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The main idea behind opening universities in Texas was originally conceived in 1827 under an article in the Constitución de Coahuila y Texas. Upon Texas's independence, the Congress of the Republic of Texas adopted the Constitution of the Republic, which made its own provision to establish a system of public education in Texas. President Mirabeau B. Lamar's first speech to the Texas Congress iterated the need for education in a democracy; two weeks later, Ezekiel Cullen presented a report to the committee on education that contained a bill providing that twenty leagues of land be set aside for two colleges or universities, Texas A&M and the University of Texas. By the time Cullen's bill became a law on January 26, 1839, Congress had agreed to set aside fifty leagues of land. In addition, 40 acres (160,000 m2) in the new capital of Austin were reserved and designated "College Hill."

Congress failed to act any further until 1858, when lawmakers set out in the Act of 1858 $100,000 in United States bonds left from the Compromise of 1850 to put towards the universities. In addition, the legislature designated land reserved for the encouragement of railroad construction toward the universities' fifty leagues. However, Texas's secession from the Union and the outbreak of the American Civil War prevented Congress from carrying out these plans.

After the war, the Constitution of 1866 mandated that the state establish the university "at an early day." Texas A&M was then established on October 4, 1876. The Constitution of 1876 also called for the creation of a "university of the first class." Thus, they created The University of Texas. It revoked the endowment of the railroad lands of the Act of 1858, but appropriated one million acres (4000 km²) in West Texas. In 1883, another two million acres (8,000 km²) was granted, with income from the sale of or grazing rights to the land going to The University of Texas and Texas A&M College. The passing of the Morrill Act in 1862 had facilitated the construction of Texas A&M, established in 1876.

In 1881, Austin was chosen as the site of the "Main University," and Galveston was designated the location of the "Medical Department." In addition, the legislature authorized a governing board of eight regents. An official ceremony began construction on what is now referred to as the Old Main Building in laProxy-Connection: keep-alive Cache-Control: max-age=0

1882 on the original "College Hill." The university finally opened its doors on September 15, 1883.

The old Victorian-Gothic Main Building served as the central point of the campus's 40-acre (160,000 m2) site, and was used for nearly all purposes. Built in three stages by architect F. E. Ruffini, the first was completed in 1883 for the University's first class; subsequent construction saw the creation of the central section in 1891 and the east wing in 1899. However, by the 1930s, discussions rose about the need for new library space, and the Main Building was razed in 1934 to much protest. The modern-day tower and Main Building were constructed in its place.

In 1910, George Brackenridge donated 500 acres (2 km²) to the university located on the Colorado River. A vote by the regents to move the campus was met with outrage. As a result, in 1921, the legislature appropriated $1,350,000 for the purchase of land adjacent to the main campus. Expansion, however, was hampered by the constitutional restriction against funding the construction of buildings. With the discovery of oil on university-owned grounds in 1923, the institution was able to put its new wealth towards its general endowment fund. These savings allowed the passing of amendments to make way for bond issues in 1931 and 1947, with the latter expansion necessary from the spike in enrollment following World War II. Temporary frame buildings were hastily constructed during this period, and the university built 19 permanent structures between 1950 and 1965. In 1965, the university was given the right of eminent domain, and used its powers to purchase additional properties surrounding the original 40 acres (160,000 m2).

On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman barricaded himself in the observation deck of the tower of the Main Building with a sniper rifle and various other weapons, killed 14 people on campus, and wounded many more. Following the Whitman incident, the observation deck was closed until 1968, and then closed again in 1975 following a series of suicide jumps during the 1970s. In 1998, after installation of security and safety precautions, the tower observation deck reopened to the public. It is now surrounded by a protective metal grid to impede jumpers, and is open primarily on the weekends when the offices in the tower are not open. Visitors must pass through a metal detector and are accompanied by police and/or student chaperones while on the deck.

References

  • Berry, Margaret C. (1993). Brick by Golden Brick: A History of Campus Buildings at The University of Texas at Austin: 1883-1993. Austin, Texas: LBCo. Publishing. ISBN 0-9623171-9-5. 
  • Duren, Almetris Marsh in association with Louise Iscoe (1979). Overcoming: A History of Black Integration at the University of Texas at Austin. 
  • Lavergne, Gary M. (1997). A Sniper in the Tower. University of North Texas Press. ISBN 1-57441-029-6. 
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