Austin, Texas: Samuel Huston College, 1933. 13 7/8” x 10½”. Newsprint. Pp. . Good: heavily creased at old folds with a few small tears at intersections, removing one word of text; 1.5” tear to front not affecting legibility; edge wear; spotted and toned.
This is a rare issue of the official publication of Samuel Huston College, the precursor to Huston-Tillotson University (HTU) in Austin, Texas. It was edited by a young man who went on to become a widely influential African American orator and minister, role model to Jackie Robinson and the youngest college president in the United States, Karl Downs. Downs' life was cut short when he died at the age of 35 after being denied life-saving medical care because of his race.
HTU, the first institution of higher learning in Austin, was formed in 1952 when two HBCUs came together: Samuel Huston College (SHC), chartered in 1876, and Tillotson College. A notable alumnus (and former president) of SHC, Karl Downs was the editor-in-chief of this publication while a student there. He also served as chairman of the Austin Student Inter-racial Commission and bandleader of the school orchestra. Continuing on to seminary, Downs played a leading role in the interracial Methodist student movement and delivered talks at various conferences. In 1938, at the age of 25, Downs became pastor at Scott United Methodist Church in Pasadena, California, where Jackie Robinson's mother worshiped. In a short time he added a nursery, toy and book lending library, social service department, basketball court and other amenities to the historic Black church. He also stepped into a role as mentor and role model to Jackie Robinson, who had been arrested with the possibility of a jail term just before his 19th birthday. A few years later, Downs returned to SHC, becoming the youngest college president in the nation, and he brought Jackie Robinson with him. Two years before breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Robinson coached the SHC basketball team. During Downs' 4½-year tenure at SHC, enrollment tripled, the campus expanded and he organized a lecture program to help Black religious leaders get their writing distributed to the wider public. He also wrote a book, Meet The Ne*ro, a series of biographical vignettes of successful Black Americans. Downs died at the age of 35 in a segregated ward in an Austin hospital after not receiving medical care that could have saved his life. According to Jackie Robinson's wife, Rachel, “we believe Karl would not have died if he had received proper care, and there are a number of whites who evidently shared this belief. After Karl’s death, the doctor who performed the operation was put under such pressure that he was forced to leave town . . .”
The leading article in this issue, which we presume to be written by Downs based on his interests and later career, covered the First Texas Students Inter-Racial Conference, attended by 129 delegates from Black and white colleges of Texas “aimed toward a constructive program of cooperation between the races.” One article celebrated Professor J. Mason Brewer, the first African American invited to speak to the “exclusive white cultural organization” the Texas Folklore Society and first “Ne*ro contributor” to the Society's official publication. There is also notice of a talk given by Celestine Smith; working in Nigeria, Smith was the only African American YWCA secretary to go abroad with the YWCA prior to World War II. The Bulletin also announced an upcoming Scientific Exposition, a College Field Day for high school seniors and additions to the SHC faculty. There were blurbs on school sports, Greek life, the Dramatic Club and choir, as well as alumni notes, gossip and an original poem. Four photographic images include a shot of “Miss 'Samuel Huston',” Octavia Sayles, and one of “Karl Downs and His Dragonians,” SHC's orchestra and “Texas' best College band.”
OCLC shows three institutions with a combined 13 total issues of the Bulletin, and none have this particular issue. There is a collection of Sam Huston College records at HTU which has catalogs and bulletins of the school but the earliest is from 1940. Also important is that there is only one other known issue of the paper that was edited by Downs: his Meet the Ne*ro is well known, and an online biography stated Downs “published a number of religious articles,” but OCLC shows him as the author of only one other work and Google searches also revealed nothing else by him. That makes this newspaper exceptionally rare physical evidence of Downs' work as an editor, and he almost certainly wrote the columns on race relations. Danky Hady 1273. Good. Item #4263