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 »


Joe F. Taylor

AMARILLO COLLEGE. The current Amarillo College was established in 1929 as Amarillo Junior College. Amarillo had failed in earlier efforts to get a state college and in 1929 was the largest city in Texas without a public college. Amarilloans, led by George Ordway and James O. Guleke, introduced a house bill that established junior college districts; Amarillo Junior College was the first college established under this act. Governor Daniel J. Moody signed the bill on April 2, 1929, and Amarillo began its campaign on April 3, 1929. The college started in September 1929 with B. E. Masters as president and was accredited rapidly, in April 1930 by the Association of Texas Colleges and Universities and in 1933 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

Vocational courses were offered in the 1930s, when a specific demand developed, but the college had no continuing programs. In 1939, in line with Southern Association recommendations that the junior colleges begin to stress vocational courses, a flying school was established to train pilots under the authority of the Civil Aeronautics Administration, and in 1941 a National Defense Vocational Training School was started to supply personnel to defense industries during World War II. After the war all programs expanded steadily. A technical school was established in 1960 and a biomedical school in 1967.

In 1951 Amarillo College became the first publicly supported college in Texas to admit blacks to undergraduate classes. It began courses in radio in 1949 and in television in 1956 in its own studios. In 1962 it became the first junior college in the state to offer courses in data processing, and for many years it was the only college in the state offering a major in photographic technology. It was among the first to have Bible chairs established adjacent to the campus. In 1965 AC was the only junior college in the eleven southern states accorded a commendation of excellence by the Southern Association. In 1984, after twelve years of work by Richard Howard and the biology department, Amarillo College opened the largest natural history museum of any two-year college in the country, with a public collection valued at over $1 million and a research division that includes over 26,000 identified insects, plus hundreds of spiders, plants, mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and other specimens.

On campus is the Amarillo Art Center, a three-building complex (art museum, museum building, and concert hall) designed by Edward Durrell Stone Associates. The center, opened in 1972, provides a major focus for the arts. The library has a large southwestern collection and is a member—along with various academic and public libraries in the Texas Panhandle—of the Harrington Library Consortium. The Amarillo College Foundation, established in 1962, had grown to $1 million by August 1985.

From seven faculty members and eighty-six students the first year, Amarillo College grew by 1984 to 220 full-time and 471 part-time faculty members. Full-time enrollment in fall 1990 was 5,952; the college enrolled many additional students in trade-related short courses and community-service classes. Classes were first held in a wing of the municipal auditorium. In 1937 the college moved to its own campus on Washington Street. In 1966 the college established its West Campus next to the Harrington Regional Medical Center in response to growing demand for allied health and occupational technology programs. A third campus on Polk Street houses the Business and Industry Center. In 1995 the state legislature transferred Texas State Technical College–Amarillo to Amarillo College; the facility, renamed the Amarillo Technical Center Campus, continued to offer technical education. The college opened a new Moore County Campus in Dumas in 2000. In the fall of that year enrollment was 20,111 with a faculty of 119. Fred L. Williams was the president.

Joe F. Taylor, The AC Story: Journal of a College (Canyon, Texas: Staked Plains, 1979).

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, Joe F. Taylor, "AMARILLO COLLEGE," accessed July 04, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/kca05.

Uploaded on June 9, 2010. 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...