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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Hullabaloo

Travis Normand
October 4, 2017

I found this online the other day and contacted the author, Sue Owen, about reposting/sharing it here on OPS. If you haven’t seen this, you should check it out. She does a great job researching the origin of the phrase “Hullabaloo, caneck, caneck” (from Texas A&M’s fight song), and discovers where it might have come from.

Hullabaloo: Ancient Greek and a play by Aristophanes could help decode a famous Aggie phrase
by Sue Owen ’94
Found at: https://www.aggienetwork.com/traditionsthroughtime/hullabaloo.aspx

 

Greatest Comebacks in College Football History

Travis Normand
October 4, 2017

Some of the following information was originally incorporated within another post that I had made back in September of 2017. However, I have added to these lists and consider the information worthy of its own post. So, having said that, here are the greatest comebacks in college football history:

List 1: The winning team trailed by at least 30 points
before overcoming the deficit:

[1] 2006: Michigan State 41, Northwestern 38 – Deficit overcome: 35 points
[2] 2017: UCLA 45, Texas A&M 44 – Deficit overcome: 34 points
[3] 1984: Maryland 42, Miami 40 – Deficit overcome: 31 points
[3] 1989: Ohio State 41, Minnesota 37 – Deficit overcome: 31 points
[3] 2006 Insight Bowl: Texas Tech 44, Minnesota 41 – Deficit overcome: 31 points
[3] 2016: Tulsa 48, Fresno State 41 – Deficit overcome: 31 points
[3] 2015: TCU 47, Oregon 41 – Deficit overcome: 31 points
[8] 1993: California 42, Oregon 41 – Deficit overcome: 30 points
[8] 2001 GMAC Bowl: Marshall 64, East Carolina 61 – Deficit overcome: 30 points

(The above list of games is courtesy of Matt Brown at SportsOnEarth.com)

List 2: The winning team trailed by at least 20 points
before overcoming the deficit:

[1] 2010: Kansas 52, Colorado 45 – Deficit overcome: 28 points
[1] 1994: Florida 31, Florida State 31 – Deficit overcome: 28 points
[1] 1992: Clemson 29, Virginia 28 – Deficit overcome: 28 points
[2] 2000 Outback Bowl: Georgia 28, Purdue 25 – Deficit overcome: 25 points
[3] 1979 Cotton Bowl: Notre Dame 35, Houston 34 – Deficit overcome 22 points
[4] 2010: Auburn 28, Alabama 27 – Deficit overcome: 21 points
[5] 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl: Texas A&M 52, Duke 48 – Deficit overcome: 21 points
[6] 1980 Holiday Bowl: BYU 46, SMU 45 – Deficit overcome: 20 points

I am still adding to these lists. If you know of a game that should be included, please let me know by posting in the comments below. I am sure there are some games from the 1800’s that have been entirely overlooked, but as I find them, I will include them. Also, all of the above-listed games are Division 1/FBS games. I have not yet researched the other divisions, but I am willing to include them. Again, if you know of a game from another division that should be included, just post it below in the comments and I will add it.

Texas A&M’s Historical 1976 Trifecta

by Travis Normand
June 13, 2017

A friend of mine (David Walker – who played QB at Texas A&M in the 1970s) is always pointing out interesting stats and facts from the years he played football at Texas A&M. The most recent stat that he brought to my attention is that the 1976 Texas Aggie football team is the only one to: (1) defeat the University of Texas in Austin, (2) win a bowl game, and (3) finish the season ranked in the top-10 (AP No. 7 and UPI No. 8).

Three other Aggie teams have come close to accomplishing this particular trifecta, but fell short due to no fault of their own. Those three teams were the 1939 (National Champions), the 1985 SWC Champions, and the 1987 SWC Champions. Each of these three teams (1) defeated the University of Texas at Kyle Field, (2) won their bowl game, and (3) finished the season ranked in the top-10. The only difference being that these three teams played the Longhorns at Kyle Field as opposed to playing them in Austin.

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Texas A&M is 4-0 versus John Heisman

Portrait of John Heisman in his mid-fifties at Rice University (1925)

by Travis Normand
June 5, 2017

An interesting footnote in the history of Texas A&M football is that Texas A&M is 4-0 against legendary coach John Heisman. Heisman coached at several different schools throughout his career including stops at Auburn, Clemson, and Georgia Tech. However, Heisman’s last football coaching job was in Houston, Texas at what is known today as Rice University.

Heisman became Rice’s first full-time football coach and coached at Rice for four seasons (1924, 1925, 1926, and 1927). His four-year record at Rice was 14-18-3 overall and 4-11-1 against the Southwest Conference (SWC).

While Heisman did not have a lot of success at Rice, the only team that he faced at least four times and was unable to defeat during his tenure at Rice was Texas A&M. However, to be fair, A&M’s football squads were pretty good during this four-year span and won the SWC Championship in 1925 and 1927 (Heisman’s second and fourth seasons at Rice). A&M was also led by coach Dana X. Bible.

Here is a quick review of the four match-ups between A&M and Rice during Heisman’s four years at Rice:

  • 1924: Aggies defeated Rice 13-6 on November 14th* in College Station, Texas;
  • 1925: Aggies defeated Rice 17-0 on November 14th in Houston, Texas;
  • 1926: Aggies defeated Rice 20-0 on November 12th in College Station, Texas; and
  • 1927: Aggies defeated Rice 14-0 on November 11th in Houston, Texas.

A&M prevented Rice from scoring in three of the four games that featured Heisman as Rice’s head coach. In 1924, the one game where Heisman’s team was able to score any points against Texas A&M was one in which Rice entered the contest 2-0 in SWC play (only to finish 2-2).

During his four seasons at Rice, Heisman’s Owls were not able to beat a single SWC Champion (1924-Baylor, 1925-Texas A&M, 1926-SMU, and 1927-Texas A&M). Besides Texas A&M, the only other teams that Rice played at least once during each of these four seasons (or at least four times) were Sam Houston State, Southwestern, Texas University, and Baylor. Of these four other teams, none of them were able to sweep John Heisman and his Rice Owls four consecutive times.

Heisman left Rice after the 1927 season and later became the director of the Downtown Athletic Club in New York, which named its annual college football award after him.

Note: 

* The date listed in the 2006 Rice Owl’s Football Media Guide for the 1924 game versus Texas A&M is Saturday, November 15th (see page 167); however, the official Texas A&M football website (12thMan.com) and the 1925 Long Horn yearbook (Texas A&M) lists the date of the game as having been played on November 14th (see page 214).

 

 

2016 Texas A&M vs. Alabama: The history and connections between the schools

by Travis Normand
October 19, 2016

[If this post reads like a Facebook fan posting, that is because it is.  I originally posted this on Facebook as a fun informational type of fan post.  However, due to the response I got, I figured I would share it here as well.  I have modified it slightly from the original Facebook post.]

In honor of this weekend’s game between No. 6 Texas A&M and No. 1 Alabama, I am posting some random facts that connect the two schools together. Plus, I made a similar post before the A&M vs. Tennessee game, and we saw how that ended up.

One of the most obvious connections between Texas A&M and Alabama is that of famed Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant who was the head football coach at Texas A&M from 1954 to 1957.  Bryant attended Alabama where he played football from 1933 to 1935.

Bryant’s 1954 season was his first at A&M. He started the ’54 season with a training camp in Junction, Texas. The camp was extremely tough and the players from that camp were given the nickname of the “Junction Boys.” Bryant’s first A&M squad finished 1-9 in 1954, while his 1956 squad won the Southwest Conference (SWC) Championship.

In 1957, Texas A&M running back John David Crow won the Heisman Trophy and became the first and only player to win the award while playing for coach Bryant. John David Crow would end up coaching at Alabama from 1969 to 1971 under Bear Bryant before returning to A&M as an athletic director.

At the end of the 1957 season, Bryant left A&M to become the head coach at Alabama. Bryant’s final game at A&M was a loss in the 1957 Gator Bowl to Tennessee.

A&M and Alabama first met on the gridiron at the end of the 1941 season. The Aggies were SWC champions but lost to Alabama, 29-21 in the Cotton Bowl.

The Aggies and Crimson Tide would not play again until the January 1968 Cotton Bowl (at the end of the 1967 season). The Aggies were SWC champions again and were able to even the series with Alabama at 1-1.

The 1968 Cotton Bowl featured a significant connection between the schools, other than the Aggie victory.  Bear Bryant was the head coach of Alabama, while Gene Stallings was the head coach of A&M. Stallings had been a player at A&M under coach Bryant and was one of the “Junction Boys.” After playing football at A&M, Stallings had been a defensive assistant under Bryant at Alabama from 1958-1964. However, in 1965 Stallings returned to A&M as head coach of the Aggies, where he eventually defeated his mentor in the 1968 Cotton Bowl.

Gene Stallings and Bear Bryant, 1968 Cotton Bowl

Gene Stallings and Bear Bryant, 1968 Cotton Bowl

At the conclusion of the game, Stallings’ Aggies had defeated Bryant’s Crimson Tide 20-16. The coaches met at mid-field, and in what can be described as a truly proud moment, Bryant hoisted Stallings onto his shoulder and carried him off the field.

Stallings later returned to Alabama as head coach in 1990 and won the first SEC championship game (and thus an SEC championship), as well as a National Championship, in 1992.  In doing so, Stallings became the second member of Texas A&M’s Association of Former Students to win a conference and national title at a school that is currently a member of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) (Robert Neyland was the first at Tennessee).

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2016 Texas A&M vs. Tennessee: The history and connections between the schools

by Travis Normand
October 7, 2016

[If this post reads like a Facebook fan posting, that is because it is.  I originally posted this on Facebook as a fun informational type of fan post.  However, due to the response I got, I figured I would share it here as well.  I have modified it slightly from the original Facebook post.]

In honor of this weekend’s game between #8 Texas A&M and #9 Tennessee, I am posting some random facts that connect the two schools together (regardless of how much of a stretch some of these facts may be).

I should start by mentioning that General Robert Reese Neyland Jr. (famed Tennessee coach and stadium namesake) is an Aggie and is listed as a member of the Association of Former Students.

Neyland played football at Texas A&M for head coach Charlie Moran (who played on the 1897 Tennessee football team). According to the 1911 Longhorn (Texas A&M yearbook) Neyland was a member of the 1910-1911 Texas Aggie football squad and was listed among the freshman class.

On what appears to be page 222 (the page is not actually numbered) of the yearbook, in the last paragraph, it gives credit to the substitutes “for the important part they played in producing the champions of Texas.”  Among the substitutes mentioned is “Neyland.”  The 1910 Texas A&M football team was known (at the time) as the Champions of Texas due to the fact that they went 8-1, defeating every Texas team they played (with their only loss being to Arkansas).

Neyland left A&M after receiving an appointment to West Point in 1912.  He was appointed by Congressman Sam Rayburn, and graduated from West Point in 1916. Neyland won a national title while playing on the 1914 Army football team.

Later, while working as an assistant football coach at West Point in the early 1920’s, Neyland got help from his former A&M football coach Charlie Moran. Moran (a former Tennessee football player) helped Gen. Neyland land his next coaching job which happened to be at Tennessee.

In 1939, Neyland was the head coach of the Vols and Tennessee went undefeated and un-scored upon in the regular season. In fact, Tennessee outscored their opposition 212-0. I believe that Tennessee is the last major college football program to shut out every regular season opponent.

1939 was also the year that Texas A&M won the AP National Title. A&M won their title despite Tennessee’s accomplishment of shutting out every opponent that very same season.

However, it may be the Tennessee Volunteers who got the last laugh in 1939. The Vols finished the regular season (pre-Bowl game) ranked #2 (behind #1 A&M). While #1 A&M defeated #5 Tulane in the Sugar Bowl, the #2 Vols played and lost to #3 USC in the Rose Bowl. This loss to USC prompted the Dickinson Ranking System to award their 1939 national title to USC instead of A&M, and thus technically A&M “shares” the 1939 title with USC (thanks to Tennessee).

Like Tennessee’s 1939 team, Texas A&M was also undefeated and un-scored upon in 1917 and 1919. The Aggie head coach during those seasons was Dana X. Bible (a Tennessee native). Bible was also the coach at A&M in 1921-1922 when the Aggies defeated Centre College. Centre’s head coach at that time was none other than Charlie Moran.

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