The University of Texas at Austin
  • How Texas Independence Day came to UT

    By Jim Nicar
    Jim Nicar
    Published: March 6, 2008

    Just before sunrise on March 2, the students arrived for their celebration, only to find a large nail had been driven into the ignition hole of the cannon. It took some time and the employment of several pocketknives to remove the item. By then, Winston had arrived and was rather unhappily resigned to the fact that the students were going to celebrate. Hoping to minimize the damage to the class day, Winston asked the Laws to move the cannon away from the Main Building, down the hill to the university’s athletic field. Or, they could wait until after noon to have their fun. As it turned out, the students did both.

    Starting at 9:30 a.m., an otherwise peaceful morning was interrupted by a series of cannon blasts. The entire Law Department attended, including Batts and Professor John Townes, and following the cannon fire, each person gave a short but sincere patriotic speech.

    Meanwhile, a distracted Academic Department continued to hold classes as best as it could. The Laws, though, weren’t going to allow Texas Independence Day to pass without including the rest of the university.

    At 1 p.m., the cannon was positioned in front of the Main Building, facing the Capitol. The first blast “threatened to break every window in the building.” All at once, the Academs vacated their classrooms and joined the Laws outside, and the scene of the morning was repeated, with more speeches from students and professors.

    Midway through the afternoon, it was discovered that Winston had quietly made his escape home, to which a large and boisterous committee of students promptly followed. Refusing to take no for an answer, the students persuaded Winston to return to the campus and make a speech of his own. He opened with the remark: “I was born in the land of liberty, rocked in the cradle of liberty, nursed on the bottle of liberty, and I’ve had liberty preached to me all my life. But Texas university students take more liberty than anyone I’ve ever come in contact with.”

    Since then, students and Texas Exes have recognized March 2 as a time to celebrate both the Lone Star State and the university. In 1900, the Ex-Students Association adopted a resolution which states: “Whenever two Texas Exes shall meet on March 2, they all shall sit and break bread and pay tribute to the institution that made their education possible.”

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