Homecoming: A Family Celebration
TCU’s first homecoming had parades and class parties – but no football. The game came later.
The state of tcu was strong in 1913. The university successfully conducted two academic years at its sprawling new prairie campus southwest of the Fort Worth city center. A streetcar line finally arrived, and more campus buildings would soon join the original three. The 1910 fire in Waco that prompted TCU’s return to Fort Worth had not stopped the school.
The time had come for a great reunion, one that would inspire 40 years of former students to gather for a celebration of TCU’s new era. As the Horned Frog annuals had recorded years earlier, the school held modest assemblies in springtime as early as 1906, but none of those events would compare to what the university planned for June 1914.
“It is thought that this reunion will surpass anything of its kind ever undertaken by the university.”
The Dallas Morning News, 1913
School officials calculated that about 500 graduates lived in Texas, and President F.D. Kershner wanted the school “to communicate with each of them in a short time,” according to a October 17, 1913 article in The Dallas Morning News. Kershner organized a group of administrators, students and alumni to plan the festivities and get the word out.
“The plans of the home-coming committee are very far reaching, hence the early date of beginning preparation,” the Morning News reported. “It is thought that this reunion will surpass anything of its kind ever undertaken by the university.”
Joining Kershner on the panel were W. B. Parks, dean; professors E.P. Cockrell, J.W. Kinsey and W.M. Williams, the endowment secretary; Nell Andrews, librarian; Grace Mason and Harriett Smith, dorm mothers; S.E. Carl Tomlinson, president of the student body; students Crawford Reeder and R.A. Lines; and Earl Gough, trustee and alumnus.
Gough said he could get 30 graduates in Fort Worth together to form a Fort Worth chapter of the T.C.U. Alumni Association, which would work with Dan D. Rogers, president of the Dallas chapter, to invite the university family. Soon the event date was set: June 6-11, 1914, which coincided with commencement after the spring term.
The Dallas chapter published T.C.U. Grad, a precursor to the university magazine, which advertised the reunion event.
“There are plenty of reasons for having a great celebration at this time,” stated the official announcement. “The first series of great modern buildings will have been completed, making, at this time, the most thoroughly modern, unified set of buildings of any school in the state.”
It also touted the recently started Medical Department, a growing endowment, impressive faculty and increasing enrollment.
“All of this indicates, of course, that the number of friends has multiplied greatly,” boasted T.C.U. Grad. “Surely these are reasons sufficient for celebration, whether it is a centennial or – as it is – just the forty-first birthday.”
The reunion hoopla included class parties, banquets, guest preaching and a parade – perfect summertime fare, but not a football game.
Attaching homecoming to a battle on the gridiron in front of the home faithful would not happen until the 1920s.
In TCU’s early days, the Horned Frogs played at Clark Field, a clearing across from the main academic buildings flanked by a set of wood bleachers.
In 1923, the university received a $4 million gift from ranching heiress Mary Couts Burnett to construct a library, and TCU trustees selected the site of Clark Field for the new building. The football facility would have to move to the west side of campus.
By 1927, TCU had its first true football star in defensive end Raymond “Rags” Matthews, the Frogs’ first All-American. Matthews was so fearsome that the Morning News reported that stopping him – on defense – was SMU’s battle cry.
Matthews’ stature attracted a lot of interest, and TCU capitalized by selling as many as 15,000 tickets. A football game made for the perfect moment to celebrate the annual gathering of former students.
The event would include SMU, which had moved its homecoming to the fall a few years before.
In a November 1927 article, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported: “‘We’ll seat everybody.’ This welcome announcement for the members of Texas Christian University alumni was confidently released Tuesday by [TCU] Athletics Director L.C. (Pete) Wright while discussing plans for the first annual Homecoming football game to be staged here Thanksgiving Day between the Horned Frogs … and Mustangs.”
A parade and luncheon marked the 1927 event, with TCU president E.M. Waits and SMU president C.C. Selecman, riding together in the front of the automobile procession. TCU trustees followed behind in cars. TCU’s two oldest living alumni – Mrs. J.D. Bass of McKinney and Gyp Carpenter of Plano – were honored during the celebration.
A year later, the football bug bit Fort Worth newspaperman Amon G. Carter, who helped his hometown university garner the funds and support to build a permanent home for the Horned Frogs. Built in 1929 and opened in October 1930, TCU Stadium would be renamed for Carter at halftime of the homecoming game in 1951.
In the decades since, TCU has marked some of its major moments – and some student shenanigans – when its alumni return to campus: a new Student Center in 1954, the first black Homecoming Queen in 1970, a man Homecoming “Honoree” in 1973.
Just Frog family business.
Notable TCU Homecoming moments
- 1914 – TCU holds “Homecoming Days” event June 6-11, spearheaded by Dan D. Rogers, president of the Dallas chapter of the TCU Alumni Association
- 1915 – In June, TCU graduates ride with 500 people in a homecoming parade in downtown Fort Worth, followed by a barbecue and class reunions
- 1919 – Invitation to Home-coming (Nov. 27, 1919); but TCU-Baylor game is in Waco
- 1921 – TCU faces Centre College on New Year’s Day in a post-season matchup. TCU uses the occasion for a “Home-coming event” with Centre College alumni from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.
- 1927 – Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News report that Athletics Director L.C. (Pete) Wright says “We’ll seat everybody” for first annual “Home-coming football game” staged on Thanksgiving Day against SMU. Record crowds at Clark Field.
- 1936 – TCU prepares for crowd of 10,000 for “Home-coming.” (Nov. 4)
- 1943 – TCU Ex-Lettermen’s Association cancels its “Home-coming” banquet for the first time because of World War II-induced transportation problems that prevents alumni travel.
- 1949 – TCU expects to set homecoming record with bonfire, square dance, downtown Fort Worth parade, barbecue. The game is against Rice (Nov. 18-19)
- 1950 – TCU prepares for 15,000 former students at homecoming, which marked the opening of new executive offices for President M.E. Sadler and other top administrators and a new student lounge.
- 1954 – Homecoming festivities marked the first events in the new $1 million Student Center
- 1967 – TCU student Mason Dickson unsuccessfully runs for Homecoming Queen
- 1968 – Dallas Mayor Erik Jonsson designated honorary alumnus during homecoming ceremonies.
- 1970 – Senior speech pathology major Jennifer Giddings is voted the university’s first black Homecoming Queen from a field of 14 candidates.
- 1973 – TCU student Steve Miller is elected Homecoming Honoree from among 19 candidates, which was leaked accidentally at a Student House meeting. A donor threatens to withhold scholarship funds because of “the rebellion and upheaval going on at TCU.” Facing personal threats, Miller withdraws and runner-up Claudia Colley is declared the winner.