Looking Back at Baylor: The Origin of the Green and Gold

This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in June 1978, 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.

Baylor Yell Leaders help cheer the Bears to their 1974 SWC Championship
Baylor Yell Leaders help cheer the Bears to their 1974 SWC Championship, while sporting the Baylor green and gold proudly!

Across campus, across Texas, and even across the country, Baylor fans have sported green and gold for over a century. But did you know, it all started with a dandelion? Kent Keeth, with the help of Baylor alumnae Sara Rose Kendall Irvine, recount how Baylor’s colors came to be:

Generations of Baylorites have pledged their loyalty to the Green and Gold, and some have gone so far as to incorporate the colors into their private lives as a motif for their automobiles, their sportswear or their living rooms. Many have probably speculated idly, at one time or another, about their significance and the reason for their adoption as the university’s official colors.

In a letter written in 1959 to Professor Guy B. Harrison of The Texas Collection, Mrs. Sara Rose Kendall Irvine (’02) of Waco offered a first-hand account of their selection and of the inspiration for the choice. A portion of Mrs. Irvine’s letter, slightly edited, appears below.

There seems to be no written record at the university as to the reason for the selection of these particular colors, but I was a member of the committee, and would like to tell you a true story of how the committee “came by” these colors.

Sara Rose Kendall Irvine
Sara Rose Kendall Irvine, Class of 1902, pictured in the 1902 Round Up.

In the year 1897, Baylor and “Add-Ran” (now Texas Christian University) held a debate in Bryan. There were no planes and few autos at that time, so Baylor secured from the Texas Central Railroad a train to take the Baylor crowd to Bryan.

The time was Spring, and as we sped along the train passed through a field abloom with wild dandelions. The vivid yellow and green were beautiful together, and somebody on that train said, “What a lovely combination!”

I was sitting with Charlie Ingram, the other member of the committee. I turned to him and said, “Charlie, there are our colors, except that we will say ‘green and gold’ instead of ‘green and yellow,’ if you like the idea.”

He did, and we recommended them to the proper authorities and they were adopted, probably in 1897. In 1897 the colors were used in Lorena, Texas, at a concert given by the Baylor Glee Club on Friday, March 25. This is said to be the first official use of them, but I do not know whether this is true.

Mrs. Enid Markham, author of the words to “That Good Old Baylor Line,” probably was not thinking of the habits of dandelions as she composed. Even so, she would surely concede that, as symbols of “flinging their green and gold afar,” no more apt example could have been chosen than “that good old dandelion.”

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