Austin Seminary and World War I
The Austin Seminary and World War I exhibit is free and open to the public in the circulation area of the Stitt Library during regular library hours through the end of February.
In June of 1917 as the first American Expeditionary Forces were landing in France and most Americans were preoccupied with events related to America’s entry into World War I, Austin Seminary found itself mired in financial woes. Ultimately, a combination of financial problems and a diminishing student body—as young men joined the war effort—led Austin Seminary to accept the resignations of its faculty members and cease teaching regular classes in May of 1918. The Seminary grounds and buildings were leased out to The University of Texas at Austin (and later to the Scottish Rite), with the exception of the faculty home of Thomas White Currie. Having been secretary of the University of Texas Y.M.C.A. since 1911 in addition to his duties at the Seminary, Currie was called to oversee the Seminary’s interests during the war. He continued to teach a Bible class for students at the University of Texas at Austin at the Y.M.C.A. at 22nd and Guadalupe. While the University was leasing the Seminary property, it was used by the Army as an R.O.T.C. encampment with the dormitory being used as a barracks and tents pitched throughout the grounds.
Arthur Gray Jones
Class of 1916
Class of 1916; Professor 1938-1958
The majority of the students and faculty who left the Seminary in May of 1918 joined the war effort. Professor Robert Gribble became the student secretary of the State Y.M.C.A. and the other faculty members who resigned in 1918 (William Angus McLeod and Robert L. Jetton) went overseas as Y.M.C.A. secretaries. (During the war, the Y.M.C.A. provided spiritual care, rest-and-recreation programs, canteens, and other welfare support for soldiers, both domestically and overseas.) Board members like Arthur Gray Jones served soldiers on the home front through the War Work Council and his home congregation at First Presbyterian Church of San Antonio. Students and recent graduates like Cecil H. Lang, E. B. Paisley, and Eugene McLaurin served as chaplains overseas.
Mess kit, sewing kit, and helmet of Eugene McLaurin
McLaurin's gas mask
After the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, Currie and the Board of Trustees led an aggressive fundraising campaign to shore up Austin Seminary’s endowment. With donations from local congregations and supporters of the Seminary, and with the new energy of the Spanish Speaking Program supported by the Texas-Mexican Presbytery and the Executive Committee of Home Missions, Austin Seminary re-opened for classes in the fall of 1921. Since the Seminary property was still being leased out, classes were initially held at the University Y.M.C.A. It wasn’t until 1925, after all lease agreements had ended, that Austin Seminary completely moved back onto its historic campus.
Eugene McLaurin's mess kit
From the Archives: Cecil Lang and Arthur Gray Jones collections
The Seminary makes the case for closing during the war
Acknowledgements: We would like to express our deep gratitude to Lauchlin Arthur McLaurin, Thomas McLaurin, Erich McLaurin, and the rest of the McLaurin family for the loan of Eugene McLaurin’s World War I uniform and other artifacts for this exhibit. We would also like to thank Lynn Bell and Sarah Sonner from the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin and Beatrice Smith from the LBJ Presidential Library for their advice and generosity. The mannequin used to display Rev. McLaurin’s uniform jacket is on loan from the LBJ Presidential Library. On loan from the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History are the soldier figurines, from the Henry and Justin Jordan Soldier Collection, and “Soldiers’ Prayer,” by Henry Van Dyke from the Cal Campbell WWI and WWII Collection, included in the introduction panel. The posters were downloaded from The Library of Congress. Material from the Arthur Gray Jones and Cecil H. Lang papers comes from the Austin Seminary Archives. Located on the 3rd floor of Stitt Library, the archives collects material that documents the history of the school and Presbyterianism in Texas and the Southwest.