Howard Payne College was founded by the Pecan Valley Baptist Association at Indian Creek, Texas, on June 20, 1889. The two men considered the founders of the college are John D. Robnett, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Brownwood, and Noah T. Byars, in whose blacksmith shop Texas declared her independence on March 2, 1836. They were memorialized when Texas State Historical Markers were placed in Old Main Park in 1998.
Robnett was president of the first Board of Trustees. Robnett busied himself in raising funds for the school during the summer of 1889. Visiting Missouri in August, he was successful in securing a sizable gift from his brother-in-law, Edward Howard Payne, and before November 1, 1889, the Board of Trustees resolved to name the school Howard Payne College.
The first session opened on September 16, 1890, with A. J. Emerson as president and a faculty of twelve. A separate preparatory department furnished instruction below the freshman level. The school granted its first academic degree in 1895 and continued as a degree-conferring institution until 1900. It operated as a member of the Baptist correlated system of schools with junior college status from 1900 to 1914, when it again become a senior college.
In 1953, Daniel Baker College, which originally had been a Presbyterian college and in 1950 had become the Episcopal College of the Southwest, was consolidated with Howard Payne. The Guy D. Newman Honors Academy, the Dr. Guy D. Newman Hall of American Ideals, and the Bettie and Robert Girling Center for Social Justice stand on the original campus of Daniel Baker.
In 1974, Howard Payne College became Howard Payne University upon approval of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
© Dr. Robert G. Mangrum, HPU University Historian