The Dallas Morning News carried articles about and ads for Somerville Law School and Dixie University. The ad (above) is from Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
In 1928 Charles Laverne Somerville, a Missouri native and former Texas oil worker, returned to Texas and opened a law school in Wichita Falls. His teaching experience in Missouri led him to believe that students could be trained to read at a much faster rate with greater comprehension. This “triple speed method” of teaching led to advertising claims that students could complete a law degree in much less time than was required in traditional law schools. Thus he was able to expand Somerville Law School into six Texas cities—including Dallas in 1931. Advertisements suggested that one could obtain a law degree in one year and that one could do so in day classes, night classes or by correspondence.
In February of 1933, Somerville chartered Dixie University by adding schools of Commerce, Public Administration, and Accounting to the Law school. Advertisements also mentioned public speaking and interior decoration.
From 40 students in the law school in 1931, enrollment reached 400 in the university in the fall of 1933. A school band was organized in March, and a debating society was organized in November.
The passing of Dixie University went unnoticed, but a 1936 obituary of Sam Cochran calls the school “no longer in existence.” Somerville Law School continued at least until Somerville died in 1947. But Somerville himself began to focus more on a political career, founding the Roosevelt Independent Party in 1942 and campaigning for the state governorship. Later ads for the law school focus more on Somerville’s role as a law coach.
77-year-old Sam Cochran (right) was valedictorian of the first graduating class of Dixie University. Image from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/42991115/samuel-poyntz-cochran (accessed 7-29-2019)
Bricks and Mortar
Somerville Law School operated at 1807 1/2 Main Street. In 1933 Somerville then took a one-year lease on the “Old YMCA Building” as home for Dixie University. According to FlashbackDallas.com, that building was constructed between 1907 and 1909 “when money was available.” The five-story brick and stone structure was located at 1910 Commerce Street in downtown Dallas near the law school. In addition to its own schools, The YMCA building also housed Dallas Law School and Dallas Institute of Technology.
After Dixie University closed, the YMCA building became the Savoy Hotel, described by FlashbackDallas.com as “seedy.” In 1950 the Savoy Hotel was razed to make way for the new Statler-Hilton Hotel.
The YMCA Building (left) was home to Dixie University in 1933. http://Vintage-postcard-YMCA Building-Dallas-Texas-Coltera-Flickr.html Accessed 7-29-2019.
Team Name: Rebels
Colors: Scarlet and Gray
In February 1933 at the time Somerville announced the creation of Dixie University, came the announcement that Nick Dobbs had been signed as athletic director and football coach. He would be bringing with him at least 14 players from the undefeated Jefferson University team of 1932. Dobbs believed that since universities recruit football players, “what is wrong with a ready-made football team getting itself a university.” Somerville announced that the resources of all his branch campuses would be used to bring top players to Dallas.
The pattern Dobbs established at Jefferson University pattern was repeated. He announced an 11-game schedule that brought major football powers to Dallas, but most schools withdrew rather than play against a team that did not adhere to any conference eligibility rules. After three games against lesser Texas opponents, star halfback Jodie Whire moved on to a professional team. After two more losses, Dobbs himself severed all relations with the school, and the team finished with a 2-4 record. After a more amateur team team suffered seven humiliating losses in 1934, scoring only two touchdowns, Dixie dropped football.
The women’s basketball team followed the same pattern. A ready-made team that had represented the Dallas Golden Cyclones in the 1933 national AAU tournament represented Dixie University in 1934. That team reached the quarterfinals of the 1934 national AAU tournament.