Players, Targets, and Tactics in Baylor Fundraising: A Language of Leverage

Baylor Fundraising: Players, Targets, and Tactics

Though it was the oldest school in Texas, Baylor University was still fairly young in the early 1900s. Between the years of 1900 and 1920, Baylor University was searching for ways to raise funds for students, campus, and the endowment. With a growing reputation, and a future to consider, Baylor and its supporters worked hard to find the means to keep the university running. New faculty positions, campus maintenance, and a desirable endowment, were all appealing and necessary matters for Baylor University. Without the monetary funds, Baylor would have struggled to keep these elements of campus life healthy.

Baylor University was able to make it through this seemingly tough financial time in history; a time that president Samuel Palmer Brooks quoted needing “to save the institution from the scrap heap” (Brooks, S. P., 1917, July 14, Letter to Lewis Byron). Considering the fact that Baylor was able to escape the fate of many other small frontier colleges, the question posed is how the university succeeded to procure enough funds to manage. After identifying some of the key players in Baylor fundraising and uncovering the targets responsible for giving to these fundraising campaigns, this paper will take a deeper look at the processes and tactics used to ensure dutiful giving; specifically following trends and traditions in the language of persuasion.

Key Players in Baylor Fundraising

Though Baylor charged several individuals with the task of giving to the school, three very important players amidst this fundraising process actually embodied the voice of that charge. Interestingly enough, all three of these players seemed called from previous responsibilities in other professions, roles, and even other schools to focus their attention and abilities on fundraising for Baylor and the endowment. The three players highlighted in this paper were a Baylor University president (Samuel Palmer Brooks), a pastor (Benjamin Harvey Carroll), and a president of Decatur College (Josiah Blake Tidwell).

Samuel Palmer Brooks

Whether it was the commission of the president of the university or not, Samuel Palmer Brooks took it upon himself to see to Baylor’s financial situation. In a 1925 issue of the Baylor Bulletin, Samuel Palmer Brooks (president of Baylor University from 1902 – 1931) was credited for the success of Baylor’s financial development. The bulletin read “It has been truly said that President Brooks “made Baylor a university…” touting that “The growth and development of the institution, marked through all of President Brooks’ administration, has been phenomenal during the last decade” (The Baylor Bulletin, 1925, (no page numbers)). How president Brooks was able to command the university and fundraise for the growing endowment and other monetary campaigns is lost in the fog of history. The amount of correspondence about raising money alone is impressive. There are records of correspondence between Brooks and another individual that total at least six letters within a year’s time, and on multiple occasions, he was writing two letters a month to the same recipient, Dr. Wallace Buttrick. In a letter to him, Brooks acknowledges his duty to the campaign by stating:

As President, I am going into the field. My work at home will be done largely by Dean Kesler, whose work in turn will be lightened by the loyal co-operation of the Faculty and student body. I know in advance that, from the most top-lofty Senior to the most humble preparatory student, we shall have an abiding effort, looking to the completion of the task before us. (Brooks, S. P., 1910, October 26, Letter to Dr. Wallace Buttrick).

His statement about allocating work while he was concerned with other things suggests that this particular fund raising campaign required more of his time than what would be considered normal. In fact, in another letter, President Brooks even confessed “I, as President of Baylor University, was elected without additional salary to seek to raise this money and am at my level best to do it” (emphasis in original) (Brooks, S. P., 1906, March 26, Letter to Dr. Wallace Buttrick). Even though there may not have been personal benefit to this extra work effort the amount of time and effort he poured into working for Baylor’s financial benefit was encouraging, especially when the results of his work could be seen in the university’s persisting success.

Brooks not only campaigned for funds for the university in the community of Waco, but spent a great deal of time traveling to different parts of the country meeting with individuals, organizations, churches, and other companies appealing for financial support. There are multiple occasions in which he traveled to New York to meet with the General Education Board and discuss his proposal for funds. President Brooks was not the only one traveling during the campaign process, there were several occasions where members of the General Education Board met Brooks on the university campus and surrounding community. Whether it was a tactic of the President or not, there were a few correspondences where the General Education Board had asked Brooks to “thank our friend the “Dr. Pepper” man for his great kindness in sending us the invoice of his delicious beverage” (Buttrick, W., 1910, December 9, Letter to Samuel Palmer Brooks). Though not explicitly stated, the context of the letter suggests the offering was a part of Brooks’ plan to persuade the board. This is just a small glimpse into the methods these players used to ensure that donors made monetary contributions on the university’s behalf. These forms of Bribery were not the most proud way to appeal to others, but if it meant more money for Baylor it was not above the players to partake in such efforts.

B. H. Carroll 

Another player in the fund raising world of Baylor was B. H. Carroll. Carroll served Baylor in a number of ways, but his role in fund raising was more closely related to the time he served on Baylor University’s Board of Trustees. Previously, Carroll had been the active pastor at First Baptist Church of Waco, a position he held for roughly twenty-seven years. He was highly regarded as one of the greatest preachers ever known, and yet he left this role as preacher to serve as chairman of the Board of Trustees for fifteen years (Reynolds, J. A., Carroll, Benajah Harvey). During this time his role called upon him to work on a campaign to “clear the debt of Baylor University during the period 1889 – 1906” (Carroll (Benajah Harvey) Papers). While his job may not have been to add to the endowment of the university, or to fundraise for new buildings or program initiatives, his job to eliminate the debt of Baylor was a prestigious task, nevertheless.

To put Baylor’s success of fundraising into perspective, this campaign was among a number of other campaigns meant to help small frontier schools keep from closing their doors. In an article from a 1908 issue of the Lariat, an excerpt from a pamphlet by J. C. Daniel titled A Plea for Christian Education states “The chartering of Baylor University, sixty-three years ago was the beginning of a number of Baptist schools, many of which have died” (Daniel, 1908, p. 3). This threat of dying schools was not something to be taken lightly. At this particular time in the early 1900s, debt of a school could cost the school its ability to operate. B. H. Carroll’s task of eliminating Baylor’s debt was one of the most crucial in the university’s fundraising history. Eliminating the school’s debt kept Baylor alive, a feat so many other schools were unable to accomplish. Had Baylor not pulled B. H. Carroll from his pastoral position to head the campaign as chairman of the Board of Trustees, there is no telling what could have happened to the school’s future.

J. B. Tidwell  

One of the last major players in Baylor fundraising was J. B. Tidwell. The name Tidwell does not exactly infer financial recognition with most people, mostly because Tidwell’s name was better credited and more commonly associated with his work as chairman of the Bible Department at Baylor University from 1910 – 1946 (Hawkins, Merrill Jr., Tidwell, Josiah Blake). However, Tidwell’s career at Baylor did not start in the Bible Department. In an issue of the Baylor Bulletin, the university made it clear that they needed someone to help them with the endowment. Under the headline “Our Greatest Need” Baylor states:

In response to our appeal for endorsement the convention last year, as per vote, advised the employment of an Endowment Secretary. We secured President J. B. Tidwell of Decatur College. He is a teacher of wide experience and a preacher of purity and power. Our greatest need comprehending every other one just now, lies in fulfilling the purposes of the employment of Brother Tidwell (The Baylor Bulletin, 1909, p. 25).

This is yet another example of a key player in Baylor fundraising who was pulled from a previous position (at another institution) to work for Baylor’s endowment. Not much is known about the appeal to leave a presidency role in order to become the Secretary of Endowment, but enough can be inferred because Tidwell took the job. Though Tidwell only held the position of Endowment Secretary for about 15 months, during that time he was able to raise over ninety thousand dollars for Baylor, a lofty amount during that time (Hawkins, Merrill Jr., Tidwell, Josiah Blake). Even though he only allotted a brief allowance of time to serve as the Endowment Secretary, he was not shy on his allotted influence on others.

One of his most memorable contributions, besides the ninety thousand dollars, was a small pamphlet on the university endowment fund. Titled “Baylor University Endowment: Why, How, and Who” the pamphlet highlights specific ways that friends of the university are encouraged to give to the endowment fund. A more in depth look at the pamphlet will be further discussed in the tactics of fundraising section of this research. Though the pamphlet was used primarily to attract outside donors like friends of the university, alumni, and churches, he also often spoke to a more internal Baylor population. He did not spare the general population of students, faculty, and staff of the responsibility to give; they are just a few among the many targets for Baylor fundraising. But one thing that stands out is Tidwell’s boldness and cutthroat diction when canvasing for funds. Perhaps this was the reason Baylor brought him on board for the endowment campaign.

The Targets of Baylor Fundraising

When it comes to determining which groups of people or individuals were actually the targets of these three fundraising players, it almost seems impossible to not include the entire population of the world. Though most of Baylor’s funding came from within the country, there are records of international donors from China, Brazil, and even Africa (The Baylor Bulletin, 1912, p. 34). The research presented in this paper will focus more specifically on the following groups and organizations: The General Education Board, wealthy philanthropists, churches, and Baylor friends (alumni, students, faculty, staff, etc.).

The General Education Board

John D. Rockefeller (Left) and Frederick T. Gates (Right)

The largest target for fundraising at Baylor was an organization called the General Education Board. Founded in 1902 by John D. Rockefeller and Frederick T. Gates, the General Education Board was a philanthropist organization that dedicated itself to higher education in the United States (General Education Board, 1964). Baylor was one among the numerous schools and universities who appealed to the Board for funding. According to J. George Harrar (President of the board) in his forward to the board’s Review and Final Report:

[A] total of $324.6 million had been expended on a wide variety of activities dedicated, in the words of its Congressional charter, to “the promotion of education  within the United States of America, without distinction of race, sex, or creed (General Education Board, 1964, p. VII).

The General Education Board truly believed in the future of higher education and this showed in their efforts to put aside racial and gender discrimination when allocating funds to schools. The Rockefeller family gave money to the Board throughout the years of its existence, and once the money ran out in 1964, the Board closed.

The General Education Board was an essential part of Baylor’s sustainability. Brooks believed in the Board’s mission and worked on his relationship with them aggressively in order to safeguard his favor with them. Most notable is the relationship that Brooks had with a man named Dr. Wallace Buttrick. Buttrick, “the first secretary of the Board,” had multiple interactions, consistent correspondence being one form of interaction, with President Brooks. Buttrick made several trips throughout the south visiting schools and giving his personal recommendation to the board as to whether certain schools needed funding (General Education Board, 1964, p. 4). Brooks’ relationship with Buttrick was strong. Often asking how life outside the office was treating the other, the two wrote devotedly to one another.

Because Buttrick (pictured left) was the secretary of the board, he seemed to play the part of the messenger. Gates, having a large influence on how money was allocated to universities, was a common recipient of Buttrick’s messages to and from Brooks. There were several letters where Buttrick was able to share good news about funding to Brooks, and several letters that were filled will apologies for the inability to share funding. Despite constant denial of funds to Baylor, Brooks knew he could not give up his contact with the Board. They were, after all, one of the largest donor agencies, and getting their support was worth the effort. Brooks was persistent and it paid off when the Board eventually decided to give funding to Baylor.

Wealthy Philanthropists

Though the General Education Board was Baylor’s primary target for fundraising, Baylor had other targets. The majority of those were individuals who were notably wealthy philanthropists. These affluent individuals fell into a number of categories: friends or alumni of the university, residents of the surrounding communities, and people who had influential connections. Early in his role as chairman of Baylor’s Board of Trustees, B. H. Carroll wrote a letter to the president of the University of Chicago, Dr. William Rainey Harper. It seemed unusual for Carroll to appeal to the president of another university (probably looking for its own funding) however, after discovering an interesting connection between Dr. William Rainey Harper and John D. Rockefeller (benefactor of the General Education Board) made the appeal to Dr. William Rainey Harper much more logical. According to an article about Dr. William Rainey Harper

[His reputation as a prodigious scholar of religion, combined with his Baptist affiliation, attracted the attention of John D. Rockefeller, who was making plans and generous donations for the founding of a university. Harper accepted Rockefeller’s invitation to be the first president of the new University of Chicago (William Rainey Harper (1856-1906) – The University of Chicago, Contribution to Academia).

An appeal to Dr. William Rainey Harper meant an appeal to John D. Rockefeller. Carroll must have known this, or why else would he have gone to him for funding? It seems more logical to appeal to the General Education Board instead of going through Dr. William Rainey Harper; however, the General Education Board had not yet been established.

Another interesting target for fundraising came from the joint suggestion of B. A. Copass and Christopher Columbus Slaughter. Copass was on the executive board of the Baptist General Convention serving as secretary, and Slaughter owned a cattle company and was a faithful benefactor for Baylor. In a letter to President Brooks, Copass communicates:

I know Col. Brackenridge quite well; that is, I know his traits of character…now would be a good time to approach him for Baylor…Col. Brackenridge is greatly interested in education. He has given money to all sorts of schools…He says that he gives to education in the interest of covilizations. He claims to be an infidel and curses any time any one mentions religious in his presence…I add this other word of warning – when you go do not take any preacher with you (Copass, B. A., 1917, July 13, Letter to Samuel Palmer Brooks).

With the help of other supporters, the players of Baylor’s fundraising, especially Brooks, were able to make connections with other philanthropists and appeal to them for support.


Churches were large targets, especially in the surrounding communities of Baylor. The appeal to them was one of Christian duty, something that will be addressed further as tactics are taken into consideration. However, churches typically drew in about the same amount of money as single donors. The time and effort spent to petition funds was much more taxing than petitioning to a single philanthropist. Most of the time, churches could be counted on for some form of financial support, however big or small the gift. By targeting churches for financial support, Baylor’s key players are able to appeal to a population that seems most effected by Baylor’s education of young preachers. Baylor continues to send preachers into the world, and many times to the churches who are giving. The appeal is that churches are investing in the future of their congregations.

Baylor Friends: Alumni, Students, Faculty, and Staff

One of the last major targets for fundraising was the alumni community. In an issue of the Baylor Bulletin, the following statement was made: “No friend or old student will be overlooked…[the endowment fund] means to make more certain that the roots of old Baylor are grown deep in the hearts of the people of Texas” (The Baylor Bulletin, 1910, p. 31). Alumni were often charged with the responsibility of helping support Baylor, and many times they were the ones who were hit hardest when it came to appeal tactics. Even so, in a 1909 issue of the Lariat, J. B. Tidwell asserts:

Let every reader of The Lariat put himself or herself into this campaign at once. Create sentiment, advertise, interest others. Send to the secretary the names of men able to give. It is time for every lover of Baylor to enlist as a helper. Nobody can feel good and be left out. There must be no loose traces. Everybody must show his colors. All at it is the word. Pass it on. (Tidwell, 1909, p. 2).

Again, he does not spare anyone, but it can be assumed that the ones reading the Lariat were the ones most closely connected to the university.

Fundraising Tactics

Baylor was progressive as far as petitioning for money. The same tactics that the players used to raise funds for the university in the early 1900s are some of the same tactics used in many of today’s fundraising attempts. Albeit the tactics used were sometimes more extreme than they are today, the strategies and end goal were and are the same. Guilt, Christian duty, and desperation are the more common tactics used to fundraise during the early 1900s. These appeals spoke in different ways among different targets. What is unique about these tactics is the language that was being used. Words can be very powerful agents, and depending on how Baylor’s players used language could have very well been the difference between a stable financial future and or a fragile one. The following tactics use interesting languages of leverage in order to “get the job done” as they say.


Guilt seemed to be the most promising method used to appeal to alumni of the university. The idea that alumni should support Baylor, because they have a special place for Baylor in their hearts, was commonly exercised by President Brooks and other fundraising players. Alumni were often criticized if they showed a lack of financial support or intent to support the school. Many times, this criticism came in the form of obligational duty. These alumni were expected to give financial support to the school, and if they did not, shame on them. In Tidwell’s publication of Baylor University Endowment: Why, How and Who, he induces guilt to anyone who might read the pamphlet by personifying the university and describing how much it had done for its students and community, not to mention how much it had done for the Baptist church. In the pamphlet, Tidwell provides several reasons to give to the endowment of Baylor; “Because of the service she has rendered…Because money put here will do good all the world over…Because of the blessings that will come to those individuals who give the money…Because the very life of Baylor depends on it” (Tidwell, p. 3-8). During a financially threatening time for schools across the country, Baylor had to do everything possible to get support. Apparently, using guilt-induced language was not above Baylor’s moral or ethical standards. What is remarkable is the fact that, comparatively, language used in this tactic was universal as far as all three of Baylor’s players were concerned.

Christian Duty 

Another tactic used is the appeal to Christian duty. Because Baylor is a Baptist school, she is allowed to prompt conviction. Not only is it your obligation to give to Baylor, but doing so is an act of a person’s calling as a Christian. Tidwell’s pamphlet also spoke to this matter:

We expect, yes, we require, denominational faithfulness…That we may not do the unchristian thing of putting off a sham education on the people…It is no more Christian to offer inferior education than inferior merchandise…They [those who give] may see the fruit of their labors while they live and rejoice therein and by their gifts may continue to lay up treasures in heaven after they are gone to their reward (Tidwell, p. 5-7).

The component of Christian duty makes the obligation of supporting Baylor an even deeper charge to her alumni. Their giving no longer affects the university, “it is a Kingdom building task” according to Tidwell (Tidwell, p.12).

The pressure of this appeal reaches further than almost any other tactic, and the language used is some of the most powerful among them as well. As dangerous as it is to put words in someone else’s mouth, it is just as, if not more, dangerous to put someone else’s words in someone else’s mouth. God commands His followers to give, but the specific commandment of giving to a university is not found in the bible. The language found in this particular approach is bold and intimidating, yet Baylor is not shy to use it as leverage for funding. This language paints a drastically different picture of the university’s needs compared to the language used to express Baylor’s desperation for funds.


The last tactic used by the players of Baylor’s fundraising campaigns is the appeal for funds out of desperation. Depending on whom the players were appealing to would determine what tactics they would use to get support. Most often, appealing to the alumni and friends of Baylor meant doing so in a way that made supporting the school an individual’s obligation. It was not so much an appeal out of desperation because they needed Baylor supporters to believe that giving would make a difference, not that it would keep the school from going under. Otherwise, whenever Carroll, Brooks, or Tidwell were appealing to larger corporations, organizations, or wealthy philanthropists, many times the appeal was a plea of critical necessity. If they were able to appear fraught enough, they may have been able to get pity support.

Carroll, in his letter to the president of the University of Chicago, appeared very desperate when he told Harper “I would gladly come to Chicago and spend a week – do anything you ask – if any service of mine will be helpful or even entertaining – a lecture on Texas – or preach – anything” (Carroll, B. H., 1900, June 29, Letter to Dr. William Rainey Harper). Carroll promised to do whatever possible in order to gain support. It sounded as if there were no other options and his reliance on Dr. William Rainey Harper was a last resort or last effort to get the money Baylor needed. That kind of desperation can put a lot of pressure on someone, and oftentimes the pressure worked.

Brooks found a tactic that Booker T. Washington used to be very successful as he sought to procure donor funding. In the early 1900s, Booker T. Washington “urged them [Tuskegee’s Northern friends] to see for themselves the Washington plan in daily operation” (Enck, H. S., 1980, p. 339). Washington believed that if donors saw the need for themselves, they would be more willing and eager to give. There was a sense of “come see how desperate we are for funding” whenever donors visited campus. This style of bringing donors to campus to see the university’s need and the good that the university was seeking to do, helped make the fundraising process more personal for those who were giving. Donors were able not only to see the students who would benefit from funding, but it was in a sense a way to put a university face with a name. It also probably helped that the university treated visitors with the highest regard.

Again, in a letter to Buttrick and the General Education Board, Brooks explained that two buildings had recently been given to Baylor, a generous, yet problematic gift because even though the buildings were paid for, there was no money given to help maintain and care for them (Brooks, S. P., 1906, March 26, Letter to Dr. Wallace Buttrick). Even after the General Education Board agreed to give funds to Baylor, Brooks mentioned

Trustees, Faculty and students step around with higher hopes than for many a day. True, we are not unmindful of the “glorious hard times” that awaits some of us, but with a hardihood and determination born of a righteous need, we will go forward to victory (Brooks, S. P., 1910, October 26, Letter to Dr. Wallace Buttrick).

Words like “hope” and “hard times” are serious indicators of misfortune. This unique language is a powerful tool to appear neglected, and struggling, and used cleverly it evokes the exact response anticipated by the three players. The appeal for more funds never stops. It does not matter what generous gift has been given, the reply almost always includes an appreciative, yet pathetic thanks, and another appeal for money because what Baylor has is not enough.


The art of fundraising will never die. Brooks knew that, and so did Carroll and Tidwell. Even in their new roles in different departments and schools, Carroll and Tidwell were still not able to escape the inevitability of fundraising campaigns. One of the most interesting concepts of Baylor’s fundraising in the early 1900s is that the language of fundraising seemed to be universal. Whether someone was appealing to donors out of guilt, Christian duty, or desperation, there seems to be no difference in the language used for each tactic. All three players, when appealing to the guilty conscience, use heartfelt words and language that suggested a sense of expected responsibility from targets. When appealing to Christian duty, all three players used biblical language and emphasized that giving was a burden to be borne for the Kingdom of God. And, in appealing out of desperation, still all three players chose to use a language that evoked pity and gave the appearance of hopelessness if targets did not give.

How desperate was Baylor, and how guilty should targets have felt? What does the Bible say about giving to education? These questions did not matter to Brooks, Carroll, or Tidwell. What mattered was whether the tactics and the language met their goal: successful procurement of funds. Baylor is alive and well today, meaning the leverage that language had on targets of fundraising was powerful. Baylor fundraising will never end. Even when she has built an endowment to sustain herself beyond the support of student tuition, there will always be a greater need for something: faculty positions, land, parking, or even a beautiful new football field. How now will Baylor fundraising compare tactically in today’s society? It would come as no surprise if Baylor’s key players still use a language of leverage to get what they need; maybe not a language as abrasive as the one used in the early 1900s, but one that is as specific and deliberate as one can be when pleading for money.


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