The first schools in the Texas region were informal classes for Native Americans held at the missions of Spanish priests. There were only a few private schools in the area at the time of the Texas declaration of independence in 1836. One of the republic's charges against Mexico was that it had "failed to establish any public system of education."
In 1839 the Republic of Texas began setting aside public land for education. An act establishing a state school system was passed in 1854. A permanent school fund was established with a grant of 2 million dollars, and provision was made for setting up school districts. In 1949 the Gilmer-Aikin laws reorganized the public school system to equalize educational opportunities. Commonschool districts were consolidated from more than 3,000 to fewer than 1,000.
The largest of the state schools is the University of Texas, located in Austin, with branches at Arlington, Dallas, El Paso, Odessa, San Antonio, and Tyler; health science centers at Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio; cancer centers at Houston and Bastrop County; a health center at Tyler; and a medical branch at Galveston. The divisions of the Texas A&M University System are located at College Station, Prairie View, Stephenville, and Galveston.
Some of the other state-supported institutions are Lamar University, at Beaumont; Midwestern State University, at Wichita Falls; Pan American University, at Edinburg; Texas Southern University, at Houston; the University of Houston, also at Houston, with branches at Houston (Clear Lake City, Downtown College branches) and Victoria; Texas Tech University, at Lubbock; and Texas Woman's University, at Denton. Other large institutions include Southern Methodist University, at Dallas; Texas Christian University, at Fort Worth; Baylor University, at Waco; St. Mary's University of San Antonio, at San Antonio; Abilene Christian University, at Abilene; Trinity University, at San Antonio; Rice University, at Houston; and Texas Wesleyan College, at Fort Worth.
Government and Politics
Under Mexican rule Texas was governed first from Saltillo and then from Monclova (both in Mexico). In 1835-36 one or more governmental functions were carried on at San Felipe de Austin, Washington on the Brazos, Harrisburg, Galveston, Velasco, and Columbia. Houston served as the capital in 1837-39; Austin, in 1839-42; and Washington on the Brazos, in 1842-45. Austin has remained the state capital since 1845. Texas is governed under its fifth constitution, which was adopted in 1876.
The chief executive officer of the state is the governor, who is elected every four years. The legislative branch consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Heading the state judiciary is the Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals.
The Democratic party dominated Texas politics from the beginning of statehood--with only occasional exceptions--until the 1970s. Sam Houston was elected governor as an independent in 1859, and Republicans were elected in 1870 and 1979. Likewise, in presidential elections Texas voted Democratic in every election after the American Civil War until 1928 and again until the 1950s. In recent years the Republican party has been gaining strength. A Dallas oil-drilling contractor, William Clements, was elected governor in 1978 and reelected in 1986--the first Republican to head the state since Reconstruction.
John N. Garner of Uvalde was the nation's first vice-president from Texas (1933-41). Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served from 1953 to 1961, was the first Texas-born president. Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson of Johnson City became the second president from Texas on Nov. 22, 1963, after the assassination of John F. Kennedy while riding in a Dallas motorcade. The governor of Texas, John B. Connally, who was riding in the same car as President Kennedy, was wounded. Johnson took the oath of office as president immediately after Kennedy' s death; he was elected president in 1964. George Bush was a resident of Texas when he was elected vice-president in 1980 and 1984 and when he was elected president in 1988.
Sam Rayburn of Bonham holds the record for length of service as speaker of the United States House of Representatives--17 years, beginning in 1940. One of the first African American women to serve in Congress, and the first from the Deep South, was Barbara Jordan of Houston, first elected in 1972.
The wife of a former governor of Texas, who had been impeached, Miriam A. Ferguson was the second American woman (by two weeks) to serve as a governor (1925-27 and 1933-35). More than any other state, Texas has elected women to high political offices in several of its cities. In the 1980s women were elected to the top post in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and El Paso. In 1990 another woman, Ann Richards, was narrowly elected governor of the state.
HISTORY OF TEXAS
Six national flags have flown over Texas during its colorful history. The first was Spain's banner, from 1519 to 1685. In 1685 the French explorer La Salle raised the French flag over a short-lived coastal colony. In 1691 Texas again came under the Spanish flag, which was replaced by the banner of Mexico in 1821. From 1836 to 1845 the Lone Star banner flew over the Republic of Texas. The Stars and Stripes became the official flag in 1845, but during the American Civil War, from 1861 to 1865, it was replaced by the Confederate flag.
The first European to visit what is now Texas was Alonso Alvarez de Pineda, who mapped the coast in 1519. Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish noble, was the first to explore the area. Shipwrecked near what is now Galveston in 1528, he was captured by the Karankawa Indians and traveled with them for eight years before escaping. In 1541 Francisco Coronado crossed the Panhandle in search of gold. Later, parties of Spaniards camped in the wilderness, but they left no settlements.
The French explorer La Salle missed the mouth of