Editor’s Note: Texas Exes chapters from Austin to Alaska, New Braunfels to New York and all points between gathered to celebrate Texas Independence Day on March 2. The following is an excerpt from an article about the history of the celebrations, written by Jim Nicar, the history and traditions coordinator for the Texas Exes.
For the proudest of Texans, it’s the most important day of the year. It’s a holiday no other state can claim. March 2 is Texas Independence Day, and its observance on the University of Texas at Austin campus began with a missed class, a visit to Scholz’ Beer Garden and a cannon.
In the spring of 1896, the fledgling university was confined to a 40-acre campus, with a whitewashed wooden fence around the perimeter to keep out the town cows. The university’s 482 students were divided into two departments: Academic and Law.
Law students needed only two years to complete a Bachelor of Laws and Letters. Junior Laws were first-year law students while Senior Laws were completing their final year.
On March 2, 1896 the Junior Laws were waiting for their next lecture in criminal law when one student bemoaned the fact that the day was Texas Independence Day, a legal holiday for Texans, except for university students.
The Junior Laws decided they would honor such an auspicious day by avoiding class altogether, and invited their instructor, Judge Robert Batts, to join them. Batts responded, espousing all of the dire things that might happen to those who skipped lectures. The students promptly ignored Batts’ pleas, choosing instead to spend the day at Scholz’ Beer Garden.
One year later, the now senior law class was determined to include the entire campus community in a celebration of Texas Independence and again petitioned the faculty for a holiday. But the Board of Regents had recently appointed George T. Winston as the new university president. A native of North Carolina, Winston neither understood nor shared the affinity Texans had for March 2.
Undaunted, the students pressed ahead with their plans. Four students borrowed one of the two brass cannons that stood guard in front of the State Capitol. It took most of the afternoon of March 1 to roll the cannon to the Forty Acres, where the students planned to use it for a 21-gun salute to Texas.