15 things only the biggest Baylor fans know
By the time you graduate from Baylor, you leave knowing a pretty basic history of the university. Founded in 1845 by the Republic of Texas. Named after Judge R.E.B. Baylor. Major presidents were Rufus Burleson, Pat Neff, Samuel Palmer Brooks (and now Linda Livingstone!).
But the history of Baylor University is so much deeper and more fascinating than those basic facts. In fact, you can take an entire tour of campus that’s focused on its history! Here are 15 things only the biggest Baylor fans know about our university and its beautiful campus:
- In 1928, Baylor almost moved to Dallas. The university’s finances were shaky at that time, and we needed land and financial support. So the Baptist General Convention of Texas voted to relocate, thinking about Dallas boosters’ promises of land and financial support. But the City of Waco didn’t want to lose its beloved college — and in just three weeks raised over $400,000 (roughly $6 million today)! It was enough to keep Baylor here in Waco, and build one of the hallmarks of our campus in thanks of their support: Waco Hall.
- The first song to ring out from the Pat Neff bells was “Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow.” This was when the bells were first installed in December of 1939. Today, every carillon performance begins with this song.
- Chapel used to be held in the dome roof of Carroll Library. What dome roof, you ask? The one that was there until the fire of 1922 — when students risked life and limb to rescue thousands of books.
- A scene from Where the Heart Is, starring Natalie Portman, was filmed at Baylor. Seriously — Natalie Portman walked right across Burleson Quadrangle. You can watch the clip here.
- Rufus Burleson baptized Sam Houston. In 1854, Houston heard a sermon delivered by Burleson in Independence, Texas, and committed his life to Christ. Wasting no time, Burleson baptized him in Independence’s Rocky Creek. The story goes that after Burleson said, “Your sins have been washed away,” Houston replied, “God help the fish downstream!”
- For two decades, there were no towers on Old Main and Burleson Hall. They were destroyed by the Waco tornado in 1953, and rebuilt in the 1970s. (See then-and-now photos here.) During that time, the university was searching for a location for its new library, and nearly voted to raze both buildings! Fortunately they were saved, and Moody Library was instead built at the north end of Fountain Mall.
- Buses stop at train tracks because of the Immortal Ten crash. You all know the story by now: it was cold and rainy, visibility was poor, and the railroad crossing had no signs or lights to indicate that a train was coming. The state of Texas immediately passed legislation to create an overpass or underpass wherever state highways intersect with a railroad track, and that all buses must stop before train tracks and open their door to look and listen for trains.
- The 4th floor of the SUB used to be a shooting range. In fact, there are over 100 old targets still lying up there!
- Fountain Mall used to just be called “University Mall.” Its name was changed about 50 years ago, when students fundraised enough to install a fountain. Unfortunately, it didn’t last forever, and Fountain Mall has seen its fountains come and go several times between then and today’s Rosenbalm Fountain.
- Baylor’s first live mascot was named Ted. He was donated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering, who were stationed at the nearby Camp MacArthur in Waco during WWI.
- Many of the red brick buildings on campus have a special brick pattern. For every six rows of bricks laid lengthwise, one row of bricks has been laid widthwise — representing the seventh day of creation, when God rested. (You can see this on such buildings as Draper and the Foster Campus.)
- Judge Baylor’s body is buried at the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor. When he passed in 1874, he was laid to rest at the original site of Baylor University in Independence, Texas. But the area became deserted and his gravesite neglected, so in 1917, his remains were reinterred at UMHB, the descendant of Baylor’s original female department.
- Samuel Palmer Brooks never got to deliver his infamous “Immortal Message.” He wrote it, but died before he was supposed to deliver it at graduation. Instead, it was read for him to the class of 1931 from the Waco Hall stage.
- Sadie Jo Black is the reason Founders Mall is always filled with beautiful flowers, no matter the season. She was a Baylor graduate who taught here for 35 years, and eventually created an endowed fund for the flowers in Founders Mall. Plaques at each end of the mall read a quote from Black herself: “May all who enter the gardens find inspiration and peace.”
- The sides of Pat Neff Hall have four of the former president’s favorite quotes. “Wisdom is better than rubies”; “The youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity”; “The preservers of history are as heroic as its makers”; and “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet.”
We hope you learned something new about our beloved Baylor today! And if you didn’t, well hey — you might just be as BaylorProud as we are! If you’re interested in learning even more, we highly suggest going on a Baylor History Tour the next time you’re in town.
Sic ’em, Bears!
You might also like:
* If you’ve seen an early 20th-century photo of Baylor, it was probably taken by this man (Oct. 2018)
* 15 Baylor & Waco landmarks that are gone, but not forgotten (May 2018)
* 5 resources for learning more about Baylor history (Feb. 1, 2017)