Paul Quinn College, Circa 1940

Original Airdates: February 15, 16, 18 (2011)

This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Louis Mazé.

From 1877 to 1990, Waco was home to Paul Quinn College, the oldest historically black college in the US west of the Mississippi River.

Dr. J. W. Yancy II served as Paul Quinn president from 1939 to 1942, but he first set foot on the campus in '36. Yancy explains he came to Waco from a teaching position at Prairie View College, at the request of then-Paul Quinn president A. S. Jackson:

"He wrote Mr. Banks—that was my mentor at Prairie View—that they wanted—see, it was a junior college. And a group of teachers didn't want to leave Waco and the area if you could send somebody, and they sent me. I did the upper classes, junior and senior, two summers. But I set up a study group, or extension school. In '38, they applied for senior rating."

Curtis L. Wilburn, later a fixture on the Paul Quinn campus as a professor, benefited from the college's new four-year status that Yancy helped implement. Wilburn earned a bachelor's degree in 1942 and describes the school during his student years:

"Oh, it was a traditionally small college school. We had an excellent faculty. It was a small faculty, but it was an excellent faculty. And I say it was an excellent faculty because in the class I graduated in, we had ten, and out of that ten we had five who chose education as a profession. And they all received a graduate degree from some of the most prestigious schools in the country."

Wilburn recalls favorite teachers and faculty members:

"I guess the one I was closest to was chairman of the history department, and he was more or less a favorite of mine, and I hope I was a favorite of his. He spent quite a bit of time with me. His name was Joseph Mosley. Mr. Mosley had both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from the University of Kansas, and he had done some additional graduate work at the University of Minnesota. And it was Mr. Mosley who first suggested the University of Minnesota to me as a graduate school. The dean at the school was a lady, a very charming lady. Her name was Mrs. Lewis Tindell Moore. And then physical education, we had Mr. White, and we had Coach Smith. But they were all very able, very able people. Now I mention the coaches, participating in athletics. Other than my major professor, Mr. Mosley, I was probably closest to my athletic coaches."

Paul Quinn College moved in 1990 to the former Bishop College campus in Dallas. In 2011, Paul Quinn won the Historically Black College or University of the Year Award.

Living Stories is heard every Tuesday on 103 point 3 FM Waco, NPR. For program transcripts or more information about the Institute for Oral History, visit

Search our collection of full transcripts available online.