HOME OF THE CARDINALS
by Archie P. McDonald
my academic career I have been a Buffalo, a Cardinal, an Owl, a Tiger, a Thoroughbred,
and for the past forty years, a Lumberjack. Those are the mascots of French High
School, Lamar University (Lamar Tech when I was a student there from 1954 to 1958),
Rice University, Louisiana State University, Murray State University in Kentucky,
and Stephen F. Austin State University. I was a student at the first four and
an employee of the latter two. One might say that I never "finished" schooling,
because all told, I have been attending classes some where since 1941.|
Lamar University is located in my hometown, Beaumont,
Texas, which is why I got to attend college. The college wasnąt much older
than I was when I became a Cardinal. It began as South Park Junior College in
1923 when the South Park School system accepted plans presented by Superintendent
L.R. Pietzch to create the college from the growing population of Beaumont and
the Golden Triangle Pietzch hired Carl W. Bingman as dean of the college and also
principal of South Park High School. Within the year the name of the college was
changed to Lamar in honor of President Mirabeau B. Lamar because of his well-known
interest in education.
Classes began on the third flour of South Park
High School but moved to separate facilities on the same campus. This made the
college almost separate from the high school both physically and administratively,
and the affiliation came to an end with the creation of the Lamar Union Junior
College District in 1940. The district sold bonds to raise revenue to construct
a separate campus only three blocks east on Virginia Avenue and the Port Arthur
Road. These facilities were occupied in 1942 and John E. Gray became president
Lamar's curriculum featured traditional academic subjects but
it also provided ample vocational instruction to train workers for a multitude
of local industries. Rapid growth during and immediately after World War II justified
expanding Lamar into a four-year institution, which was achieved in 1950. Gray
left the presidency of Lamar in 1952 for a banking position and the board appointed
Dr. F.L. McDonald as Gray's successor.
Under McDonald's guidance Lamar
grew to over 9,000 students occupying more than 25 buildings. Graduate work was
begun in 1960, two years too late for me, and by the 1970s Lamar had grown into
a "system" with campuses in Beaumont,
Port Arthur, and Orange.
Despite all my affiliations, I am still a Cardinal. Without Lamar, I would
never have become an Owl or a Tiger, and especially not a Lumberjack.
© Archie P. McDonald
Things Historical July
29, 2004 column
Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Dr.
Archie McDonald is executive director of the Association and author of more than
20 books on Texas history.