Southland University Photo from the Mike Cochran Collection

The Southland University
(From the Handbook of Texas Online)

Southland University, supported by members of the Church of Christ, was founded under the name John B. Denton College and later operated as Southwestern Christian College. In 1901, after the conversion of Denton's only private school, Texas Normal, to North Texas State Normal College (now the University of North Texas), Denton citizens became concerned that the state college would attract only students interested in teacher training and voted to organize a joint-stock company to establish a private college to attract a more diverse student population. A five-member committee, led by prominent Denton businessman J. N. Rayzor, purchased land at 300 John B. Denton Street and during the summer and fall of 1901 oversaw the construction of a two-story building to house the new school. The school was named in honor of John B. Denton, the frontier lawyer and minister for whom the county and city are named. John B. Denton College opened on September 10, 1901, with O. H. Thurman, formerly a science teacher and librarian at Texas Normal, as president. During his three-year tenure the school's enrollment reached 150. By 1904, however, enrollment had declined, as the private college lost students to North Texas State Normal College and to the newly established Girls' Industrial College (now Texas Woman's University), which had opened in 1903. Believing that his college could not compete with the two state-supported academic institutions, Thurman resigned in 1904 to enter the insurance business. After his resignation, stockholders agreed to deed the college property to a board of regents comprising eleven members of the Church of Christ.

The regents operated the college under a new name, Southwestern Christian College, from 1904 to 1908. On July 5, 1904, a charter was adopted, and H. G. Fleming of Tullahoma, Tennessee, was elected dean of the Bible department and temporary president. The college opened in the fall of 1904 with an enrollment of 160. In May 1905 Arvy Glenn Freed of Henderson, Tennessee, a popular minister and teacher, was elected president, but a serious illness kept him from his duties. Freed resigned in 1907 and was succeeded by B. W. Miller, a native Texan, as president. Enrollment reached 255 during Freed's first year but dropped to 205 in 1907. Southwestern Christian College devised a charter requiring that trustees belong to the Church of Christ and adhere to its doctrine. Coursework emphasized the Bible and sacred literature while concentrating on ministerial training. Courses were offered in the Bible department, a college of arts and sciences, a college of music, a school of expression and physical culture, a school of art, an academy, and a preparatory school. In February 1908 Allen Booker Barret proposed that the college be reorganized as a university. The board accepted and rechartered the institution as Southland University. Barret was elected to a five-year term as president. The university offered three undergraduate degrees-B.A., B.Lit., and B.S.-and the M.S. degree in the College of Liberal Arts. The announced development of a new campus on twenty-five acres 1½ miles north of Denton never materialized, for disagreements between the faculty and the board of regents caused the school to fold. After Southland University closed in 1909 Barret and Charles H. Roberson, secretary-treasurer and faculty member at the Abilene and Denton schools, moved to Cleburne, Texas, and established
Clebarro College on a similar plan. The Denton Public School Board received the old property at 300 John B. Denton Street.
C. A. Bridges, History of Denton, Texas, from Its Beginning to 1960 (Waco: Texian Press, 1978). Denton County News, September 3, 1903, April 22, 1904. Denton Record-Chronicle, August 15, 1925. William Franklin Ledlow, History of Protestant Education in Texas (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1926). James Lloyd Rogers, The Story of North Texas (Denton: North Texas State University, 1965). M. Norvel Young, A History of Colleges Established and Conducted by Members of the Churches of Christ (Kansas City: Old Paths Book Club, 1949).

R. L. Roberts

R. L. Roberts, "SOUTHLAND UNIVERSITY," Handbook of Texas Online(, accessed October 14, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.