The Rich History of NCTC
Oldest Continuously Operating Two-Year College in Texas
North Central Texas College celebrated its 85th anniversary in 2009. The history of this institution is indeed a long one—the longest in fact of all 50 public community colleges in Texas (more about that HERE). Why is NCTC's history important? We believe that to truly understand and appreciate where North Central Texas College is today and where it's going in the years to come, it's important to take a look back at where we've been.
The story begins early in that turbulent decade known as the Roaring Twenties. Calvin Coolidge was our president. More and more folks were listening to what was still a relatively new gadget—radio. And for students at Gainesville High School, a new doorway to opportunity had recently opened right in their own hometown. All they had to do was walk up to the top floor of GHS (housed then in the converted Newsome-Daugherty mansion) to begin their college education.
Gainesville Junior College, like many of the earliest junior colleges in Texas, was, in the beginning, an extension of the local public schools, and it was the brainchild of a man now recognized as a true pioneer of public community college education in Texas — Randolph Lee Clark. Born in Fort Worth, Clark came from a family of strong believers in higher education. His father and uncle, in fact, founded Add-Ran College, the forerunner of Texas Christian University.
After graduation from Add-Ran, and a stint as a cowboy on the famous XIT Ranch in the Texas Panhandle, Lee Clark accompanied a trainload of cattle to Chicago and there continued his education at the University of Chicago. His mentor was Dr. William Raney Harper, the university president and the man known as the father of American community colleges. He exerted a huge impact on young Mr. Clark's views on higher education.
After returning to Texas, Clark married and served briefly on the staff of a small church school in Midland. He moved to Wichita Falls in 1915 to become superintendent of the public schools, a post he held for the next eight years. Several of those years Clark spent campaigning to add a junior college to the rapidly growing public school system in Wichita Falls. He helped pass a bond issue which built a building to house both the high school and Wichita Falls Junior College—the second publicly supported municipal junior college to be established in Texas. It opened in September 1922. A few years later, Lee Clark's first junior college became a four-year institution known as Hardin College, and today it is known as Midwestern State University.
Dr. C. R. Johnson, founder of the Gainesville Kiwanis Club, soon joined Lee Clark's junior college bandwagon, and he brought his fellow Kiwanians along with him. It was at a meeting of the Kiwanis Club that Lee Clark, invited by Dr. Johnson as a guest speaker, publicly planted the seed for a new junior college and cited all its many advantages. The college, he said, would function easily enough in the newly remodeled high school. It would simply require the addition of several teachers and improvements in lab equipment. With nine children of his own to educate, one might say Lee Clark had a vested interest in promoting junior colleges. Every one of his kids went to college.
Young Lee Clark was apparently a young man of strongly held opinions who had little patience with persons who did not see things his way. Unfortunately, one those persons turned out to be a member of the school board, and Lee Clark soon found himself seeking employment elsewhere. That elsewhere turned out to be Gainesville, Texas, where he came in 1923 as new superintendent of the public schools. He wasted little time in setting about to sell the citizens of Gainesville on the merits of starting their own junior college.
The junior college bandwagon, pushed along by the Kiwanis Club, really took off in the spring of 1924. First, the president of the Gainesville School Board issued a public endorsement. Then the Gainesville PTA and other civic clubs held a joint meeting to drum up support. Lee Clark reportedly stirred the emotions of all present by citing, quote, "the moral hazard of sending students away from home" to go to college. Lee Clark and his supporters next made an appeal to the Gainesville City Council, asking its approval of the addition of a junior college to the school system.