HPU Historical Vignettes
HPU founded in 1889 Howard Payne College was founded in 1889 by Dr. John David Robnett, pastor of First Baptist Church in Brownwood, Texas. He dreamed of establishing a college to educate and train ministers and missionaries. Edward Howard Payne, a mercantile businessman from Fulton, Missouri and Dr. Robnett's brother-in-law, offered his financial support to the college which bears his name.
First class session The first session of classes opened on September 16, 1890, with A. J. Emerson as president and a faculty of 12. More than 200 students attended the first semester of classes. The first degree was granted five years later to J. D. Robnett Jr., oldest son of the college's founder.
Early athletic success In 1903, Howard Payne began participation in intercollegiate athletics when the football team played cross-town rival Daniel Baker College. One of Howard Payne's most noted coaches was the legendary J.H. "Cap" Shelton, who served the college for 52 years and led his track teams to 17 conference titles and numerous state and national honors. In 1922, HPU became the first school to defeat Texas A&M University on Kyle Field.
The Great Depression years Howard Payne, like everyone else in the country, faced financial challenges during the Great Depression. Dr. Thomas H. Taylor led Howard Payne through these lean years and received much credit for keeping the college in existence. He served the longest tenure of any Howard Payne president (1929-55). When Dr. Taylor assumed the presidency, Howard Payne had a $200,000 deficit. He called a staff meeting, which turned into a prayer meeting for the school. At the close of the meeting, the faculty tore up their contracts, accepting no salaries until the school could afford them. Howard Payne kept its promise to repay them, and by 1933 all debts and salaries had been paid.
Early benefactors As Howard Payne began to eliminate its debt, two major trust funds were created which assured the college's future. In 1934, Mr. and Mrs. John G. Hardin, noted Texas philanthropists, established a $305,000 trust fund. In addition, J. A. Walker set up a trust fund with a $1 million gift.
Daniel Baker College merges with Howard Payne In 1952, proceedings began for the merger of Daniel Baker College and Howard Payne. The two schools had always been friendly, and when it became evident that Daniel Baker, originally a Presbyterian college, could no longer operate independently, it seemed natural for Howard Payne to lend a hand. The old Daniel Baker College administration building houses the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom.
Lone Star Conference In 1956, Howard Payne joined the Lone Star Conference. Success in the new league can be seen in Coach Glen Whitis' men's basketball program, which recorded only two losing seasons in his 15 years as head coach.
Academy of Freedom A major accomplishment for the college was the establishment of the Academy of Freedom in 1962. Under the leadership of Dr. Guy D. Newman, the Academy of Freedom was established as an honors program for junior and senior students. Throughout his 18-year tenure, Dr. Newman brought the college to a new level of success, with increased enrollment, faculty and financial stability.
Howard Payne gains university status Howard Payne's success continued under the leadership of Dr. Roger Brooks, who succeeded Dr. Newman as president in 1973. Enrollment was at an all-time high with 1,573 students enrolled for fall classes. Under Brooks' administration the school was renamed Howard Payne University in 1974. Under the leadership of Dr. Ralph Phelps, who served as president from 1979-85, two major facilities were constructed. The Phelps Bible Building was completed in 1982, and the Packer Administration Building opened in 1984.
Old Main Howard Payne lost its most-treasured building on May 8, 1984 as fire destroyed Old Main, the university's original building. The majestic three-story structure served as the location for offices and classrooms. As a result, many of Howard Payne's records were damaged or lost.
Non-scholarship athletics December 1986 spawned a new era in Howard Payne athletics as the university moved from the Lone Star Conference to the new Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the only non-scholarship conference in Texas. In 1996, the league changed its name to the American Southwest Conference.
Campus expansion In January 1991, the Mabee Foundation of Tulsa, Okla. committed $1 million toward construction of a university center. The Mabee gift was the largest foundation grant in the university's history. The Mabee University Center, a 40,000-square-foot multipurpose facility, opened in the fall of 1993. The Mamie D. McCullough Athletic Center opened in the fall of 1994, and the Thompson Academic Complex was completed in the summer of 1996. The Davidson Music Complex opened in the fall of 1998. In 2006 the Bettie and Robert Girling Center for Social Justice was completed on teh Daniel Baker Campus.
Campus Tradition In 1924, when the present Alma Mater was adopted, a new tradition was begun in which the students, faculty and staff face Old Main when the Alma Mater is played. For more information about the Alma Mater click here.
"GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN"
A PHOTO ESSAY OF BUILDINGS PAST
History of Chime Out
© Dr. Robert G. Mangrum, HPU University Historian
Page Updated 20 April 2006