Index of Memorial Resolutions and Biographical Sketches
HOMER PRICE RAINEY
Homer Price Rainey, retired president of The University of Texas at Austin, died on December 19, 1985. He was 89.
President Rainey was born on January 19, 1896, in Clarksville, Texas. He was ordained a minister at age nineteen. President Rainey earned a bachelor's degree from Austin College in 1919. He earned master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago in 1923 and 1924, respectively.
President Rainey taught at the University of Oregon from 1924 to 1927. He was selected president of Franklin College in Indiana in 1927, a position he held until 1931. From 1931 to 1935 he was president of Bucknell University. He was then director of the American Youth Commission of the American Council on Education.
In 1939 President Rainey was appointed to lead the University. During his first year he was credited with a number of accomplishments, including the opening of the Latin American Institute, strengthening the graduate school, increasing the faculty and expanding the building construction program for the College of Fine Arts, organizing the management of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, and increasing library holdings substantially. In addition, the enrollment of UT Austin grew to more than 11,000 during 1939-40.
By 1941, however, the UT System Board of Regents began to interfere in faculty matters and curriculum content. They pressed President Rainey to fire four full professors of economics who supported New Deal policies. A year later the board succeeded in ousting four non-tenured faculty members for defending federal labor laws.
President Rainey sought to bring the UT Medical Branch at Galveston under the institution's purview, further angering the regents. His protest of the weakening of tenure and funds for social science research also netted their ire. The issue that brought matters to a crisis, however, was President Rainey's defense of the teaching of John Dos Passos's USA in the Department of English. On October 12, 1944, President Rainey publicly protested the regents' suppression of the novel and aired other grievances before a meeting of the General Faculty. By November 1, 1944, the regents responded to President Rainey's position by firing him as president. Only Regent Marguerite Gibson Shearer Fairchild voted against the ouster. Staging a protest of the board's action, 8,000 UT Austin students went on strike and marched to the Capitol and Governor's Mansion. Their efforts failed to reinstate the president. Nonetheless, President Rainey became a symbol for academic freedom on the campus in the decades that followed. Nationally, he was honored with the Thomas Jefferson Award for his stance.
In 1946 President Rainey ran for governor of the state. He lost his bid in the primary runoff amid accusations of "radicalism." His candidacy for the state's highest office may have marked the first instance of a candidate for state office running with the support of a coalition of labor, minorities, and progressives.
In 1947 President Rainey became president of Stephens College. In the 1950s he became a professor of education at the University of Colorado, where he was named professor emeritus in 1964.
President Rainey authored Public School Finance (1929) and How Fare American Youth? (1937). His last book, The Tower and the Dome, a Free University Versus Political Control (1971), documents the crisis in his administration that led to his dismissal.
John R. Durbin, Secretary
The General Faculty
Biographical sketch prepared by Teresa Palomo Acosta and posted on the Faculty Council web site on January 5, 2001. Additional biographical sources can be found in the Barker Texas History Center and the New Handbook of Texas, Texas State Historical Association, 1996.