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Texas Cowboys

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.[1][2] 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.[3] 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."[4]

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.[5]

Today, the Texas Cowboys serve the university in service, spirit, and social capacities. Each year the Texas Cowboys organize and host Harvest Moon,[6] 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:

1985: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jerry Jeff Walker, Delbert McClinton

2005: Jerry Jeff Walker

2006: Pat Green

2007: Cory Morrow, Aaron Watson

2008: Cross Canadian Ragweed

2009: Stoney LaRue, Roger Creager

2010: Robert Earl Keen

2011: Josh Abbott Band, Jack Ingram

2012: Casey Donahew, Roger Creager

2013: Aaron Watson, Turnpike Troubadours

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.[7]

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.

Distinguished alumni

Political and judicial figures

University figures

Athletes and coaches



External links