Lon Morris College
The most complete history of Lon Morris College is the 1973 doctoral dissertation by Glendell A. Jones. Ancestry.com has ten yearbooks dating from 1937 to 1978. The 1919 ad is from the Houston Post.
The later school seals give 1873 as the founding date of Lon Morris College. This was the date that the New Danville Masonic Female Academy (founded 1847) moved to Kilgore, became co-educational, adopted a college prep curriculum, became sectarian Methodist, and changed its name to Alexander Institute to honor its principal, Isaac Alexander. The school continued to upgrade its curriculum and, in 1909, became a junior college with a curriculum based on the first two years’ work at the University of Texas. After attaining state accreditation in 1915-16, the school began, in 1919, to advertise itself as the oldest junior college in East Texas. In 1924 it took the name Lon Morris College to honor financial benefactor Alonzo Morris.
Initially Alexander Institute separated male and female students with a divided classroom and strict regulations governing relationships. But generally after 1909, those regulations were lifted as co-education activities began to be a part of campus life. The 1937 Alexandra shows that in addition to the yearbook staff, the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, the Religious Council and the Ministerial Club, the college had no fewer than eight recognized social organizations. More than half of the students were members of the Masque and Wig Society, responsible for all drama on campus. The Women’s Chorus and the Men’s Glee Club combined as a touring group which raised funds for the school.
Elementary grades were phased out, and by 1937 Lon Morris had only eight academy students in its 195 total enrollment. All students were from Texas. Enrollment increased after World War II, reaching 1000 students after the year 2000. But as enrollment increased, so did indebtedness. Finally in 2012 the school was forced to declare bankruptcy and closed in 2013.
Bricks and Mortar
When Alexander Collegiate Institute moved to Jacksonville in 1894, it was given a two-story brick building known as Sunset School. However, noise from the nearby railroad made that location undesirable. In fall 1909 the school moved into its new $60,000 home at 800 College Avenue. The largest building in Jacksonville, it contained “classrooms, practice rooms, laboratories” with a library on the first floor and an auditorium on the second floor. Its distinctive twin towers made it a symbol of the school. This building was razed in 1960. The first addition to the school from the Lon Morris legacy was a new boys’ dormitory called Lula Morris Hall.
Increased enrollment led to a building boom in the 1960’s, starting with the A. Frank Smith Fine Arts building (1953) and a new administration building, library, cafeteria, and science building.
Largely repurposed, the campus extends along College Avenue today, its center being the Arthur and Evie Jo Wilson Administration Building.
Team name: Bearcats
Colors: Green and White
On May 22, 1913, Alexander Collegiate Institute lost to Marshall Business College 12-3 in a baseball game. That fall the football team lost to St. Edward’s College 51-7 and to Speer’s School 19-7.
The Dr. Roger Saylor college football website shows that between 1912 and 1938, the school compiled a 74-90-19 record, with their most common opponents being Marshall, Stephen F. Austen, Sam Houston, Paris JC, Wesley, and Rusk. The 1915 team claimed the “secondary college championship of Texas” after defeating Meridian College 13-0. The 1922 team defeated John Tarleton to become junior college champions of Texas. Dropped at the onset of World War II, football was reinstated at Lon Morris College in 2009.
Its final directory shows that L.M.C. offered men’s and women’s basketball and soccer, volleyball, softball, football, cross country/track, and baseball. Through the years, four baseball players went on to the majors. Shortstop Wally Dashiell played in one game with the White Sox in 1924. Outfielder Carl Reynolds (right) hit .302 over a thirteen-year career (1927-39) with five clubs. More recently, reliever Chris Simpson spent parts of five seasons with the Astros (2006-2010), and first baseman Micah Hoffbauir played three seasons with the Cubs (2008-2010).