The Matthew Gaines Memorial




The Matthew Gaines Memorial Committee was formed to support a statue of State Senator Matthew Gaines for Texas A&M University. The statue would honor Senator Gaines' contributions to the establishment of free public education and the passage of the legislation which allowed the State of Texas to accept the Morrill Land Grant College Act. The following statement describes Matthew Gaines and his accomplishments:

Former slave, community leader, minister, Republican
State Senator and courageous leader in the 12th Legislature,
which established free public education in the State of
Texas and enabled the founding of Texas A&M University
(S.B. 276 - April 4, 1871)

Memorial Committee members are from Student Government (including the President and Executive Vice-president) and the student body, former students, TAMU faculty and staff, the Republican and Democratic political parties, the NAACP, Prairie View A&M University, and community representatives from Bryan-College Station and Washington County. We invite your support and participation. Contact us at:

The Matthew Gaines Memorial
Post Office Box J-1
Texas A&M Univeristy
College Station, Texas 77844-9081

Telephone: 409/845-9251
FAX: 409/845-5117Send to Timothy Novak at


Most of us know that Texas A&M University, which first openned its doors to students in 1876, is the oldest public institution of higher education in the State of Texas. But Texans' interest in higher education dates well before 1876. In the years after Texas' independence of 1836, the republic and state set aside land to fund colleges of higher education, and legislators made plans for a state college or colleges. However, nothing came of these early plans. After the Civil War years of 1861-1865, the state had the opportunity to receive federal support for higher education through the Morrill Land Grant College Act.

The Morrill Act, sponsored by United States Senator Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont and passed by the U.S. Senate in 1862, provided for the sale of federally-owned lands with the proceeds supporting state colleges. These "land-grant" schools were to provide the "practical arts" of agriculture and mechanical training, and to support military training. The deadline for Texas to take advantage of the Morrill Act was November 1, 1871.

The 12th Legislature of the State of Texas, with both African-American and Anglo representatives, responded to the challenge to the Morrill Act shortly before the deadline, and passed enabling legislation for an "Agricultural and Mechanical College," or today's Texas A&M University:

"Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas,
that there be hereby within this state an institution of learning under the name and style
of the 'Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas,' to be located at such place,
and in such manner, as herein provided."
{Senate Bill No. 276 -To be entitled
"An Act to provide for the establishment of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas,"
April 4, 1871

The same bill obligated the state to provide for a federal land-grant school for African-Texans, which we know today as Prairie View A&M University. Just as important, the 12th Legislature founded the first state system of genuinely free, tax-supported, public schools--a cause in which Senator Gaines passionately believed.


As Texas A&M University enters the 21st century, it is a fitting time to look back to the enabling legislation passed in 1871. In a university rich with tradition, and as the first public institution of higher learning in the State of Texas, is it not appropiate to honor our beginnings a century and a quarter ago, and to commemorate the early steps for a free public education for all Texans? As we stand today, the nation's only land, sea, and space grant university, we invite you to look back with us to our beginnings, when courageous and farsighted legislators, both black and white Texans, came together for the "Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas," Texas A&M University.

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