The Texas Cowboys is an honorary men's service organization at the University of Texas at Austin. It was founded by Arno Nowotny and Bill McGill in 1922 with the purpose of serving the University of Texas, as well as the surrounding area, with the timeless motto: "Give the best you have to Texas, and the best will come back to you." Many of UT's most distinguished graduates were Texas Cowboys, including multiple Texas governors and members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives. There are more buildings named after Texas Cowboys alumni than any other student organization at UT. The Texas Cowboys also serve as ambassadors to the University of Texas and are present at all significant university-sponsored events.
The Texas Cowboys are responsible for keeping and maintaining Smokey the Cannon, which is present at all Texas Longhorns home football games. Smokey is fired off after the Eyes of Texas, at the end of every quarter, and after all Texas touchdowns, field goals, kickoffs, and two-point conversions.
In 1922, the University of Texas at Austin found itself in need of a men's service organization. Two men, head cheerleader Arno Nowotny and Longhorn Band president Bill McGill, began working together to recruit a very select group of young men who were dedicated to leadership and service. In 1922, forty men from all aspects of campus life were chosen by McGill and Nowotny to be the first Texas Cowboys. Throughout its nearly 100 years of existence, becoming a Texas Cowboy became a high honor, developed through the accomplishments of its members and from the organization's tradition of service and spirit.
In 1954, Smokey the Cannon was presented to the University of Texas by the Texas Cowboys. That same year, the Cowboys began their involvement with and support of Austin's Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC).
On the Monday following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Smokey fired a 21-gun salute to the fallen President during the climactic moment in a public ceremony in front of the state Capitol building.
Smokey II was created by the Cockrell School of Engineering to replace the original Smokey in 1968. Smokey II served the University well until 1988. The following year, Smokey III, a civil war replica cannon standing six feet tall and weighing 1,200 pounds, was constructed and remains in service to this day.
In 1995, the Texas Cowboys were cancelled as a campus organization following the accidental death of one of its members and a determination by the university administration that the organization had violated the university's hazing policies. Through the efforts of the Texas Cowboys Alumni Association, the campus organization was reestablished in 2000 with the expressed mission "to represent and serve the University of Texas at Austin with spirit, character and leadership."
In 2004, the Texas Cowboys Alumni Association, in conjunction with the Texas Exes, completed construction on the Texas Cowboys Pavilion. It is the only structure on the University campus named for a student organization.
Today, the Texas Cowboys serve the university in service, spirit, and social capacities. Each year the Texas Cowboys organize and host Harvest Moon, a fall concert held in Waterloo Park, and Spring BBQ, an on-campus barbecue to raise funds for the ARC of the Capital Area. Previous headliners at the Harvest Moon concert include:
2005: Jerry Jeff Walker
2006: Pat Green
2008: Cross Canadian Ragweed
2010: Robert Earl Keen
2014: Randy Rogers Band
Texas Cowboys membership is reserved for current students at the University who demonstrate exceptional leadership, character, spirit, and service. The application and interview process is overseen by the university administration, the Texas Cowboys Alumni Association, and the current Texas Cowboys Selection Committee. Invitations to join the organization are extended to no more than 25 students each semester, all of whom must have completed at least three semesters at the university. In order to ensure new members come from diverse organizational backgrounds, no more than two-thirds of each incoming class may be affiliated with a fraternity from the Interfraternity Council.
Student applicants are often deeply involved in campus life. Former and active Texas Cowboys have included fraternity presidents, student body presidents, head cheerleaders, varsity athletes, and other organizational leaders.
Political and judicial figures
- Dolph Briscoe - 41st Governor of Texas
- Allan Shivers - 37th Governor of Texas
- Lloyd Bentsen - Former United States Secretary of the Treasury, United States Senator from Texas, 1988 Vice Presidential Nominee
- Donald Evans - Former United States Secretary of Commerce, chairman of the George W. Bush presidential campaign, chairman of the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System
- Jack Brooks - Former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas' 9th and 2nd districts
- Frank N. Ikard - Former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas' 13th district
- Bob Armstrong - Former U.S. Under Secretary of the Interior, Texas Land Commissioner, and Texas state representative
- George Bayoud - Former Secretary of State of Texas, real estate investor
- Lloyd Hand - Former Chief of Protocol of the United States
- Keith L. Brown - Former president of the Council of American Ambassadors, United States Ambassador to Denmark and Lesotho
- Robert Strauss - Former United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, chairman of the Jimmy Carter presidential campaign
- Peter R. Coneway - Former United States Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, prominent investment banker
- John Hill - Former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Texas, Texas Attorney General, Secretary of State of Texas
- Barefoot Sanders - Retired Chief Judge, United States District Court
- John Singleton - Retired Chief Judge, United States District Court
- Sam Sparks - Federal Judge, United States District Court
- Joe Greenhill - Former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Texas
- Four Price - Current member, Texas House of Representatives
- Jack Blanton - Former regent of the University of Texas System, chairman and CEO of Scurlock Oil Company
- Larry Faulkner - Former president of the University of Texas, former president of Houston Endowment Inc.
- Ricardo Romo - President of the University of Texas at San Antonio
- H. Scott Caven, Jr. - Former chairman of the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System
- Wales Madden - Former regent of the University of Texas System
- Patrick Oxford - Former regent of the University of Texas System
- Howard N. Richards - Former regent of the University of Texas System
- W. Page Keeton - Former attorney, dean of the University of Texas School of Law
Athletes and coaches
- Tom Landry - Former Head Coach, Dallas Cowboys, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
- David McWilliams - Former Head Football Coach, University of Texas
- Earl Campbell - Former Running Back, Heisman Trophy winner, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
- Tommy Nobis - Former Linebacker, Maxwell Award winner, member of the College Football Hall of Fame
- Doug English - Former Defensive Tackle, 4-time Pro Bowl selection, member of the College Football Hall of Fame
- Colt McCoy - Quarterback, Washington Redskins, Maxwell Award winner
- Cullen Loeffler - Long Snapper, Minnesota Vikings
- Daron Roberts - Former Assistant Coach, Cleveland Browns
- James T. Willerson - President and medical director of The Texas Heart Institute
- Denton Cooley - Renowned heart surgeon, founder of The Texas Heart Institute
- Harley Clark - Former judge, attorney, and UT student body president; creator of the "Hook 'em Horns" hand sign
- Benno C. Schmidt, Sr. - Former attorney and venture capitalist
- Thomas Lumpkin - Former president of Gulf Oil
- Ronald Steinhart - Retired chairman and CEO of the Commercial Banking Group of Bank One Corporation
- Directory of Alumni http://www.texascowboysalumni.org/listallmembers.cfm?s=FirstName&svalue=&submit=Submit#data
- Directory of Active Members http://www.texascowboysalumni.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=9
- Smokey the Cannon http://www.utexas.edu/friends/fun.php?which=2
- When the Smoke Cleared: The Rise, Fall, and Return of the Texas Cowboys http://www.texasexes.org/alcalde/feature.asp?p=3492
- History of the Texas Cowboys http://www.texascowboysalumni.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=146
- Harvest Moon Charity Concert http://www.texascowboysharvestmoon.com/
- Membership Information http://www.texascowboysalumni.org/associations/3775/files/Spring%202010%20Cowboys%20Application.pdf
- Texas Panhellenic Fraternities http://www.texaspanhellenic.org/
- Texas Cowboys Alumni Association http://www.texascowboys.org/