“The Father of Public Education in Texas”
Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, member of Harmony Lodge No. 6, was born on his father’s plantation in Georgia on August 16, 1798. In early life, he became an expert horseman and a proficient fencer. Although he briefly attended private academies, he rebelled against the routine of formal schooling and pursued a course of self education. He became an insatiable reader, a gifted speaker, a skilled writer, a talented artist, a student of ancient history, and knowledgeable of the liberal arts and sciences.
A descendant of French Huguenots who fled Europe to escape persecutions, Lamar developed a keen craving for individual freedoms and a growing dis-trust of expanding federal powers. For a time, he published a newspaper that printed poetry which he had written and expressed his strong feelings for states’ rights.
In 1829, Lamar was elected to a term in the Georgia Senate. Sorrow over the death of his wife caused him to withdraw as a candidate for reelection in 1830. In 1832, he was defeated as a states’ rights candidate for the U.S. Senate; in 1833, he was admitted to the Georgia bar; and in 1834, he was, again, defeated as a states’ rights candidate for the U.S. Senate. Unhappy over political defeat and despondent over the deaths of his father, a sister, and a brother, Lamar moved to Texas in 1835. He immediately declared for Texas Independence and returned to Georgia to settle personal affairs.
While in Georgia, he learned of the fall of the Alamo and the defeat of Goliad. He rushed back to Texas and joined the Texas army as a private. In a skirmish with the Mexican force on April 20, Lamar saved the lives of Thomas J. Rusk and Walter P. Lane. He was commissioned a colonel on the battlefield and assigned a cavalry to command during the Battle of San Jacinto.
Shortly after San Jacinto, Lamar was appointed Secretary of War for the interim government of Texas. In 1836, Lamar became the first elected Vice-President of the Republic. And, on December 19, 1838, he was inaugurated as the second President of the Texas nation.
In December 1838, Mirabeau B. Lamar, a Mason, became president of the Republic of Texas and distinguished himself as the “Father of Texas Education” for his support of a public school system. In his first address to the Congress, he pleaded for the creation of a public school system in Texas. He declared, “If we desire to establish a republican government upon a broad and permanent basis, it will become our duty to adopt a comprehensive and well regulated system of mental and moral culture.”
He proposed the set aside of public lands for the creation of a permanent endowment to support public education. His educational views met with the approval of Congress and provisions were made for public education. Congress set aside three leagues (13,285 acres) of land in each county to support primary schools and an additional fifty leagues (221,420 acres) to support two colleges in 1839. In 1840, Congress set aside an additional league for the support of county schools. In addition, they made provisions for the certification of teachers. Once again, many of these legislators were Masons.
While these acts were important in the establishment of public education in Texas, the lasting impact was in the creation of a permanent endowment for the support of public education that lives to this day. Furthermore, Texas was the first state to give state aid to education. In 1854, the State legislature established a permanent school fund and an available school fund to finance the education of the youth of Texas. The “school lands” of Texas continue to provide revenue to the permanent endowment and support common education in Texas and supplement the property taxes dedicated to the school systems.
In 1988, under the leadership of Grand Master Graham Childress, the Lamar Award of Excellence was established. The Lamar Medal is awarded to students and educators in recognition of outstanding personal achievement in academics, citizenship, community service, or sports.
Relationship to a current or deceased Mason is NOT required for consideration. Victory Lodge works closely with the counselors of Ronald Regan High School to select students who are deserving of this award.