John G. Johnson

MEXIA STATE SCHOOL. Mexia State School, originally a prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, was opened in 1946 as a home for senile women, who were transferred there from overcrowded state hospitals. By 1951 it had 601 aged women, 121 aged men and 387 intellectually disabled boys and girls and was called Mexia State School and Home. In November 1951 all the men were transferred to the Texas Confederate Home, and by 1958 all except the students had been transferred to other institutions. Known now as the Mexia State School, it became one of the first schools to be selected by the Texas Education Agency to establish a vocational rehabilitation program for persons with learning disabilities. This program was one result of 1965 state legislation that established the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and that led to reforms in treatment. Rehabilitation programs were designed to enable clients to function in mainstream society and to enter the job market; such programs emphasized the use of outpatient treatment, outreach and counseling services, recreational programs, vocational workshops, and special education courses. Long-term institutionalization of clients was used only as a last resort. By 1970 the school had implemented a work-opportunity program that provided assembly-work jobs for some 250 people. Off-campus employment opportunities in furniture repair were available at the Cen-Tex Sheltered Workshop; there were also programs in horticulture, mechanics, and construction. Recreational classes were held in a new campus gymnasium. The number of students at Mexia State School decreased, as it did at other such schools, with the greater emphasis on deinstitutionalization and keeping clients in mainstream society. In 1970 there were 2,600 students at Mexia, but by 1992 there were 349.

In 1966 the three top officials of the school resigned after an investigation by the state auditor and the Texas Rangersqv. On March 30, 1988, the Texas Association for Retarded Citizens claimed that the welfare of residents had been seriously jeopardized and called for the release of an investigation report by the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. There was a formal reprimand of the school superintendent, who resigned but remained an employee in another capacity. The matter of the release of information was referred to the state attorney general. Later that year, the Texas Observer printed various reports of physical abuse, medical malpractice, and faulty recordkeeping. The Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation acknowledged the truth of the reports, including sexual assaults and unexplained deaths. In 1992 the school was almost closed for budgetary reasons but was saved by Governor Ann Richards.


Mikel Jean Fisher Brightman, An Historical Survey of the State of Texas' Efforts to Aid the Mentally Ill and the Mentally Retarded (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1971). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Mexia, Texas).

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, John G. Johnson, "MEXIA STATE SCHOOL," accessed May 24, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on June 5, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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