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

Looking Back at Baylor: Thanks for the Buggy Ride

This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in August 1975, 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.

Watch your step! This couple departs the Baylor University campus for a buggy ride to Cameron Park, Waco, Texas, circa 1925
Boarding a buggy at Baylor! The photos in this student album were taken during the day, so they’re not part of the buggy protest, but they were taken around the same time period.

Today students grumble about the challenges of finding a parking spot on the Baylor campus, but back in the 1920s, the issue with cars was different. Enjoy a ride back to the days when cars were relatively new on the scene and students found creative ways to protest strict university policies. We’ve complemented Keeths piece with photos from a student album depicting a buggy ride to Cameron Park—you’ll see that students took this opportunity for romance. Happy Valentines Day!

If Baylor’s administrators give much thought to student-owned automobiles these days, their chief response is a sigh at the number of parking spaces they require. Fifty years ago, however, the student-operated motorcar elicited more than just a sigh from the university’s officials. The freedom from supervision which the automobile permitted seemed highly suspect to an institution which proudly stood “in loco parentis” to its students; and as the number of vehicles increased, the administration took action to safeguard its position.

In September, 1925, the dean of women, Miss Edna McDaniel, called a meeting to announce a new prohibition against “car riding” by Baylor girls after 6 p.m. “This is done, not because the women of Baylor can’t be trusted,” said Dean McDaniel, “but because they have the reputation of a Christian institution in their care.” President Brooks, who also spoke at the meeting, cautioned the young women to “avoid anything that begets gossip,” and assured them that “every gentleman will respect the wishes of a lady.”

Two couples in a buggy somewhere in Cameron Park, Waco, Texas, circa 1925
At this point, cars were on the rise and buggies weren’t in use as much. But, if the only way you can go on a double date is in a buggy, a buggy ride to Cameron Park it is!

For a time the new ruling went unchallenged. However a steady diet of evenings spent on campus soon began to pall on the students, and within two or three weeks men and women alike began to prepare counter-measures. On Saturday, October 10, senior women presented a unanimous petition to President Brooks. They were old enough and had been Baylor girls for long enough, they said, to know how to behave themselves. They therefore requested for themselves “the privilege of riding in an automobile to and from engagements after six o’clock p.m.” President Brooks promised to consider the petition.

In the meantime the men of Baylor had not left the initiative entirely to the ladies. They had proceeded on their own to organize for the same Saturday night an excursion which the Daily Lariat later described as follows:

Buggies, wagons, hacks, and surreys of every description were called into service by enterprising Baylor youths who evidently sought to prove that while night auto riding may be under the ban for women of the University, night riding of another kind is interpreted to be on the “permissible” side of the list.

Riding in every kind of a dobbin-drawn hack, some forty Baylor boys drove up to Burleson Hall shortly after six o’clock, claimed their dates, then untied their nags. ‘Giddap Napoleon’ through the streets of Waco followed.

Headed by a phaeton with glaring headlights and drawn by a blind horse, the procession set off up Speight Street, came back to the University campus, and then proceeded down Fifth to town. There the bright lights illuminated a sight long out of vogue and therefore exceedingly amusing to all motorists, shopkeepers, and street corner ornaments.

A horse and buggy ride up to Lover's Leap at Cameron Park, circa 1925
Then and now, the view from Lover’s Leap in Cameron Park inspires romantic moments. (We assume this is what the 1920s Baylor administrators worried about!)

After the “drag” had been made twice and three cheers given for Baylor, the fiery steeds were turned back toward the University and the procession broke up at the campus where a rush was made for the one surviving hitching post

The report of the buggy ride was picked up from local newspapers and humorous accounts of the students’ ingenuity appeared nationwide and in at least one Canadian daily. According to Mr. R.G. Winchester ’27 of Yoakum, who recalled the incident for this column, the students’ prank inspired a popular song, “Thanks for the Buggy Ride,” [see p. 6] which was published in San Francisco in the same year. Click on the YouTube video below to hear a recording of the tune.

While university administrators may have been amused, they were not swayed. On the following Friday President Brooks refused the senior women’s petition and the ban on evening automobile rides remained effective. Though the ploy failed, the effort was not without its rewards. The students made their point, a good time was had by all, and the buggy riders clip-clopped their way into Baylor legend. (To see more photos from the Cameron Park buggy ride, click on the flickr slideshow below.)

Photos selected and prepared by Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

Sharing Student Scholarship Online: Religion at Baylor, 1900-1920

For the first five weeks of the spring 2013 semester, we’re putting up teasers about the fascinating Baylor history that Higher Education and Student Affairs students analyzed and shared on the class’ blog. So far we’ve explored students and student organizations, curriculumfinance, and access at Baylor. This final week we’re examining the role of Religion at Baylor. Students write about how non-Baptist students were received at Baylor, how Baylor students and administrators lived their faith, and how the BGCT interacted with Baylor. Did you know that…

HESA Baylor History blog

  • Among the statistics one would expect in a university catalog—enrollment numbers, student hometowns, the denominational breakdown, and so forth—the Baylor Bulletin in the early 1900s also included the number of students who had converted to Christianity. Learn more about the dynamic at Baylor for non-Baptist students.
  • 88 percent of Baylor students chose to attend Sunday School in addition to the church service, according to the 1915 Bulletin. Read more about how Baylor talked about, wrote about, and enacted its Baptist and Christian culture.
  • The formation of the Education Commission within the Baptist General Convention of Texas in 1897 helped free Baylor from the need to fundraise (temporarily), but also meant that the BGCT would be more involved with the university and its activities. Explore how Baylor and the BGCT interacted from 1900-1920.

We hope you’ll explore these blog posts and enjoy the benefits of the HESA students’ research and scholarship. If you’re inspired to dig deeper, most of their sources can be found in the University Archives within The Texas Collection and in our digitized materials available online in the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections.

Background on this project: Students in the Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) masters program have taken on the challenge of creating original scholarship that adds to what is known about Baylor’s history between 1900 and 1920. As part of Dr. Nathan Alleman’s Foundations and History of Higher Education course, students were grouped under the five class themes: curriculum, finance, students/student groups, access, and religion. In collaboration with Texas Collection archivists and librarians, students mined bulletins, newspapers, correspondence, and other primary resources as they researched their topics. Final papers have now been posted on a University-hosted EduBlog site and grouped by their particular sub-topic so that patrons, researchers, and other interested persons could benefit from these students’ work. This is the first installment of an annual accumulating project–please visit again for future installments.

Research Ready: August 2012

Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. Here’s the scoop for August:

"Big Auto Race at Cotton Palace Track, 1916"
Pictured is a “Big auto race at Cotton Palace track, 1916”–one of the many attractions held at the Texas Cotton Palace exhibitions in Waco, TX. The Texas Cotton Palace Records cover the life of the exhibition, from 1910 to 1931, and include correspondence, minutes, programs, and many fascinating photographs.
    • Cego German Evangelical Church Records: These records contain the minutes of Cego German Evangelical Church (located in Falls County, Texas), produced by secretary A.A. Miller during the Great Depression.
    • Matthew Ellenberger Papers: The Matthew Ellenberger Papers contain Ellenberger’s research notes and correspondence as well as literary publications concerning Texas Revolutionary Albert C. Horton and American Revolution figures Thomas Walker and Jack Jouett.

      B. H. Carroll on Evangelism--an address at the Southern Baptist Convention in 1906
      A leader among Texas Baptists, B. H. Carroll contributed many years to Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, among other denominational efforts.
    • Texas Cotton Palace Records: This collection contains correspondence, legal and financial documents, literary productions, photographs, and an artifact pertaining to the Texas Cotton Palace and its festivities in Waco, Texas.
  • Benajah Harvey Carroll Papers: The Benajah Harvey “B.H.” Carroll Papers consist of correspondence, financial records, and literary productions regarding the various positions Carroll held throughout his life, including pastor of First Baptist Church in Waco, professor and chairman of the board of trustees of Baylor University, secretary of the Texas Baptist Education Commission, and founder and president of Baylor Theological Seminary/Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.