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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical :

Texas History

A.M. AIKIN, JR

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
In these days of evaluating our schools—exemplary to acceptable to whatever—and multiple special legislative sessions devoted to figuring out how to spend more money on schools while taking in less revenue, Texans might want to remember A.M. Aikin Jr., who helped drag education and Texas into modern times.

A generation ago, every Texan associated with education knew of A.M. Aikin, who served in the legislature for 46 years and authored or co-authored ever-major education bill considered during that time.

Aikin was born in Aikin Grove, Red River County, on October 9, 1905. He attended a three-teacher school, to which he rode horseback four miles each way each day until he graduated from high school, which helped form his legislative philosophy to support children to acquire an education more easily than had been his lot.

Aikin won election to the Texas House of Representatives in 1932, then moved to the Senate in 1937, where he served for the next four decades. He missed only two session days in his entire legislative tenure. Aikin chaired the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, which was of considerable benefit to public and higher education in Texas.

With Representative Claude Gilmer, Aikin sponsored the Gilmer-Aikin Laws in 1949, also passed with the considerate assistance of Senator Ottis Lock, another lawmaker from East Texas. The Gilmer-Aikin Laws centralized the state school system and established minimum salaries and expenditures for each scholastic based on a state formula. The point was to insure state monies to assist every community in providing educational opportunities for its young scholars.

Aikin also sponsored an amendment to the state constitution creating the Teacher Retirement System in 1937, and in every legislative session until he retired he worked to increase funding for education.

Senator Aikin had other interests as well, as is illustrated by this: As chairman of appropriations, when the state budget neared completion, Aikin always asked if M.D. Anderson Hospital, the state cancer treatment center, had received its requested appropriation. If not, they all went back to work until he was satisfied.

Aikin died in Paris, Texas, on October 24, 1981, leaving a legacy worthy of immulation by today’s legislators.
© Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical
November 7, 2005 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.
 
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