In 1887, the 12th Texas legislature established the Corsicana State Orphans Home and Asylum to support, educate, and provide care for orphaned and needy children in Texas.
The first group of 54 youngsters arrived in July 1889, and the Home reached its peak enrollment of 890 in 1932, during the depths of the Great Depression. The State Home was a self-contained community with its own school district, farm, laundry, power plant, kitchen, and hospital. In addition to traditional high school academic curriculum, the State Home provided many vocational technical programs. The school district was dissolved in the 1950s and the children began attending Corsicana public schools. The State was assigned to the Texas Youth Commission and presently functions as a juvenile detention
During its long history, the State Home has served thousands of young people who have gone on to enjoy highly successful careers. Perhaps its most notable alumnus is Robert W. Calvert. Born in 1905, Calvert was the second son of a Tennessee sharecropper named Porter Calvert. When Porter Calvert died in 1912, his widow took her four children to join her sister who was living in Corsicana. Unable to care for all the children, she had the oldest three committed to the Corsicana State Home in 1913. Calvert received his education in the State Home school system where he excelled academically. In fact, when the institution needed funding for a new dormitory in 1921, the superintendent took 15-year-old Calvert to Austin to address the state legislature to appeal for the needed funding. The lawmakers responded by appropriating $100,000 for construction of the new facility.
Calvert enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin in 1923 to study law. He recalled the difficulty of adjusting to life outside “the Home.” Everything was controlled by bells at the State Home. A bell rang to get the children up in the morning, and another rang to call them to meals or to chores. At the University, the bell never rang, and he had to learn self motivation and time management without being reminded by the bells.
Following his graduation, Calvert had difficulty finding a job, as the Depression was underway. Eventually he landed a position with a firm in Hillsboro, and soon after launched his political career. He was elected to three terms in the Texas House of Representatives, and served as speaker of the house his final term. He later served as Hill County attorney, and in 1950 he was elected to the Texas State Supreme Court. He served as an associate justice until 1961, when he was named chief justice. He retired in 1972. Calvert died in 1994.
Dr. Tommy Stringer is executive director of the Navarro College Foundation. He may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org