History of Journalism School

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About the Department

Early Foundations

Several factors led to the founding the Journalism program at the University of Texas. In 1911, about 25 students banded together as the University Press Club which was sponsored by University of Texas President Sidney E. Mezes. With interests in building up the University, Mezes entertained the idea of beginning a School of Journalism at the university with many of his friends in the Texas press.

In January 1913, president Mezes formally presented a resolution from the Texas Women's Press Association requesting that the University establish a School of Journalism and that William H. Mayes be named as organizer and director. Mayes, who was then Lieutenant-Governor of Texas and a qualified journalist, officially founded the new journalism school in 1914, 32 years after the cornerstone of the Main Building was laid.

But 11 years later the new School of Journalism would disappear. In the years leading up to 1925, the journalism school would land in the crossfire of a political battle waging between then-Texas governor James Ferguson and Dean William Mayes. "While Dean Mayes had been one of those whom Gov. Ferguson earlier demanded be dismissed from the University faculty, Gov. Ferguson's fight with the University administration had been an important factor in his impeachment in 1917."

In continuing the fight in 1925, Gov. Ferguson vetoed State appropriations for the School of Journalism. In the period between 1925 and 1927, the College of Business Administration would offer alternative journalism courses. Then in 1927, a new Department of Journalism was created with renewed State appropriations.

Back to "School"

In the spring of 1948 the Department was accredited by the American Council on Education for Journalism making it again a School of Journalism. During this time, Director Paul J. Thompson pleaded to the Board of Regents for additional funds and a new building. But in the fall of 1949 the status of the School of Journalism was questioned, after a student attempted to run for the University-wide Student Assembly. The Student Court ruled that because the Regents had made the Department of Journalism a school "in name only," it was still under jurisdiction of the College of Arts and Sciences. Therefore, Journalism could not be represented in the Assembly with the other colleges and schools.

Several years later after the School of Journalism would become part of the College of Liberal Arts, a new School would be formed: the School of Communication, in 1965. Along with the Department of Speech and the Department of Radio-Television-Film, the School of Journalism became a Department once again.  Later, the School of Communication became the College of Communication.

As of Jan. 1, 2000, the journalism program has again officially become the School of Journalism.

"Housing" for The Journalism Department

After its initial formation, the Journalism Department was moved into an "old shack" called "J Hall," located where the West Mall Office Building now stands. There they shared the space with the School of Institutional History. Besides the heavy and primitive printing machinery, "J Hall" was heated by coal burning stoves. After appropriations for the School of Journalism were cutoff in 1925, journalism facilities moved to another "shack," known as "T Hall," off of speedway and near Gregory Gym.

Two years later, with the new label of "Department of Journalism," students and faculty again moved to a dilapidated "B hall," which had been a boy's dormitory originally named Brackenridge Hall. There, journalism students shared their classes on the main floor with Texas Student Publications, and the Publicity Office was placed in the basement. 1933 and the depths of the Depression found the Department moving into the "Old Engineering Building." There Journalism shared the building with Texas Student Publications, the Division of Publicity, the Department of Applied Mathematics, Germanic Languages Department, and the Geology Department.

"In the reporting laboratory eight typewriters rested on rickety tables. Students often brought portable typewriters to the laboratory, placing their machines on a chair or a window sill. Some students preferred to type at home. Waiting for a typewriter in the laboratory must have been time consuming, since many students used the "hunt-and-peck" system." (Mayer, Gary Howard. Journalism at the University of Texas, 1927-1964. Thesis. January, 1965. page 6.)

The Journalism Building
The Journalism Building, as it appeared on the front cover of the October 1952 Dedication Program.

Journalism students and faculty stayed there until the completion of a "new Journalism Building," in 1952. The "new Journalism Building" was located at the corner of Whitis Avenue and 24th street, which today is known as the "Geography Building." In 1965 the School of Journalism, the Department of Speech and a newly formed Department of Radio-Television-Film, all originally housed in the College of Liberal Arts, became three departments officially organized as the School of Communication. This new college called for a new facility to house all of the departments together.

In 1968, construction of the three building Communication complex began and was completed in 1974. Later in 1979, the School of Communication became the College of Communication, and in 1982, the building was officially named the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center. Former Dean and Journalism Chairman, Wayne Danielson, said the intended separation of the CMB media studios, the CMA academic center and the Texas Student Publications represented cultural values during its construction time.

"It was important then to keep academics separate from the T.V. and media stuff," said Danielson. "But gradually, new designs are showing the integration of the fields coming together. This kind of expresses historically the way things were. This building has been flexible, and changed with its time."

The Daily Texan office, which houses the University of Texas' largest daily publication and rests in the underground level of the complex, cannot be entered by either of the other communication buildings. According to Danielson, this was done purposely to represent the independence of the student press.

Learn more about the department's beginnings.

Past Department Heads

William H. Mayes was named as organizer and director of the School, and served from 1914 to 1927.

Paul J. Thompson, became a faculty member of the School of Journalism in 1919, beginning a 45-year career of journalism teaching and administration. He served as chairman of the department from 1927 to 1958.

DeWitt C. Reddick, one of the founders of the College of Communication, joined the journalism faculty in 1927 and served as director of the school from 1959 to 1965 when he became the first dean of the College of Communication. He served as dean until 1969.

  • Norris Davis (?-1976)
  • Griff Singer (1976-1977)
  • Dwight Teeter (1977-1984)
  • Mike Quinn (1984-1985)
  • Max McCombs (1985-1991)
  • Wayne Danielson (1991-1993)
  • Rusty Todd (1993-1996)
  • Steve Reese (1996-2002)
  • Lorraine Branham (2002 - 2007)
  • Tracy Dahlby (2008 - 2010)
  • Glenn Frankel (2010 - 2014)
  • R.B. Brenner  (2014 - present)