May 2022

May: Military Commemoration

Veteran’s Day Wreath Laying Ceremony, November 11, 2021 Frank Denius Plaza, University of Texas Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, TX.

In honor of Memorial Day, this month in UT history examines commemorative spaces on campus dedicated to those who served in the US Armed Forces. This federal holiday mourning those who died while serving was first widely recognized in 1868 following the American Civil War (1861-1865), however the first recorded Memorial Day celebration happened on May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina. The celebration was commemorated by “freed slaves and some white missionaries” who congregated at the “planters’ racetrack where Confederates held captured Union soldiers.” Many Union soldiers were killed in the racetrack area and were left in “unmarked graves.” The Freedmen and White missionaries congregated at the racetrack in order to give these soldiers “proper burial[s].”[1] By the end of World War I (1918), Memorial Day was recognized as a national holiday dedicated to remembering those who had “died in all of America’s wars.”[2]

Many of the commemorations at UT are memorials to Foreign-fought American Wars. These include: The Littlefield Fountain[3] on the South Mall, the Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium[4] and its Southwest Conference WWI plaques[5], the Frank Denius Veterans Memorial Plaza at the stadium with its doughboy statue and WWI Memorial tablature with the figure of democracy in bas-relief.[6]

The Littlefield Fountain, which was commissioned by UT benefactor and Confederate Veteran George W. Littlefield, commemorates the United States’ entrance into WWI. The fountain sitting on UT’s South Mall at the southern entrance of campus, features “three seahorses, two ridden by Tritons, [pulling] a ship bearing [the angel] Columbia, who holds the torch of liberty and a palm frond signifying peace” along with a “muscular soldier and sailor.”[7] The fountain also features an inscription of the 97 UT students and alumni that died during the war as well as the date in which the U.S. entered WWI: April 6, 1917.[8] The Columbia figure is related to the American ideology of Manifest Destiny. Her symbolic meaning is twofold. She represents a vision of the United States and the American way coming to the rescue of the rest of the world.  In a larger sense, she represents the expansion of American ideals and civilization to benighted humankind. The fountain’s sculptor Pompeo Coppini, who also sculpted the other statues on the South Mall, dressed the ship’s inhabitants in traditional Roman clothing symbolizing allegiance to the classical roots of western civilization.

The Darrell K. Memorial Stadium itself was dedicated to the WWI war dead. On the northern side of the stadium are plaques dedicated to students of the Texas Southwest Conference Institutions who fought in WWI.[9] These institutions include: Rice University, Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University, Baylor University, Texas A&M University, and UT.[10] There is also a statue of a Doughboy on the Frank Denius Veterans Memorial Plaza located on the southwest corner of the stadium. US soldiers were nicknamed “doughboys” following the return of U.S. troops from a battle during the Mexican Expedition sent to capture Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution.[11] The troops returned to the U.S. covered in “white adobe dust” which was shortened to “dobie” and later to “doughboy.”[12] The nickname stuck and was applied to the troops who were soon deployed to fight in World War I. Behind the Doughboy statue sits a large plaque, topped by the figure of democracy, that lists the names of Texans who died in WWI.[13] The Frank Denius Veterans Memorial Plaza has been rededicated to all American War Veterans.[14]

There also have been commemorations at UT that honor war veterans and those with military connections. These include: Robert E. Lee , Jefferson Davis, Albert Sidney Johnston, and Woodrow Wilson statutes which all previously sat on the campus’s South Mall,[15] Cesar Chavez statue on the West Mall,[16] Joe Jamail statue at the Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium[17] and the Joe Jamail bust at UT Law School,[18]  LBJ statue at the LBJ Presidential Library,[19] and the George Washington statue on the South Mall.[20]

In addition to the war memorials, the University’s commemorative landscape includes commemorations such as the Barbara Jordan Statue,[21] the Julius Whittier Statue,[22] The Seven Mustangs Statue,[23] and Martin Luther King Jr. Statue.[24]

In addition to the War commemorations, The University of Texas has also dedicated many buildings to members of the UT community that are veterans. These include: The Littlefield Home and Carriage House (Confederate),[25] J. Frank Dobie House,[26] Leslie Waggener Hall (Confederate),[27] Theophilus Shickel Painter Hall,[28] Oran Milo Roberts Hall (Confederate), [29] Homer Rainey Hall,[30] Beaufort H. Jester Center and Residence Hall,[31] Lyndon Baines Johnson Library,[32] L. Theo Bellmont Hall,[33] the Harry Ransom Center,[34] the Frank C. Erwin Events Center,[35] Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center,[36][37] the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center,[38] the Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium,[39] the John B. Connally Center for Administrative Justice,[40] the Charles and Sarah Seay Building,[41] the Denton A. Cooley Pavilion,[42] the former Belo Center for New Media,[43] and the Caven-Clark Support Building (Clark was a Confederate).[44]







[7] Speck, Lawrence W, Richard Louis Cleary, and Casey Dunn. The University of Texas at Austin: An Architectural Tour. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2011.