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 »


David Minor

DENTON STATE SCHOOL. The Denton State School, in the early 1990s one of thirteen state facilities that provided care and treatment for the intellectually disabled, operates under the management of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. The school is located on a 200-acre tract four miles south-southeast of Denton, and it serves twenty-two counties in northeast Texas. In 1957, after a vigorous lobbying effort by the Denton Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation chose Denton as the site for the state school because of the city's proximity to Dallas and Fort Worth and because of its universities-Texas Woman's University, which at that time had the largest nursing program in the state, and North Texas State Teachers College (now the University of North Texas), which had the largest teacher-training facility in Texas. Another influence on the department's decision was the city's pledge to donate land for the school. In thirty-four days during November and December of 1957, 2,000 Denton residents contributed $102,000 to a Mental School Cash Campaign conducted by the city's chamber of commerce.

Construction of the school began on March 7, 1959, and was completed in July 1960. Originally, the school accepted only citizens of Texas between the ages of six and twenty-one who had IQs of seventy or below. By 1980, however, the age restriction had been removed. E. W. (Ed) Killian, a North Texas State graduate, was the school's first superintendent. During Killian's twenty-year tenure, the number of residents of the school increased, as did the number of facilities and programs designed for their care. In 1994 the school had more than sixty buildings-including residential facilities leased off-campus-and 2,000 employees serving 670 residents and a large number of off-campus clients. School programs included vocational services and early childhood intervention. The school also directed an outreach community service with facilities in twelve counties. In addition, Denton's foster grandparent program provides a means for senior citizens to give one-to-one attention to residents at the school. The Texas Department of Human Resources (now the Texas Department Of Human Services) and the Texas Education Agency provided funds to the school. Although well over 90 percent of the school's income came from the state, the school also received financial support from the United States departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Education. In 1994 Pat Jessee served as superintendent of the school.


Denton Record-Chronicle, October 28, 1957, May 30, 1960.

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, David Minor, "DENTON STATE SCHOOL," accessed August 11, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/kcd03.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on July 1, 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...