David z otaustou's Presidncqy of
reCas A. amd 4.
T HE BRIEF PERIOD during which David F. Houston served
as president of Texas A. and M. College may at first seem
like a minor episode in a distingushed career that in-
cluded a Cabinet post and even some talk of the White House.
A close study will show, however, that Houston's work at A. and
M. was one of his most remarkable achievements, and illustrates,
perhaps better than anything else, his talent for innovation and
leadership. At A. and M. he took charge of an institution that
was on the verge of complete failure and within three years had
raised the college to a position of nationwide recognition and
When President L. L. Foster died in December, 1901, the
board of directors of the college appointed R. H. Whitlock of the
mechanical engineering department to serve as acting president
until a permanent successor could be selected.' Choosing a new
president proved difficult, however, since a difference of opinion
developed among members of the board over whether they should
hire a "school man" (a professional educator) or a prominent
politician. Most of A. and M.'s presidents had been either poli-
ticians or former Confederate officers, or both. Foster himself had
once been state commissioner of agriculture, and Lawrence Sul-
livan Ross, who preceded him, had been governor of Texas.2
Joseph D. Sayers, who was serving his second term as governor,
was being mentioned as a possibility.
In early April, 19go02, the board held a meeting in Waco at
which it attempted to make a choice by a method that, to say
the least, was somewhat unique. Since about fifteen applicants
'Clarence Ousley, History of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas
(College Station, 1935), 62.
2For early history of Texas A. and M. see ibid.; also George Sessions Perry, The
Story of Texas A. and M. (New York, 1951), chapter 7; Austin E. Burges, A Local
History of A. and M. College (College Station, 1915); David B. Cofer, First Five
Administrations of Texas A. and M. College (College Station [?], 1952).
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 58, July 1954 - April, 1955. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101158/. Accessed March 1, 2015.