The Comprehensive Pat Neff: Texas Governor, Baylor President, and Much More

The name Pat Neff is known by every Baylor Bear. Perhaps his influence is most markedly demonstrated by Pat Neff Hall. Built in 1939 and named in honor of Baylor’s eighth president, its tower can be seen for miles and is a ready landmark for Wacoans and Texas travelers. But before Neff came to the Baylor presidency, he served the state of Texas in several offices, including two terms as Governor.

Pat Neff with horse

Neff maintained his ramrod posture and dapper dress even when riding horseback. Photo undated.

The Texas Collection is proud to house his papers and has been hard at work on processing his voluminous records (about 643 archival boxes). After a couple of years, multiple archivists and students, and generous gifts from Terrell Blodgett, among others, we have a completed finding aid for the Pat Neff collection.

The importance of these records can’t be overstated. They span a century of this important Texas family’s activities. Neff’s records offer a comprehensive view into the life and work of a public servant and educator.

And we do mean comprehensive—the man appears to have kept everything. Researchers, even those who know a lot about Neff, are bound to learn something they didn’t know. Here’s some of what you can discover, just from reading the biographical history in the finding aid.

  • He was elected to the Texas House of Representatives just four years after graduating from Baylor with his bachelor’s degree.
  • When he ran for governor, he was thought to be the first Texas candidate to travel by airplane for his campaigning efforts.
  • He was a staunch supporter of Prohibition—that you might already know. The stories about his public expulsions of students for drinking (and other misdeeds) are legendary at Baylor. But he also stood for everything from women’s suffrage to prison reform to water conservation.
  • After oil was discovered in Mexia, chaos ensued. Neff declared martial law in 1922 and called in the Texas National Guard and Texas Rangers. Later that year he declared martial law again, this time in Denison due to violence following a strike by the Federated Railroad Shopmen’s Union.
  • In the 1920s, Neff considered the possibility of running for US president and serving as president of the University of Texas.
  • As Baylor president, he accepted livestock as tuition payment and was known to occasionally pay part of a student’s bill out of his own pocket.
Pat Neff, "How I Spent the Holidays," 1890

The “how I spent my vacation” has long been a popular theme, as evidenced by this essay Neff wrote for his rhetoric class in his second semester at Baylor University in 1890.

Digging into the records themselves, you’re sure to learn much more about Pat Neff. We’ll highlight some of his records in upcoming blog posts and hope you’ll visit the reading room to explore Neff’s life and his impact on Texas and Baylor.

Learn more about Pat Neff:

Read a book—The Land, the Law, and the Lord: The Life of Pat Neff, by Dorothy Jean Blodgett, Terrell Blodgett and David L. Scott.

Listen to a podcast—Treasures of The Texas Collection: Pat Neff, an interview with Hans Christianson, hosted by Mary Landon Darden.

Explore an online exhibit—Pat Neff: “The Plain Democrat” Governor of Texas, 1921-1925, curated by Mark Firmin.

Find out about an interesting discovery made recently in the Pat Neff collection—Bonnie and Clyde (and Pat) and The Texas Collection Artifact That Ties Them Together.

Contact us for more information about the collection—the front matter of the finding aid is online as a PDF, but the box listing is so intricate that it didn’t translate well into that format. An archivist can help point you in the right direction for your research on Neff and his contributions to Texas.

And check out a few of our favorite photos from the Pat Neff collection. There is much more where this came from!

Young Pat Neff, 1890s

Young Neff, 1890s

Pat Neff with Native Americans

Neff with Native Americans, undated

 

Pat Neff breaks up illegal drinking and gambling in Mexia, 1922

Neff (sixth from right, behind the roulette wheel) breaks up illegal drinking and gambling in Mexia, 1922

Pat Neff at Mother Neff State Park dedication, May 14, 1938

Pat Neff at Mother Neff State Park dedication, May 14, 1938

 

Baylor President Pat Neff outside Pat Neff Hall, 1940s

Baylor President Pat Neff outside Pat Neff Hall, 1940s

 

Pat Neff studying a portrait of Texas hero Sam Houston

Neff studying a portrait of Texas hero Sam Houston, undated

Pat Neff tries out a saddle, 1930s

Neff tries out a saddle, 1930s

By Benna Vaughan, Manuscripts Archivist, and Amanda Norman, University Archivist

This entry was posted in Baptist General Convention of Texas, Baptist history, Baptist universities and colleges, Baylor University, Denison, Federated Railroad Shopmen's Union, Historic Waco, Mexia, Pat Neff, Pat Neff Hall, Prohibition, Sam Houston, Terrell Blodgett, Texas Baptists, Texas colleges and universities, Texas governors, Texas House of Representatives, Texas National Guard, Texas Rangers, United States history, University of Texas, women's rights, World War II. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Comprehensive Pat Neff: Texas Governor, Baylor President, and Much More

  1. Jane Johnson says:

    Will somebody be in the Pat Neff Collection area this Friday after 2?

    • Amanda Norman says:

      We’d be happy to help you with the Pat Neff materials Friday afternoon. We are open Monday-Friday, 8:15-5. Why don’t you email Benna_Vaughan@baylor.edu with more information about what in particular you’re interested in seeing–the Neff collection is very large, and she can help you with some pre-planning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>