Abner McCall: Judge, President and Baylor legend
That Baylor was founded by a judge (and is currently led by another) is well known. But the legacy of Baylor judges didn’t skip 150 years between R.E.B. Baylor and our current president, Ken Starr.
Judge Abner Vernon McCall, the 10th president of Baylor University, was born on June 8, 1915, in Perrin, Texas. His early childhood presented challenges: his father passed away when he was three, and he was sent to the Masonic School and Home in Fort Worth after his mother’s health failed several years later. But McCall would overcome that hardship to rise to a distinguished career that saw him join the FBI, rise to president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and serve as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court.
But it was Baylor University that was his life’s work. A scholarship student, McCall earned his law degree in 1938, four years before adding a bachelor’s degree in 1942. (Yes, times were different then.) From that point on, save for a few short years elsewhere, he would remain at Baylor, serving as dean of the law school, then as Baylor’s executive vice president, and eventually as president of the university.
[HEAR and READ McCall’s oral memoirs, thanks to the Department of Oral History]
Already known as “Dean” and “Judge,” McCall added the title of president in 1961 when he was elevated to become Baylor’s 10th president. To understand his impact on Baylor, picture a campus without Founders Mall, Moody Memorial Library, Sid Richardson Science Building, or North and South Russell residence halls. Each of those facilities joined the campus landscape during McCall’s 20-year tenure as president. (You can see President McCall’s impact from 1961-81 on The History of Baylor timeline.)
McCall’s time at Baylor was also marked by tremendous growth in enrollment. When he took over as president, the student body numbered 6,395 students; by the time he retired in 1981, enrollment had grown to more than 10,000 students, as Baylor began to look much more like the university we know today.
After stepping down and handing the reigns to his longtime executive vice president, Herbert Reynolds, McCall became chancellor and served Baylor in a number of roles until his death in 1995. In marking his passing, The New York Times noted how Baylor “flourished under his stewardship.”
Sic ’em, Abner McCall!