Mirabeau B. Lamar Award
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.