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TCU Magazine "Class Notes"

University Drive

Just as the major artery through campus used to be an unpaved offshoot of Forest Park Boulevard, nearly all of TCU's byways -- Cockrell, Greene and Rogers, to name a few -- have stories to tell.

By Joan Hewatt Swaim '56

In my youth, the streets of my TCU neighborhood were paths to destinations, bicycle byways and, sometimes, a ball court for summer evening games of kick-the-can. Their names meant little beyond identifying where I and my friends lived.

Dorothy Johnson's house was on Shirley Ave., Jean Barrett's on Cockrell, and Kitty Townsend lived on Rogers as I did. I walked up Rogers, down Cantey, and crossed Greene and Cockrell and Waits on my way to McLean Jr. High School (located where Paschal High is now).

But the street names didn't mean much to me, then; I wasn't even conscious that I knew them. Kids don't spend much time chewing on such things. Studying, now, those same streets in search of times gone by, I realize how closely associated the TCU neighborhoods have been with the University at their, and my, core. Cockrell, Greene, and Rogers were paved and, perhaps, named during the early 1920s.

Up to that time, the TCU neighborhood—the "hill"—had been outside the city limits of Fort Worth, connected to the city by a route that led from Forest Park Boulevard to Eighth Avenue to the streets of downtown. In fact, what is now the major boulevard that bisects the present campus, our familiar University Drive, was still a westwardly extension of Forest Park Boulevard and was so designated.

This piece of TCU history happened thus: TCU history professor, E. R. Cockrell, had been elected mayor of Fort Worth in 1921, and during his brief tenure, the TCU hill was incorporated into the city, and the University and the town had agreed to share the costs of paving streets adjacent to the campus, and widening and renaming that part of Forest Park Boulevard that ran in front of the school.

According to Dean Colby Hall's history of TCU, the college had experienced financial difficulties in the years following World War I, and this new obligation added significantly to that burden. Help came from two gentlemen who owned considerable property on the hill, and were interested in the development of the university.

R. L. Rogers, a real estate man, and Dr. R. M. Greene, whose family owned and lived on extensive property just east of the campus, proposed to the TCU Board of Trustees that they use the proceeds from the sale of vacant lots which they owned to help pay the college's part of the paving. The school approved of the plan, and Greene and Rogers carried out the proposal, the two covering over two-thirds of the debt.

Dr. Greene's support of the university would continue, willing to TCU much of his estate which included acreage south and east of University Drive to Lubbock Street, as well as the large brick home he had built on the corner of Princeton and University Drive which was used by the TCU Speech and Hearing Department until about 1975.

Greene had earlier sold the land on which the library now stands at a bargain price of $15,000. Dr. Egbert R. Cockrell, after whom Cockrell Ave. is named, and his wife, Dura Brokaw Cockrell, joined the TCU faculty in 1899 when the school was still in Waco, he as professor of history, political & social science, and she as head of the art department. They would serve in these capacities until 1922, when he became the President of William Woods College in Fulton, Mo.

The Cockrells' two lots and their two-story home on the corner of Cantey and University was sold to the University Christian Church in 1925. The home, moved diagonally across University Drive to the southeast corner of Cantey and University, was used by TCU as a girls' dormitory for a number of years.

Shirley Avenue, a short two-and-a-half blocks long, and dead-ending on the south at Alice Carlson School and on the north at Avondale, was almost certainly named for T. E. Shirley, an early and tireless supporter of the university. T. E. was on the university board from 1893-1917, serving as chairman from 1899-1909.

In his first year as chair, a motion was made to discontinue the school because of indebtedness. Shirley refused to honor the motion, which therefore could not come to a vote, and thereupon dedicated himself full time to raising money for the college and started the campaign with $1,000 out of his own pocket. Spelling the name variously as "Sherley" and "Shirley," the men and women of this early northeast Texas family have long been identified with TCU.

T.E.'s nephew, Andrew Sherley, was a Board member from 1920-45, as was Andrew's son, W. M. "Bill" Sherley from 1949 to 1965. And what student from 1927 through 1971 can forget Miss Lorraine Sherley, the feared and revered grande dame of the English Department?

These members of the family are honored in the naming of TCU's Sherley Residential Hall. McPherson Street, one block north of the campus, was named after Chalmers McPherson, a Waxahachie minister, who was a member of TCU's Board of Trustees from 1883 to 1903, endowment secretary of the University from 1908-1911, and taught in Brite College of the Bible from 1915 until his death in 1927.

Dean Hall recalls that "Brother Mac devoted his life in love and zeal to his 'boys and girls,' giving them spirit as well as lessons." On his death, the Chapel in the old Brite Building (now the Bailey Building) was named the "McPherson Memorial Lecture Room" in his honor.

In addition, his extensive theological library was bequeathed to Brite College, becoming the core of what is now one of the most important collections of theological literature in America.

Edward McShane Waits, after whom Waits Avenue is named, was president of TCU from 1916 to 1941. At the time of his appointment, he was pastor of the Magnolia Christian Church in Fort Worth and had been secretary of the TCU Board of Trustees for five years. He led the school through the Depression years between 1929 and the mid-'30s, personally knocking on the doors of Fort Worth's business community to solicit desperately needed funds to keep the college going and to meet its faculty payroll.

It was during his time, too, that the school's enrollment rose from 367 students to over 2,000, and faculty increased from 20 to over 100. Described by all who knew him as a wise, kind, and gentle man, "Prexy," in the words of his colleague Colby Hall, "was known for the beauty of his phraseology and the prolificity of his poetical quotation, but not for rushing to the termination of a speech."

Students of his day will recall his slow eloquence and distinctive southern Kentucky pronunciation as he conducted mandatory three-times-a-week chapel in the old Ad Building's auditorium. Memorable, too, is his discussion of TCU's name. After extolling the greatness of Texas and the high purpose of a university, he explained that the middle word "Christian" gave dignity and meaning to the other two.

If you live in one place for any length of time in your youth, you remember the streets that lead you in and out, and to and from your home. Knowing their names, and the stories behind them, can help you repossess a piece of the past; they are proof, in part, of your identity.

It pleases me to know that my paths brushed up against the paths of these fine gentlemen and those of the University they so selflessly served.

Joan Hewatt Swaim is author of Walking TCU: A Historical Perspective. She retired in 1995 as coordinator of bibliographic control for the Mary Couts Burnett Library after 18 years of service. She now lives in Granbury, where she and her 8-year-old grandson Asher take turns smelling the "sea" on Lake Granbury.