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St. Philip's College

A Point of Pride on San Antonio's Eastside

Marie Pannell Thurston

Publication Year: 2013

In 1898, St. Philip’s Normal and Industrial School opened its doors in San Antonio, offering sewing classes for black girls. It was the inaugural effort in a program, founded by the West Texas diocese of the Episcopal Church, to educate and train former slaves and other African Americans in that city.

Originally tied to St. Philip’s Church, about three miles east of the downtown center, the school grew to offer high school and then junior college courses and eventually affiliated with the San Antonio Independent School District and San Antonio College. One of the few remaining historically black junior colleges in the country, St. Philip’s, whose student body is no longer predominantly black, has also been designated a Hispanic-serving institution, one of few schools to bear both designations.

Known by many as “the school that love built,” St. Philip’s College claimed in its 1932 catalog, “There is perhaps as much romance surrounding the development of St. Philip’s Junior College as there is of the ‘Alamo City’ in which it is located.”

That love story, also containing dominant strains of sacrifice, scarcity, creativity, determination, and pride, finds its full expression in this history by Marie Pannell Thurston. Based on archival research and extensive interviews with current and former alumni, faculty, and friends, St. Philip’s College presents the heartwarming and inspiring record of a school, the community that nurtures it, and the collective pride in what the institution and its graduates have accomplished.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Front Cover

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p. c-c

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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Series Editor’s Foreword

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pp. vii-viii

Texas A&M University–San Antonio is honored that the inaugural book in our new series shines the light on our nation’s one and only community college designated as both a Historically Black College and a Hispanic- Serving...

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pp. ix-x

This oral history of St. Philip’s College represents a labor of love, dedication, commitment, and a true desire to acknowledge the journey of this learning institution on the Eastside of San Antonio. Through the more than 100 years of educating all who came, St. Philip’s College has ...

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pp. xi-xvi

I wrote this book with one thought in mind: to preserve the history of St. Philip’s College. Dr. Angie Runnels, former president of this college, had the foresight to ensure that this rich history be recorded, and she set in motion the mechanism to accomplish that. This book grew out of her vision to publish the history of St. Philip’s College, for...

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pp. 1-2

St. Philip’s College stands as a beacon, a point of pride on San Antonio’s Eastside. For 115 years St. Philip’s has off ered education and technical training to the community that surrounds it, and that means it has off ered light and hope. Within the community, it has been a rallying point for support of the way forward....

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1 1898 and Before.

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pp. 3-11

We begin this history with a look back at some of the events in San Antonio and in the nation that infl uenced the history of St. Philip’s College. Many Africans, brought to America as slaves, suff ered extreme hardships and deprivations. Central to the indignities suff ered was the...

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2 Coming to Texas

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pp. 12-14

A brief letter can deliver a message of great import. Inside this note, written on August 25, 1902, by the second bishop of the Missionary District of West Texas, were traveling instructions for a trip to San Antonio and $32to defray travel expenses. The instruction to wear a bow of red ribbon ...

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3 Artemisia Bowden and St. Philip’s Industrial School

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pp. 15-21

During her fi rst visit with the bishop, it is likely that Bowden discussed his expectations of her and her duties as principal of St. Philip’s School. Despite her assigned task, in addition to those the bishop outlined, she soon found herself in the role of fund- raiser, leader, and even...

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4 The Industrial Side of Education at St. Philip’s School

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pp. 22-26

When the West Texas District Episcopal Church Committee on Education met in 1900, their position on education for Negroes was unmistakable: if the church was to fund education for the Negroes, there had to be an industrial component. In fact, any school for Negroes wishing ...

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5 Four Acres and a New Home

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pp. 27-31

In 1917, following two downtown locations and four name changes, St. Philip’s moved to the city’s Eastside, where Bowden and Bishop Johnston had secured acreage. The word “Normal” was added to its title and St. Philip’s Grammar and Industrial School became St. Philip’s Normal,...

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6 Struggling to Survive: The 1930s

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pp. 32-36

Not content with having achieved junior college status, as early as 1930, Bowden and Bishop Capers began meeting with B. W. Harley, the Superintendent of Public Schools with the Board of Education of San Antonio. They requested that supervision of the curriculum be ...

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7 Oral History Interviews, 1930s

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pp. 37-44

This chapter presents a look at some of the oldest living students we located, who attended St. Philip’s College beginning in the 1930s. They told us of hardships they endured in their eff orts to gain an education beyond high school in a city where little was provided for them....

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8 An Awesome Responsibility: The 1940s

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pp. 45-48

St. Philip’s managed to survive the Depression years, but just barely. By the 1940s, the diffi culties that followed those years heralded the beginning of more troubles to come. The college was doing great work—better work, in fact, than ever before—and the diocese recognized this,...

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9 The 1940s, Continued

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pp. 49-54

The agreement, which had been under discussion since the early 1930s, took place only because of immense pressure from Negro citizens and some leading members of San Antonio’s white community, and then only with great reluctance. Under the terms, the San Antonio Independent ...

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10 Students, Faculty, and Administrators from the 1940s.

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pp. 55-65

When World War II became a reality, African American soldiers fought alongside others, fi rst in segregated units and later in integrated divisions. Then, in 1948, when President Harry S. Truman signed into law a bill instituting...

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11 The Norris Years

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pp. 66-76

Nearing fi ve decades spent at St. Philip’s, and with retirement in the not too distant future, Bowden’s search for a replacement led her to handpick Dr. Clarence Norris Sr. On June 8, 1943, Bowden sent a letter to Norris encouraging him to accept the position and explaining the reasons...

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12 The Surprise Election of Garlington Jerome (G. J.) Sutton

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pp. 77-80

Many improvements occurred under the Board of Trustees and additional changes were on the horizon. Electing Sutton as a member of the Board of Trustees of the San Antonio Union Junior College District, seen in retrospect, was a change that was vitally important to the growth and...

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13 Integrating the Schools: The 1950s

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pp. 81-84

San Antonio’s black community, weary of the desegregation rhetoric, voiced their sentiment that St. Philip’s should be drastically improved and both St. Philip’s and SAC opened to all students. The other option was to close St. Philip’s and transfer the black students to SAC....

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14 Oral History Interviews, 1950s

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pp. 85-95

More than anything else, change was a mark of the 1950s, not only at St. Philip’s, but also across the nation. It was a time when the United States was in great turmoil, particularly in the South, because of the Supreme Court mandate in Brown v. Board of Education to integrate the races....

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15 Learning to Adjust: Students and Faculty from the 1960s

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pp. 96-104

Davis, who grew up in San Antonio, was introduced to St. Philip’s as a child. Her mother, a member of St. Philip’s faculty, played a starring role in some of the plays presented at the college. Davis attended Hampton Institute “right out of high school,” but aft er Martin Luther King...

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16 The Evening Division

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pp. 105-108

For many students, the college experience consisted of working during the day and attending college in the evening. In fact, the St. Philip’s College bulletin for 1944– 1945 described an evening school division of the college “organized to provide educational opportunities for...

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17 The Murphy Years, 1969–1984

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pp. 109-123

When the community college came into being, its role was to meet the educational and vocational needs of the local community. While St. Philip’s began as a junior college, it was miles ahead of the community college movement, for even as it was called a junior college, its stated intention...

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18 A Procession of Presidents, Era of Contention: The 1980s

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pp. 124-125

As the unrest unfolded in the president’s offi ce, there was likewise disharmony within the Board of Trustees and chancellor’s offi ces and even more to come. The period between Dr. Murphy’s unplanned resignation from the presidency and the selection of his successor was a time...

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19 A Tumultuous, Progressive Time: The 1980s

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pp. 126-133

Gloria Jackson, who became interim president of St. Philip’s College in December 1982, held the interim position for two months before becoming president in March 1983. She brought to the position twenty- nine years of experience in the field of education that included serving as ...

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20 Poised for Change

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pp. 134-143

Despite protests, Stephen Mitchell was selected as the seventh president of St. Philip’s College. There were seventyeight applicants from which the eight- member search committee, which included three black members, culled the list, ending with ten applicants. From the ten, the...

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21 Keeping Watch: The 1990s.

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pp. 144-152

Rev. James’s replacement, Dr. Charles Taylor, came to St. Philip’s from Battle Creek, Michigan, “having been lured to San Antonio because of a college that puts students fi rst and has as its slogan, ‘A Point of Pride in the Community.’ ”...

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22 A New Year, A New Place: The 2000s

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pp. 153-167

In 2000, when Angie Stokes Runnels took the reins of St. Philip’s College, replacing Homer Hayes, she had this to say of the decision: “St. Philip’s selected me, and I am eternally grateful for their decision.” Conversely, St. Philip’s was fortunate to have been led by Runnels, for she was ...

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23 A Brand New Leader and a Brand New Day

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pp. 168-188

President Loston came to St. Philip’s from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Flight Center in Virginia, where she held the position of Director of Education and Special Assistant for Suborbital and Special Orbital Projects Directorate for the Goddard Space ...

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24 Conclusion

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pp. 189-192

What was begun by Bishop James Steptoe Johnston in the nineteenth century was persisted in the twentieth century by the perseverence of Dr. Artemisia Bowden, who inspired a cadre of dedicated leaders to follow her lead. Even as she retired from daily duties, she would not allow...

Appendix A: Presidents of St. Philip’s College, 1898–2012

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pp. 193-194

Appendix B: Administrators of St. Philip’s College, 1898–2012

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pp. 195-196

Appendix C: Letter and Signatures

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pp. 197-202

Appendix D: AT&T Artists

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pp. 203-204

Appendix E: Interviewees.

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pp. 205-206

Appendix F: History of the College President’s Lecture Series

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pp. 207-208


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pp. 209-216


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pp. 217-bc

Color photo gallery

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p. CG-CG

E-ISBN-13: 9781623490010
E-ISBN-10: 1623490014
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603449755

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 20 color, 80 b&w photos. Appendix. Index.
Publication Year: 2013