Baylor vs. Texas A&M: Remembering a 1926 tragedy

Travis Normand
January 2, 2018

I have been looking for this article for some time (I remember having read it a while back) and I finally found it. I am reposting it here for future reference. Enjoy!

Baylor vs. Texas A&M: Remembering a 1926 tragedy
Web Posted: 09/29/2005 12:00 AM CDT
Mark Wangrin – Express-News Staff Writer

WACO — Eighty-five miles down the Brazos River from here, in a college town where many hate Texas or Texas Tech with every ounce of their being, Baylor University suddenly is relevant again.

The Bears’ 35-34 overtime victory over Texas A&M at Floyd Casey Stadium last season, in which a team that hadn’t defeated the Aggies in 18 years jumped from speed bump to mountain, has Aggies’ emotions normally reserved for Longhorns or Red Raiders boiling over.

They are angry with Baylor in College Station, but not as angry as they were in 1926.

Not as angry as when one of their own was beaten to death in full view of the crowd at halftime of a game against the Bears.

Not angry enough to commandeer a howitzer to shell the Baylor campus. Not angry enough to sever all athletic competition between the Southwest Conference schools for four years.

What happened the afternoon of Oct. 30, 1926, at The Cotton Palace in Waco is an event disputed in fact and wrapped in legend.

This much is certain: Lt. Charles Milo Sessums of Dallas, a senior in the Corps of Cadets, died at 9 a.m. Halloween morning at Providence Sanitarium in Waco. The cause of death was listed as a blood clot stemming from a fracture at the base of his skull, the result of being severely beaten at halftime of Baylor’s 20-9 victory over A&M the previous afternoon.

From here, paths to the truth diverge. Culled from newspaper articles, letters, statements and eyewitness accounts; from sources at research libraries at Texas A&M and Baylor and Baylor’s alumni magazine, this is what likely unfolded:

The predominant Baylor version is that a Ford — described as a “stunt” car and flatbed truck in different accounts — was paraded at halftime. Six women, carrying signs with the scores of big Baylor victories over SWC rivals, passed in front of the A&M cheering section.

Aggies accounts contend that the cadets thought the women were men in drag, and that the appearance of the car violated an agreement between spirit groups that a “bucking” Ford, which was used in a stunt at the 1924 game and nearly ran over some Aggies players, not be used. Baylor’s yell leader, Frank Wood, denied such an agreement existed.

A statement later released by a committee of 10 A&M seniors, while conceding it was not the same Ford, said “it was just as obnoxious and insulting.”

Three cadets rushed the car to seize control of it, knocking Louise Normand off the back.

“Then almost the entire Baylor student body and most of the Aggie contingent stormed simultaneously onto the field and all Hades broke loose,” recalled former San Antonian A.T. Moses, then a Baylor freshman, to The Baylor Line alumni magazine in 1985.

“Precisely what happened next, I could not tell, nor could anyone else, for in a moment, there was a swarming crowd of hundreds in a melee,” Esther Didsun of Houston told the Express-News in an eyewitness account published Nov. 2, 1926.

M.M. “Barney” Hale led a wave of Baylor freshmen players, sitting nearby, toward the vehicle.

“These were A&M students, had their uniforms on,” Hale told The Baylor Line in January 2005, seven months before he passed away in Brownsville at 100. “And we started picking them up and throwing them over the fence.”

A&M’s senior statement said the assault was the result of a misunderstanding.

“We apologize to the ladies of Baylor for this incident, because one of our traditions is that no A. and M. man has ever willingly or knowingly harmed a woman,” it read.

When that excerpt appeared in The Lariat, the Baylor school paper, it read, “no cadet had ever willingly laid hands on a woman.”

Thirty yards behind the melee, someone struck Sessums’ fatal blow. The Aggies seniors’ statement contended that 1,500 Baylor supporters were armed with clubs, stick and iron rods. Another account suggested that the attack was premeditated because Baylor had two trunks filled with sawed-off two-by-fours.

Hale denied those charges, saying only football equipment was in the trunks. The likely weapon, the Bears said, was part of the fence or a broken chair.

As the public address announcer detailed the riot, the Aggies’ band struck up the opening chords of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The cadets sprang to attention — some later claimed Baylor supporters continued to beat them as they stood — and the riot was quelled.

Head Aggie Yell Leader J.D. Langford came over to his Baylor counterparts to apologize and Corps Captain P.L. Ware of the commandant’s office at A&M issued a statement of contrition that read, “The college does not in any degree condone ungentlemanly conduct, and this act this afternoon was the result of three unthoughtful men from the college.”

Other accounts, though, suggest some cadets weren’t so conciliatory. Legend has it that some commandeered a howitzer, loaded it on a flatbed rail car and were headed to Waco to shell the Baylor campus when Texas Rangers felled trees across the tracks to stop them.

There is no known substantiation for any part of that story.

Fixing blame proved impossible. A.B. Sessums, the dead cadet’s father, demanded an investigation, and Baylor president S.P. Brooks and A&M president T.O. Walton met in College Station on Nov. 4. After 10 hours of consideration, they issued a three-page statement that tried to explain what happened and expressed the regrets of both schools.

The statement set off a rebellion at Baylor. Within hours The Lariat published an extra edition decrying the statement and immediately circulated a petition calling for the ending of athletic relations between the schools. By the end of the day the petition had 500 signatures.

A&M’s seniors, concerned their school was being assigned the blame, said in a statement they were “indifferent” as to whether the series should continue.

On Dec. 8, Brooks and Walton co-signed an agreement that voided all athletic contracts between the schools “that at some future time a renewal of games may be made, and the games played according to the high ideals that govern both institutions.”

They would not play again until 1931, a game A&M won 33-7 in College Station.

Waco and McLennan County police investigated the incident. A.B. Sessums asked Lancaster attorney Byrd White to look into his son’s death, telling him he “had a man placed” as his son’s assailant.

Brooks, in a letter to White, explained a local detective had full run of the campus to investigate.

“I told him frankly I thought he was on a cold trail,” Brooks wrote. “He said he promptly thought I was correct.”

Available records show no one was charged in Sessums’ death.

On Nov. 1, 1926, 2,000 fellow cadets gathered outside the YMCA for a tribute in place of the normal yell practice. Eulogies were given, and the band played “Nearer My God To Thee.” The brief ceremony closed with a solitary trumpet playing “Taps.”

The next day Sessums was buried in Dallas.

A full-page tribute, entitled “In Line of Duty,” was published in The Longhorn, the 1927 A&M yearbook. Beneath Sessums’ photo was a poem, “At The Eleventh Hour.”

“Aggie of ours, in manhood’s prime,
Time leaves little but names.
But you and yours will always live
In Aggie halls of fame.”

Sessums’ death quickly faded from the headlines in Waco, replaced by another, more personal tragedy for Baylor. On Jan.22, 1927, a bus carrying the Bears’ basketball team on a misty Saturday afternoon skidded onto railroad tracks in Round Rock. A northbound passenger train, the “Sunshine Special,” rammed into the rear of the bus, telescoping it and killing 10 players.

Sessums’ death has faded, too, in Aggies lore. Earlier this week, a senior Corps officer who asked not to be quoted said he was unfamiliar with the incident or the Corps’ legendary plan for revenge. He referred the matter to A&M spokesperson Lane Stephenson, who said, “I’ve been here 40 years, and I hadn’t heard about that. At A&M we’re more concerned with today’s service than the past, even the tragic.”

The Corps of Cadets did not attend a game in force in Waco again until 1995. Then, on an overcast Oct. 22 morning, hours before the Aggies took on the Bears, they marched. Thirty companies strong paraded down Franklin Avenue and then turned left onto 32nd Street, ending at the Baylor track stadium.

When they were done, all was quiet.

mwangrin@express-news.net
San Antonio Express News Artlice

 

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Baylor . . .

by Travis Normand
May 22, 2017

Well, it appears that after months of scandal, everything at Baylor is going to be alright and that things are really looking up for the Bears … wait … wait … no, never mind, everything is on fire!

“Lawsuit: Baylor football players recorded gang rapes
ABCnews.com
by Jim Vertuno, AP Sports Writer
Austin, Texas – May 17, 2017

A new federal lawsuit against Baylor University alleges football players routinely recorded gang rapes and staged dog fights during hazing parties in a program that fostered sexual violence.” (Link)

I really hope that Jane Doe (lawsuit petitioner that was allegedly gang raped by members of the Baylor football team) doesn’t run into Kim Mulkey, Women’s Head Basketball Coach at Baylor. Remember what Mulkey said you should do to those who are skeptical of their daughter’s safety at Baylor? Lets review her comments from February 2017 when she addressed a home crowd in Waco after a game (emphasis added):

“If somebody around you and they ever say, ‘I will never send my daughter to Baylor,’ you knock them right in the face,” Mulkey told fans to applause and cheers. “Because these kids are on this campus. I work here. My daughter went to school here, and it’s the damn best school in America.” (LINK)

I don’t know if the Jane Does of Baylor University should be more scared of the Baylor football team, the women’s basketball coach, the home crowd of Baylor fans that cheered Mulkey’s comments, or the fans who started the #CAB movement during the 2016 football season in support of Art Briles.

Regardless, with a University culture this toxic, I would imagine it would be best for all potential Jane Does to get out of Waco/Baylor while they still can!

Here are a few other links to stories regarding the newly filed lawsuit:

  1. New Lawsuit Alleges Baylor Players Gang-Raped Women As ‘Bonding Experience’ (NPR.org)
  2. New Baylor Lawsuit Alleges Football Players Held Gang-Rape Initiations, Dog Fights (DallasObserver.com)
  3. Baylor volleyball player files civil lawsuit: ‘It’s still a pretty traumatic event for her’ (WFAA.com)

The following are links to the petition that was filed on May 16, 2017 in the US District Court, Western District of Texas, Waco Division, styled Jane Doe vs. Baylor University, Case 6:17-cv-00125-RP (each link is to the same document).

  1. https://apps.npr.org/documents/document.html?id=3726009-Doe-v-Baylor
  2. http://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/BaylorRape2.pdf

Again, is anyone surprised by all of this? This is, after all, the same school that had the Dave Bliss scandal about fourteen years ago. While these actions may be considered unimaginable to the rest of the world, it is not a foreign concept to Baylor University.

As a side note, in case you are curious what Dave Bliss is up to these days, he apparently resigned his position as head basketball coach at Southwestern Christian University back in April 2017. I know what you are thinking, “there is a school that hired Bliss to coach their basketball team?”

Baylor’s troubles

by Travis Normand

Amid all the discussions, commentary, and reporting concerning Baylor’s sexual assault scandal, I have heard some say that they are shocked that something like this could happen at Baylor.

For this reason I feel it is necessary to remind others (and inform those who may not know) that Baylor is the same school that is only about 13 years removed from the “Dave Bliss scandal.”

You can read a fairly decent synopsis of the “Dave Bliss scandal” HERE.

Silence at Baylor (Texas Monthly)

This article appeared in Texas Monthly on August 20, 2015.  If you haven’t read it, you should.

Silence at Baylor
by Jessica Luther and Dan Solomon

A much-talked-about football player at Baylor University—whom coaches “expect back” this fall—is currently on trial for the sexual assault of a fellow student. Questions now swirl around what the program knew and when they knew it.

Read the entire article at texasmonthly.com