American History · News Media

The OTHER Baylor University Scandal

Football season is over, and the unseasonably warm weather in North Texas is awakening an anticipation of opening day at the ballpark. As our sports interests shift with the seasons, some things that should remain in the forefront of our minds have slipped onto the back burner. Despite some startling revelations about it this past fall, the recent Baylor University sexual assault scandal seems to have dropped from the media radar. That yours truly, a WGST-affiliated student who has recently researched “rape culture” while attending a school that pulls no punches in its aggressive rivalry with Baylor [Go Frogs!], could have forgotten about the scandal is surprising, to say the least. And yet I forgot…until I came across an older rape scandal at Baylor.

I have to preface this account by saying that many of the relevant documents have not been digitized fully, so I have had to rely upon scant primary sources and more than a few second-hand retellings of the story.

In the 1890s, a Baylor alumnus named Z. C. Taylor was working in Brazil as a Baptist missionary. Let’s be clear here: he was not trying to convert those who had not received the Good News; he was trying to convert Roman Catholics into Southern Baptists. He worked extensively with a Brazilian man and former Catholic priest named Teixeira de Albuquerque. Taylor said of this man’s father, “though having heard the gospel through his son, was still a devout Catholic with all his house.”[1] Teixeira wrote a tract explaining his departure from the Catholic faith and listed “unnatural” priestly celibacy as one of several important reasons. Unsurprisingly, then, Teixeira married and had children. Taylor and Teixeira worked closely together for about six years before Teixeira passed away. Feeling an affinity for the Timothy to his Paul (non-celibacy notwithstanding), Taylor decided to share some kindness with Teixeira’s daughter by sending her to the United States for a college education at Baylor.

Taylor contacted an old acquaintance who happened to be the president of Baylor University, Rufus Columbus Burleson. A well-respected Baptist minister, Burleson had presided over Baylor since 1851—sort of. Baylor began in Independence, TX (between Houston and Waco) as a coeducational college with separate faculty for the male and female students. In 1861 he and the “male department” faculty left Baylor and took up at Waco University, an all-male school. Baylor carried on in Independence until railroad construction bypassed the town and left it fairly isolated. In 1886, the Baptist governing body in Texas merged Waco University into Baylor University in Waco and made the institution coeducational again. Baylor’s old “female department” had by then become a separate institution (later rechristened University of Mary Hardin-Baylor), and the Baptist leaders of Texas relocated it forty miles south of Waco in Belton.

Antonia Teixeira arrived in Waco in 1892 and lived in the home of Baylor’s president, Burleson. He and his wife paid her tuition fees, provided her room and board in their home, and instructed her in housekeeping practices. A frequent visitor to the Burleson home was H. Steen Morris, a man whose brother had married Burleson’s daughter. Teixeira testified that on three separate occasions throughout November and December of 1894, Morris came to the house when the Burlesons were away and drugged her with a sweet-tasting drink before “criminally assaulting” her.[2] The fourteen-year-old girl became pregnant, identified Morris as her rapist, and ended up igniting a scandal.

During the summer of 1895, Teixeira delivered a baby girl and Morris was indicted. The people of Waco divided into pro-Steen and pro-Teixeira camps, and the ensuing trial of Morris became the biggest spectacle of the year in McLennan County. One of Teixeira’s defenders was none other than William Cowper Brann, a Waco-based newspaper editor who never missed an opportunity to jab the uptight Baptists at Baylor. Some have heralded Brann, a witty social critic and religious skeptic, as a nineteenth-century H. L. Mencken on his way to national greatness before being cut down in his prime. Brann’s Iconoclast took not only Burleson and Morris to task for the abuse of Teixeira, but held Baylor University responsible and even went so far as to blame every Baptist in Texas.[3]

When Burleson issued a pamphlet rebutting Teixeira’s accusations and Brann’s invective, he hinted that other institutions of higher learning in the region were relishing the scandal. He claimed that “agents of other colleges are slyly and secretly aiding these mudslingers.”[4] A prime suspect might be Paul Quinn College, a black college and technical school operating in Waco at the time. But he could also have been referring to Add-Ran Male and Female College, which had just moved to Waco from Thorp Spring (about a hundred miles to the northwest). Add-Ran left Waco in 1902 for Fort Worth and subsequently became Texas Christian University [Go Frogs!]—so the inter-collegiate animosity between these schools runs deeper than many twenty-first century Frogs and Bears realize.

Like the Baylor scandal of today, the Teixeira case lost its place in the public imagination. Morris was acquitted and Teixeira disappeared from the record. The administrator and guardian who should have been held responsible used his position to defend himself and keep his job. But those looking for a more satisfactory ending to the story can find a hero in Brann, who continued his feud with Baylor and Burleson for several more years.

Brann’s Iconoclast invective continued and reached a circulation of approximately 100,000 copies per month in the years following 1895. Brann crossed a line in October 1897 when he commented on the historically high enrollment at Baylor by alluding to the Teixeira scandal:

“It is to be devoutly hoped that the recent expose of Baylor’s criminal carelessness will have a beneficial effort—that henceforth orphan girls will not be ravished on the premises of its president, and that fewer young lady students will be sent home enceinte. The Iconoclast would like to see Baylor University…spoken of with reverence instead of sneeringly referred to by men about town as worse than a harem.”[5]

Baylor students, tired of such frustratingly witty insults hurled at their school, decided to teach Brann a lesson. Shortly after Brann’s comment a group of Baylor students kidnapped him and took him to the Baylor campus. They roughed him up and seemed ready to lynch the editor before settling for his signature on a retraction statement instead. But Brann would not quit antagonizing Baylor, so the school’s supporters carried on their war against him. He was pistol-whipped by a judge (which just about caused a shootout in Waco), one of his supporters shot two people openly in the street, and Brann ultimately died in a gunfight with man who had sent his daughter to Baylor.[6] With its loudest critic violently silenced, Baylor University moved on from its nineteenth-century rape scandal, and for over a century Texans have been none-the-wiser.

We can learn a number of things from the tale of this old Baylor rape scandal. Rape is an ancient crime, and Baylor isn’t the first school to have a particularly bad reputation for it. This kind of thing has happened at Baylor before, and the school survived and restored its image. Even a century ago, rape cases could turn into the kinds of he-said-she-said contests that typically benefit the accused. We can also see that the tendency to hold a university or its administration responsible for crimes perpetrated against its students is nothing new; moreover, drawing the line between student accountability and administrative responsibility was about as blurry in 1895 as it is today. I think that the most startling lesson is the continuity between the two incidents: both entailed copious amounts of victim-blaming for the women, excuse-making for the accused, and self-exonerating by administrators. In light of these continuities, let’s make a concerted effort to REMEMBER the scandal this time around—not to blame a college rival or besmirch an otherwise impressive school, but do our part to turn those continuities into changes.

 

[1] Z. C. Taylor, “The Z. C. Taylor Manuscript,” from Glendon Donald Grober “An Introduction to and Critical Reproduction of the Z. C. Taylor Manuscript: The Rise and Progress of Baptist Missions in Brazil,” (MA Thesis, Ouachita University, 1969), 173. http://scholarlycommons.obu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1022&context=grad_theses

[2] Galveston Daily News (Galveston, TX), 25 July 1895, 5.

[3] The Temple Times (Temple, TX), 30 August 1895, 2.

[4] A photograph of a portion of Burleson’s defense can be found at Brian M. Simmons, “The Tragedy of William Cowper Brann, Waco’s Infamous Firebrand,” https://blogs.baylor.edu/texascollection/2013/04/01/the-tragedy-of-william-cowper-brann-wacos-infamous-firebrand/comment-page-1/

[5] William Cowper Brann, The Complete Works of Brann the Iconoclast, vol. X (New York: The Brann Publishers, 1919), 63-64.

[6] Charles Carver, Brann and the Iconoclast (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1957).