In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • William Hudson:Trinity University's "Eccentric" Professor, 1870–1889
  • R. Douglas Brackenridge (bio)

Click for larger view
View full resolution

William Hudson, undated.

Courtesy Fort Worth Star-Telegram Collection, Special Collections, the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, Arlington, Texas.

[End Page 146]

Born, raised, and educated in England, William Hudson (1820–1901) immigrated to Texas in 1852 and began a career as an educator and scientist that spanned four decades. Noted for his high energy, wide ranging interests, and exceptional abilities, Hudson was a quintessential polymath during an era when college trustees expected faculty to handle multiple teaching assignments and to do so competently. He once penned a letter to a Trinity University president listing sixteen courses he was prepared to offer. In bold strokes along the left margin he wrote: "Will be willing to lecture on almost any subject, if allowed to read one's dissertation."1

While Hudson's claims may appear ludicrous to modern readers, they would not be perceived as unusual by his contemporaries, especially for a man of Hudson's stellar academic reputation. What makes Hudson unusual, and the subject of this narrative, however, is his enlightened and innovative classroom pedagogy that significantly differed from traditional modes of instruction. He was at the forefront of curricular and pedagogical reform movements that gained momentum in Texas during the last two decades of the nineteenth century.2 [End Page 147]

Click for larger view
View full resolution

The first Trinity University building: John Boyd Home, Tehuacana, Texas, c. 1869–1870.

Courtesy Trinity University Archives, San Antonio, Texas.

Before joining the Trinity faculty in 1870, Hudson taught school in Tarrant County and surrounding areas. At Trinity, in Tehuacana, Limestone County, Hudson initially served as Principal of the Commercial Department, where he taught courses in penmanship and business skills. Later, as Professor of Chemistry and Natural Science, he taught in the field of his primary academic interests. Beyond the classroom, Hudson acquired a regional reputation as a well-informed scientist. An ordained Cumberland Presbyterian minister, Hudson spent his retirement years serving small churches in North Texas and Oklahoma Territory. He died in Altus, Oklahoma Territory, on October 31, 1901.3

Hudson's career has gone largely unnoticed by regional historians. The Handbook of Texas Online has a one-paragraph entry on Hudson, and a few other secondary sources have similar brief notations.4 Even Trinity historians have given him scant attention. His death passed unnoticed by [End Page 148] university trustees or campus newspapers, and a university centennial history published in 1968 never mentions his name. A recent institutional history (2004) is the first to include references to Hudson as a Trinity faculty member.5

To a large extent, Hudson's obscurity is due to the paucity of autobiographical and biographical information available to researchers in archives and other depositories. Quests for what reportedly was a sizable collection of books, manuscripts, and personal papers in Hudson's possession at the time of his death have not been productive. Oral history interviews with family descendants have added a few details about Hudson's early life, but nothing new in regard to his years at Trinity. Fortunately, Hudson wrote a series of articles in a denominational magazine and crafted course descriptions in university catalogues that provide insight into the theory and practice of his teaching methodologies.6

A contributing factor in his obscurity is the reputation for eccentricity attached to his name. While Hudson's peers never questioned his academic expertise, they viewed him as an outlier whose unconventional personality traits and novel teaching methods merited the appellation "eccentric." One faculty member referred to him as "a man of broad culture but a very eccentric man. He had a seemingly unlimited amount of book learning, but was really deficient in knowledge of practical business affairs."7 A former student described Hudson as "an intellectual giant, although a somewhat impractical genius."8 Taken out of context, however, references to Hudson's eccentricity are open to misinterpretation and tend to obscure his contributions to education and scientific research in Texas. In retrospect, the term "charismatic" may be more appropriate than "eccentric" when applied to Hudson.

During Hudson's...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 146-169
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.