Molly Kate McCaughey and Nancy Beck Young

GATHRIGHT, THOMAS S. (1829–1880). Thomas S. Gathright, first president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University), was born on January 5, 1829, in Monroe County, Georgia. He first taught at Mount Hebron, Alabama, in 1850. He operated a private school for boys called Summerville Institute in Gholson County, Mississippi, from 1854 until 1876. Gathright avoided service in the Confederate Army by claiming poor health, family responsibilities, and professional duties, which included providing a free education for the children of indigent soldiers. He was appointed superintendent of public instruction in Mississippi on April 3, 1876.

On October 4, 1876, having been recommended by Jefferson Davis, he became the first president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. In 1878 the board of directors increased Gathright's duties to include the steward's responsibilities and the presidency of an A&M sponsored college for blacks (later Prairie View A&M); this first effort under Gathright failed. In 1879 the entire administration was dismissed. Subsequently, Gathright served as the president of Henderson Male and Female College until his death, on May 24, 1880. Gathright is buried in the city cemetery in Henderson.

Henry C. Dethloff, A Centennial History of Texas A&M University, 1876–1976 (2 vols., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1975). Elmer Grady Marshall, History of Brazos County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1937). George Sessions Perry, The Story of Texas A&M (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1951).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Molly Kate McCaughey and Nancy Beck Young, "GATHRIGHT, THOMAS S.," accessed July 19, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox