folder 3, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Maps drawn centuries ago often contain inaccuracies that seem painfully obvious to viewers in the present day. For example, let us consider A New Map of the North Parts of America Claimed by France Under Ye Names of Louisiana, Mississippi, Canada, and New France with Ye Adjoyning Territories of England and Spain. (What a mouthful!) Produced in 1720 by Herman Moll, this map was a direct response to an earlier French map entitled Carte de la Louisiane du Cours du Mississippi that claimed French ownership over portions of the Southwest and the Carolinas. Moll’s map, by contrast, attempted to assert British ownership over the Carolinas. However, Moll’s map contains numerous mistakes:

  • California is portrayed as an island
  • Florida is much too small
  • the Great Lakes are far too large
  • all the rivers in Texas flow north and south
  • non-existent mountain ranges are depicted in western Texas

Continue reading

Posted in Archives, Herman Moll, Maps, United States history | 2 Comments

Songs of the Past and Present: Baylor Sheet Music at The Texas Collection

by Joseph Lipham, Student Assistant

In 1930, the illustrious Baylor University became officially accredited as a School of Music by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). Under the guidance of the School of Music director, Roxy Grove, who was granted the position in 1926, the Baylor School of Music would have quite the pivotal impact on the university. Grove, being a proud Baylor alumna, noticed that the university lacked a solidified alumni song. In 1928, Grove put her ideas to paper and music, and thus, “Alma Mater” was born. Her take on an alumni song for Baylor is quite powerful and somewhat poignant; perhaps the most pervasive line of the tune being, “…All hail Alma Mater, all hail to thee thou guiding star of our destiny…”. Lyrics like these make it undoubtedly evident that Grove, like thousands of Baylor alumni, held the school in the highest of regards. While this song was quite the powerful homage to the beloved alma mater, it did not stick around long; the song would be completely replaced in 1931 by another Baylor alumna, Enid Eastland Markham.

Enid Eastland Markham, wife of Robert Markham, a senior professor of music at Baylor, can be credited for one of the most beloved pieces of Baylor music. In 1931, a large gathering of Baylor exes (also known as alumni), flooded through the doors of the newly constructed Waco Hall. This tradition of Baylor exes meeting to relive the euphoric splendor that was college, was nothing new to Baylor University, as the first such tradition began nearly 22 years prior. However, something was quite different this time; Markham, playing the organ and leading the exes in singing of one of Baylor’s most well-known songs, “That Good Old Baylor Line”, was quite shocked. The origins of “That Good Old Baylor Line” can be traced all the way back to 1907 when a young student named George Baines Rosborough jokingly pinned lyrics for a song based off the Broadway hit, “In the Good Old Summertime.” Rosborough, clamoring for a song to sing at Baylor Bear football games, sat and wrote lyrics that mocked Baylor’s then crosstown rival, Texas Christian University (TCU). The original parody lyrics spoke of the Baylor football team doing the opposing team “…up in turpentine…”. Markham, in one of her correspondences regarding her version of the song, claimed the words “…remained inadequate and even absurd…”. Markham even went as far as to say “…I was struck anew with their utter unworthiness as I watched a group of dignified, middle-aged Exes solemnly intoning the ridiculous little turpentine words…”

Continue reading

Posted in Baylor School of Music, Baylor University, Music teachers, Roxy Grove, That Good Old Baylor Line | Leave a comment

Research Ready: November 2017

Each month, we post an update to notify our readers about the latest archival collections to be processed and some highlights of our print material acquisitions. These resources are primed for research and are just a sampling of the many resources to be found at The Texas Collection!

November’s finding aids
By Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

    • Texas Sheet Music collection, 1836-1979, undated (#258): An assortment of songs and sheet music relating to Texas. Many of these songs pertain to the Texas War of Independence, famous military leaders, Christmas in Texas, the state flower, the state song, the city of Waco, and life in the American Southwest.
BU Home Economics Department Pamphlets

These departmental pamphlets found in the collection highlight the variety of opportunities available at Baylor and historical changes in higher education for home economics as a whole You’ll find these items in the BU Records: Home Economics Department (#BU/107) at The Texas Collection, Baylor University. Rights: Some rights reserved. E-mail txcoll@baylor.edu for information about the use of our images. Visit www.baylor.edu/lib/texas/ for more information about our collections.

November’s print materials
By Amie Oliver, Librarian and Curator of Print Materials

Harding, Glenn T. Rails to the Rio. [Raymondville, TX]: [Glenn Harding], [2003]. Print.

Harding, Glenn T. Rails to the Rio. [Raymondville, TX]: [Glenn Harding], [2003]. Print.

Highlighting the 2004 centennial of the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico Railroad, this volume also provides information on towns created and/or affected by rail construction. Click here to view in BearCat.



Collias, Joe G. The Texas & Pacific Railway: Super-Power to Streamliners, 1925-1975. Crestwood, MO: M M Books, [1989]. Print.


Collias, Joe G. The Texas & Pacific Railway: Super-Power to Streamliners, 1925-1975. Crestwood, MO: M M Books, [1989]. Print.

This volume provides a deeper look at 50 years of the Texas & Pacific Railway and is filled with many photographs of trains, depots, and rail yards. Click here to view in BearCat.



Posted in Baylor athletics, Baylor traditions, Books, genealogy, military history, Research Ready, Texas Artists, Texas Painters, United States Armed Forces | Leave a comment

Christmas Spirit at Baylor

Although it rarely snows in Waco, these Baylor students had quite a bit of fun on their snow day! Check out our Flickr album for more snow day photos by clicking on this photo.

by Joseph Lipham, Student Assistant

As the chilling winter winds approach Baylor’s campus and the ominous cloud of finals looms near, so does one of Baylor’s most beloved traditions. Christmas on 5th Street ushers in the jolliness of Christmas right in the heart of the Baylor campus. While students are away spending Thanksgiving with their families, the campus is adorned with oversized candy canes, ornaments and as many Christmas decorations as one could possibly imagine. Returning home from Thanksgiving to find their campus completely remodeled into a Winter Wonderland, it is no wonder why this is every student’s favorite time of the year.

These traditions takes place on 5th Street, the central street on campus that runs by the Student Union Building (SUB) and Fountain Mall. Taking place on November 30 the every year, Christmas on 5th kicks off the winter holiday. A variety of activities are set up at Fountain Mall, including a petting zoo filled with animals and “Santa’s Workshop.” There’s even a life-sized Nativity scene set up in front of the SUB. While these activities take place throughout the entirety of the day, the most exciting and event begins roughly around 8:15 P.M each year.

Christmas Tree Lighting program from 1977.

The annual Kappa Omega Tau Christmas Tree Lighting has begun around the same time each year, since it began in 1965. The annual tree lighting is an opportunity to bring Baylor students and faculty together to bask in the bright lights of the ginormous tree. Housed in the center of Burleson Quadrangle, the large Christmas tree is decorated by Kappa Omega Tau and the Department of Student Activities. The tree is adorned with bright white lights and red bows. Accompanying these festive decorations are presents at the base of the tree, donated by Baylor students for children in need.
Christmas on 5th even brings snow to Central Texas; in Vera Daniel Plaza, a snow machine is set up to give students a true Winter Wonderland experience. While the weather may be chilly, and the threat of finals may loom near, Christmas on 5th pulls out nearly all the stops to warm the hearts of all Baylor students and instill the spirit of Christmas into every person who engages in the activities strewn throughout Baylor’s campus.

This year, the festivities will begin at 5:30pm on November 30th. For more information about this event, please visit this website.

If you are an alum who has photographs or materials related to the Christmas Tree Lighting and are interested in sharing these with The Texas Collection, please contact our University Archivist, Leanna Barcelona.

Posted in Baylor traditions, Baylor University, Christmas, student life | Leave a comment

Texas over Time: Waco Mammoth National Monument, Waco, TX

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of GIFs that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, changing aerial views, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.

                                Waco Mammoth National Monument

*Two explorers, Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin, were searching for fossils along the Bosque River in the spring of 1978 when they accidentally discovered the large femur bone of a Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi).

*Barron and Bufkin took their discovery to Baylor University’s Strecker Museum, now the Mayborn Museum, where researchers identified the fossils and organized a search team.

*The Mammuthus columbi species lived over 65,000 years ago during the Ice Age and roamed anywhere from Southern Canada to Costa Rica.

*Between 1978 and 1990, the remains of 24 Columbian mammoths, a saber toothed cat, giant tortoise, Western camel and American alligator were all excavated.

*The group of fossils were categorized as a “nursery herd.”

*Jon Bongino, a Baylor graduate student in Geology first believed that all the animals found at the Waco Mammoth Site died in one single catastrophic event. After further investigation of the soil layers, it was determined that three events took place in a short period of time at the site.

*The animals’ involved were trapped in a steep-sided channel and drowned during a period of rapidly rising flood waters from the Bosque River.

*The excavation process was a tedious process, finished by utilizing trowels, brushes and bamboo scrapers.

*The Columbian mammoths weighed seven to eight tons, they were 12 to 14 feet tall and had tusks as long as 16 feet.

*On July 10, 2015, the site officially became the Waco Mammoth National Monument after the President signed an Executive Order to hand management over to the National Park Service.

See the still images in our Flickr set.

Works Cited:

Hetter, Katia. “Texas Mammoth Herd Site Is a New National Monument.” CNN. Cable News Network, 30 June. Web. 13 July 2016.

“History & Culture.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d. Web. 13 July 2016.

Barrow, Jill, and Guy Gandy. Mammoths in Waco: Exploring the Mystery. Waco, TX: Mayborn Museum Complex, Baylor U, 2007. Print.

Text and GIF by Haley Rodriguez

Posted in McLennan County, Texas, Texas over Time, Texas places, Waco | Leave a comment

A Secretive Collaboration for Waco’s Integration

by Thomas DeShong, Project Archivist

As a student of history and an archivist, I am oftentimes awestruck by the rich and diverse collections I have had the privilege to process at The Texas Collection. During my brief time here, I have worked with materials relating to a wide range of topics including the Branch Davidians, Baylor University presidents, Texas governors, the American Civil War, World War II, and Baptist organizations, just to name a few. Needless to say, I find great satisfaction in my job. I never know what I might encounter on any given day. For instance, just a few months ago, I stumbled upon one of my most exciting finds yet: the Joe Lett Ward, Jr. papers.

 General Photo Files, Box #245.01, Folder #20, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Joe Ward, Jr. was known for his involvement in Waco’s city government as well as a number of local board memberships.

Joe Ward, a fifth-generation Wacoan, was known throughout the city for his public service and community involvement. He served four years on the Waco City Council and was later appointed the Mayor of Waco from 1959 to 1960. Despite all of his accolades, however, one of the most fascinating aspects of Joe Ward’s service was also quite secretive.

The Joe Ward papers are not extensive by any means; they are housed in a single document box. Yet the papers within shed light on part of Waco’s history that has long been shrouded in mystery. One-third of Joe Ward’s materials are products of his tenure on the Waco Community Relations Committee and its predecessor, an un-named subcommittee operating under the Committee of Fifty. Initially, this nine-man committee was comprised of some of Waco’s leading entrepreneurs and citizens including Chairman Joe Ward and Baylor University President Abner McCall. They worked in conjunction with the Progressive Community Council, a group of prominent African American leaders led by Reverend Marvin C. Griffin, to integrate Waco’s schools, restaurants, and businesses. Continue reading

Posted in Community Race Relations Coalition Waco, Integration, Joe Ward, Jr., Marvin C. Griffin, Marvin Griffin, Mayors, Waco | 2 Comments