“I hope to be remembered for my loyalty and respect for the university. That’s all I can hope for.” – Fred McCainWith a population of just over 16,000, Gainesville, Texas is by no means a well-known city but it is the birthplace of Fred Noel McCain, former North Texas football star, coach, and Director of the NTSU Coliseum and Athletics Department. Born on January 7, 1923, McCain began his football playing career in high school where his talent as a quarterback was rewarded in the form of multiple scholarships to universities like Harden-Simmons, Baylor, and of course, North Texas. McCain chose to play for the best. In 1941 McCain played under North Texas State College head coach Jack Sisco for two seasons until his football aspirations were put on hold as a result of World War II. McCain joined the Navy in 1943 and served as an officer until 1946 where he returned to North Texas to not only continue playing football, but also lead the Eagles to victory as a quarterback and captain in the 1946 Optimist Bowl. The next year McCain helped earn the team a 10-2 record breaking season and an appearance in the grueling 1947 Salad Bowl. However, McCain’s college life did not solely revolve around sports. As an undergraduate, McCain served three years on the North Texas Athletic Council, held the title of Vice-President of the “T” Club in 1942, functioned as the sheriff for the Talons Fraternity and was an avid member of the NTSC football squad. In 1948, McCain graduated with a major in Physical Education and a minor in Mathematics. In 1949, he received his Master’s degree in Administrative Education and married his long time sweetheart and fellow NTSC graduate Mary Lou Ray. Knowing full well that he wanted to make a name for himself coaching football, but also realizing he lacked experience, McCain returned to his hometown as an assistant coach for the Gainesville High School team. His first learning experience was short lived; after only two seasons in Gainesville, McCain was recruited by his alma mater in 1950 to coach the freshmen and offensive teams under Odus Mitchell. McCain aided in the making of history in 1956 when he played a central role in recruiting African-American students Abner Haynes and Leon King to the North Texas team. In a period where collegiate integration was just beginning to take hold in Texas, McCain helped the university to become one of the first in the state to integrate a collegiate athletic program. Further accomplishments were made possible through McCain’s charisma and aptitude as a coach. In addition to being an inspiring and effective role model for the team, he had no problem drawing future professional footballers such as Vernon Cole and Joe Greene into the fold of North Texas alumni. Read more
Archille Murat Willis, Jr., known casually as A.M. Willis, Jr. or A.M. “Monk” Willis was born on October 9, 1916 in Richmond, Virginia. In 1938, he attended Washington & Lee University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Economics. Willis attended Harvard Business School from 1938-1939 before deciding to leave to accept a position at Johns-Manville, an insulation and roofing manufacturer based in New York City. At Johns-Manville Willis helped to run the company’s exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. After the exhibit, Willis worked on Wendell Willkie’s presidential campaign. In 1942, after Willkie lost the election, Willis joined the U.S. Navy during World War II and served until 1946. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander while stationed in the Pacific. Willis moved to New York City following the war. It was in New York City that he met his wife, Frances Maxine Hundahl. The Willises moved to Longview, Texas where Archille was a district manger for Mutual of Omaha from the late 1940s to 1976. He also worked for Lyndon B. Johnson’s Senate Campaign. He remained active as a staff of 4th District U.S. Rep. Ray Roberts of McKinney until 1972. He would serve as administrative assistant until 1976. Willis also worked as a staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives Veterans’ Affairs Committee. In 1965, Governor John Connally appointed Willis as one of nine Regents at North Texas. Willis was reappointed in 1972 by Governor Preston Smith and again in 1979 by Governor Dolph Briscoe. Willis served as a member of the North Texas Board of Regents until 1983. Willis was elected Chairman of the Board of Regents in 1969, a role he was reelected annually to for nine years, until 1979. Willis was regarded as highly active regent who drew both praise and criticism. Willis’ tenure as a member of the Board of Regents was marked by the turmoil of a changing society. Willis led the board during an era of student activism in civil rights, anti-Vietnam War protests, free speech, academic policies. Among the campus needs that he addressed was the demand for a new library. The previous North Texas library had doubled its size in ten years and there was an increase in the amount of students checking out books and an increase in the usage of interlibrary loans. Willis, a rapid reader with a large personal library, felt building a large centrally located facility for current and future collections was a high priority. He saw it as a fundamental building-block priority for the advancement of the university. His view of the future and willingness to work for it earned him the honor to have the new library named after him. The new building was originally designed to be erected in three phases on the athletic field behind the Administration Building. The central part of the structure was built first. The building was designed by Caudill Rowlett Scott. The first phase cost a total of 4.5 million dollars. One third of the cost was covered by a grant from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare for $1,456,783. The costs of phases two and three were to be covered from the sale of bonds but were never built.The new library known was originally called the “new library” and opened up in the summer 1971. The building was formally dedicated on April 25, 1972 and named Willis Library. It was the third of four university buildings named after a regent after Wooten Hall, Kerr Hall, and Murchison Performing Arts Center. Willis lived in Washington, D. C. until his retirement in 1983 when he relocated to Longview, Texas. He died at the age of 94 on January 14, 2011. — by Amanda Montgomery, Assistant Processing Archivist“Being a regent is the most difficult and frustrating, and at the same time personally satisfying, of any job I’ve ever had.” — Achille Murat Willis, Jr.
Francis Edwin Stroup attended North Texas State Teachers College from 1925 to 1929, when he earned a degree in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. During those 4 years, Stroup lettered in basketball, ran track, and played football. He was also an accomplished swimmer and diver. Besides his athletic talents, Stroup came from a family known for their music, and he began writing music for fun as a student at NTSC.
After graduating in 1929, Stroup landed his first teaching job in Golden, Texas. In 1939, Stroup had moved on to other teaching jobs in the Denton area, including working on campus as a swim coach.
One Saturday night, Stroup attended the movie and Stage Show on campus. During the stage show, Floyd Graham, known as ‘Fessor Graham, announced a contest for a marching song. The contest was for the lyrics to match a melody Graham had composed a few years earlier. It was normal for a small college to adopt a well-known tune and provide the words in order to enhance spirit and school identification. For example, North Texas, along with Harvard, Rice and others adapted FE Bigelow’s “Our Director March” as a spirit song, with each college providing unique identifying words. However, Graham envisioned NTSTC with its very own song and hoped the 1939 contest would provide one.
At the time Stroup had been out of school for a decade and during that time he had been writing songs. Stroup entered his song after a couple of weeks of other entries being sung. One night his song was played with a band arrangement by Gene Hall. After the band finished, Graham stated, “Can’t you just imagine the band marching down the field playing that.” Stroup thought: “Oh, boy, I think he likes it.”