Members Only Area
Bookmark and Share


SKINNER, JAMES WILLIAM (1855–1931). James William Skinner, founder and first president of the Texas Mexican Industrial Institute in Kingsville, Texas, was born at Versailles, Kentucky, on October 11, 1855, the son of Thomas and Jane (Bigger) Skinner. He received his A.B. degree in 1880 at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. After two years at Danville Theological Seminary, he completed his education at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1883. He was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry on September 12, 1882, and served pastorates in Terre Haute, Indiana (1883–86), Morrison, Illinois (1887–1902), and Fort Collins, Colorado (1902–10). He then left the ministry and moved to the Rio Grande valley in Texas to try to recover his savings, which he had invested in a land-development company at San Juan. He became the secretary of the corporation, but the bankruptcy of the company had left him stranded. The First Presbyterian Church in Brownsville, the first Protestant church in the Rio Grande valley, had been without a pastor for many years. Two of its elders asked Skinner to be the pastor. He told them that it was now clear to him that the Lord had never intended for him to become wealthy, and he agreed to move to Brownsville and resume his ministry in that church. He had been there less than two years when he received the call of the board of trustees to become the first president of the newly formed Texas Mexican Industrial Institute. Skinner refused invitations from large churches in the Midwest and devoted the rest of his life to this work. On a 700-acre tract south of Kingsville he developed and built the self-help school for boys from Texas and Mexico. In 1924 Skinner became the head of a second school in Taft, called the Presbyterian School for Mexican Girls. He was elected moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (Southern) in 1925, one of the few men from Texas to receive this honor. On October 9, 1884, Skinner married Julia Barfield of Danfield, Kentucky, and they had three daughters, one of whom died in infancy. He presided over both schools that he had founded until his death on October 24, 1931, in Kingsville. In 1956, the two schools were combined to form Presbyterian Pan American School in Kingsville. Skinner wrote a religious book, Out of the Wilderness, which was published in 1925. He is also credited with writing Bible Outlines (1940) and Jottings (1942).


Kleberg County Historical Commission, Kleberg County, Texas (Austin: Hart Graphics, 1979). Tex.-Mex. Reflector, November 1931.

Sherwood H. Reisner


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

Sherwood H. Reisner, "SKINNER, JAMES WILLIAM," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed April 01, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.