Mirabeau B. Lamar Day
A Salute to Texas' Father of Education
January 26 is Mirabeau B. Lamar Day, a day to salute the Father of Education in Texas. On that date in 1839, the Republic of Texas Congress passed The Education Act, setting aside land for public schools. It was President Mirabeau B. Lamar, second President of the Republic of Texas from 1838-1841, who successfully argued the importance of public education, and proposed the first actions that laid the foundation for a public school system in Texas. His accomplishments earned him the title of Father of Education in Texas.
While the Texas Constitution of 1836 had addressed the duty of Congress to provide, by law, for a general system of education, no laws had been enacted. Lamar was determined to follow through with legislation, and made an innovative proposal: to establish public education with land endowments. Why land? The reason was simple. The Republic of Texas lacked hard cash, but its public domain lands were immense and viewed as sources of great wealth. Before the public lands were exhausted at the end of the nineteenth century, millions of acres had been endowed for the purpose of public education.
Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, an important figure in Texas history, was born on August 16, 1798 in Georgia. A multi-talented individual, he had become an expert horseman, an accomplished fencer, a writer of poetry, a publisher, a painter, and a state senator before coming to Texas in 1835. He joined in the fight for Texas independence and served as a secretary of war and a vice-president before becoming the second President of the Republic. After statehood, Lamar served the U.S. during the Mexican-American War, and later as Minister to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Two months after returning from his diplomatic mission, Lamar died of a heart attack on December 19, 1859, at his home in Richmond, Texas.