Texas A&M Will Remember Matthew Gaines

 

By Steve Pryor, Treasurer, Aggie College Republicans

During the period of Reconstruction following the American Civil War, the 12th Texas Legislature, which was dominated by members of the Republican party, did more for public education than any legislature that had preceded it. Senator Matthew Gaines, a former slave who became the first African-American state senator from Washington County, was a prominent leader in the I2th Legislature. He passionately and unflaggingly supported, along with other African-American Republican members of the legislature, the forward moving, albeit at the time extremely controversial, legislation that established the first public school system for all Texans and that met the deadline for allowing his state to take advantage of the federal land Grant College Act. which was generally known as the Morrill Act after its sponsor, Republican congressman Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont. As members of the Texas A&M University community, we are unquestionably circuitous beneficiaries of the original vision of the men who drafted and passed in 1862 during the Civil War the Morrill Act, but we are direct legatees of Matthew Gaines. His egalitarian and progressive investment in 1871 in the future of public education in his state laid the essential foundations for the building of our university, which we proudly hail today as "the first state institution of higher learning in Texas".

Led by the College Republican Advisor Professor Richard Stadelmann and Steve Pryor, student leader, a Campus Matthew Gaines Committee was founded in cooperation with student leaders and faculty. The Student Body President Toby Boenig, Executive vice- president David Washington, President of the campus NAACP Shawn Williams, and Carl Baggett, the Public Relations Officer of the Corps of Cadets, are a few of the members to donate their talents and time towards this humanitarian project.

Students are reminded that the College Republicans have donated time and other resources to this project for many years. The late Republican Senator John Tower was a great advocate of Prof. Stadelmann's tireless effort to see Matthew Gaines finally honored for all of his great achievements. A great honor was instilled upon me for even allowing me to participate in such an endeavor.

The proposed statue will be life size and estimated costs are expected to reach $200,000 in order to build a suitable statue that Matthew Gaines deserves. I have advocated from the beginning that this would make an excellent class gift. I have already begun to lobby the class of 1996. Anyone who is interested in joining this committee, please call me at 693-6332.

 

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