While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

O'HAIR, MARY MCCLELLAN (1869–1936). Mary McClellan O'Hair, the first woman regent of the University of Texas, was born in Burton, Texas, in 1869, the daughter of W. R. and Louisa (Ratliff) McClellan. She grew up in Washington County and attended public schools in Brenham before entering Baylor Female College in Independence (now the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton), where she received a bachelor's degree in 1886. The following year she married wealthy rancher H. J. O'Hair in Ledbetter, Texas. The couple had a daughter who died as an infant and a son who died during the influenza epidemic of World War I. The O'Hairs lived briefly in Lockhart before moving to Coleman. Influenced by her father, who was a two-term member of the Texas legislature, Mrs. O'Hair was an early supporter of woman suffrage and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. She served as president of the Texas Woman's Press Association in 1910 and remained an active member of that organization the rest of her life. In Coleman she organized the first Self Culture Club, which helped women find opportunities for self-improvement, and promoted study clubs and the local public library. She also served as president of the City Federation of Women's Clubs in Coleman and was active in the local Christian church. During World War I she lived in New York City for several months to assist in the war effort, and she was honored by the Canadian Red Cross for her help with war work in Canada.

In May 1921 Governor Pat M. Neff appointed Mary O'Hair to a six-year term as a regent of the University of Texas. She subsequently was selected by Governor Dan J. Moody to complete an unexpired two-year term, thus becoming the first regent ever to be reappointed. While on the board, as a member of the building and grounds committee, she advocated replacing temporary structures on the university campus with permanent buildings. Her service as a regent coincided with a $1.3 million appropriation from the state legislature for campus expansion. Mrs. O'Hair, who was appointed forty years after the first board of regents was named, was the only woman to serve on the board of regents until 1935, when Governor Miriam A. Ferguson appointed Marguerite Shearer Fairchild of Lufkin. Other regents who served with O'Hair included H. J. Lutcher Stark, philanthropist and businessman, and Judge Robert Batts, former United States circuit judge. Mrs. O'Hair completed her service on the board of regents in 1929. In her retirement she continued her activities for charitable organizations and traveled extensively. She died in Coleman on December 4, 1936, after a long illness, and was buried there. She was survived by her husband, two siblings, a grandson, and a nephew. At her death flags at the Capitol were lowered to half mast in her memory.


Alcalde (magazine of the Ex-Students' Association of the University of Texas), August 1921, January 1937. Margaret Catherine Berry, The University of Texas: A Pictorial Account of Its First Century (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980). Files, Office of the Board of Regents, University of Texas System, Austin. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Woman's Who's Who of America (New York: American Commonwealth, 1914).

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: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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, Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, "O'HAIR, MARY MCCLELLAN," accessed July 04, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/foh11.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on April 9, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...