A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 21, 2006
“Eyes of Texas” (University of Texas alma mater)

"The eyes of Texas are upon you” was a favorite saying of Colonel William Prather (1848-1905), a president of the University of Texas. In 1903, John Sinclair wrote the song “The Eyes of Texas” for a Cowboy Minstrel Show, to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” It would become the university’s alma mater.

The phrase “the eyes of Texas are upon you” has been used in a political context since at least 1892.


University of Texas Longhorn Band
“The Eyes of Texas”
“The Eyes of Texas” is the official Alma Mater of the University of Texas. It was written in 1903 by John Sinclair, in response to a request that a song be written for the Cowboy Minstrel Show. Since he was given only a few hours in which to come up with a tune, Mr. Sinclair hit upon the idea of using a famous saying of Colonel Prather, who was the President of the University. The Colonel always told his audiences to remember that “the eyes of Texas are upon you.” This expression was fitted to the tune of “I’ve Been working on the Railroad.”

Sinclair, dressed in minstrel attire with a black face, sang the song in imitation of President Prather’s serious tone and solemn expression. The beloved President soon passed away, and it was not until after the song was sung at his funeral in tribute that it achieved its complete dignity. Now, it is played prior to the start and at the close of all Texas sporting events and at all other official University of Texas functions. The original manuscript hangs in the Alumni Center. The complete original lyrics are as follows:

I once did know a President,
Away down South, in Texas.
And, always, everywhere he went,
He saw the eyes of Texas.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
All the live long day.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
You can not get away.
Do not think you can escape them
At night or early in the morn-
The Eyes of Texas are upon you
‘Till Gabriel blows his horn.

Sing me a song of Prexy,
Of days long since gone by.
Again I seem to great him
And hear his kind reply.
Smiles of gracious welcome
Before my memory rise,
Again I hear him say to me,
“Remember Texas’ Eyes.”

Handbook of Texas Online
PRATHER, WILLIAM LAMBDIN (1848-1905). William Lambdin (Colonel) Prather, lawyer and university president, was born near Paris, Tennessee, on May 1, 1848, the son of George W. and Lucretia P. (Lambdin) Prather. In 1854 he moved with his family to Texas, where his father acquired a large plantation near Waco. In 1867 his father sent him to study under Gen. Robert E. Lee at Washington College, Lexington, Virginia, where Prather received an LL.B. degree in 1871. Prather was a pallbearer at Lee’s funeral in 1870. He was admitted to the bar in Waco, Texas, in 1871 and practiced there for twenty-eight years. From 1875 to 1878 he was Waco city attorney. For three years he was a master in chancery for the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. For the term 1895-96 he was president of the state bar association.

Prather’s connection with the University of Texas began with his appointment as regent by Governor Lawrence Sullivan Ross in 1887. Prather became vice chairman of the board in 1895 and chairman in 1899. He was made acting president of the university in 1899 and president in 1900. Washington and Lee University conferred an LL.D degree on him in 1900, and the University of Pennsylvania, in 1901. He was vice president of the National Educational Association in 1903-04 and vice president of the Association of State Universities in 1904-05. He had the highest of ideals for the university and gave himself wholeheartedly to carrying them out-so much so that he overtaxed himself with details that he might have entrusted to others. He thought that the president should promote the university, that the university should serve the state, and that the students should remember that the state looked to them for leadership. His reminder “The Eyes of Texas are upon you” gave rise to the university song.

8 January 1852, National Era, pg. 7:
Mr. Rush is evidently not the man for the hour. He is timid, fearful, trembling. He does not counsel support of the Fugitive Slave Law because it is proper, just, and right; but, “the eyes of the South” are upon Pennsylvania, and he fears the consequences unless she approves it.

8 November 1892, Galveston (TX) Daily News, pg. 8, col. 3:
Harmony Hall was packed last night by the friends of Colonel Gresham. The reception given the speakers would convince anyone that the democrats of Galveston are in dead earnest in the support of their candidate. The addresses of Mr. T. Ballinger, Colonel Gresham and Colonel Street were received with prolonged outbursts of applause.
(...)
Mr. Ballinger delivered the address of the evening. He said substantially: “You have passed through a canvass which is without a parallel in the history of the country. On its result depends the fate of your fair city. The eyes of Texas are upon you; the eyes of the south are upon you, to see if on to-morrow you are found wanting. For twenty-five years Mr. Gresham has lived among you. ...

3 March 1924, Mexia (TX) Daily News, pg. 3:
EYES OF TEXAS
ORIGIN GIVEN
BY TAYLOR
AUSTIN, Texas, March 3.—Although students in all parts of the country stand with hands bare and sing “The Eyes of Texas are Upon You,” the historic song of the University of Texas, few realize the origin and meaning of the song.

William A. Prather came to the University of Texas as president in 1899. He had ben a student at Washington and Lee when Robert E. Lee was president of that institution. He was a very courteous and gallant gentleman, according to T. U. Taylor, dean of the college of engineering. From the very first lecture that he delivered to the student body, his favorite statement was, “Men and women of the University, the eyes of Texas are upon you.”

The statement became a joke and byword about the campus, and in the spring of 1903, John L. Sinclair wrote the original “Eyes of Texas” for the minstrel show which was given by the students. The next fall the engineers printed the song on their banquet program. After President Prather’s death in 1905 the three verses were forgotten, and the chorus gradually evolved, into the Alma Mater song of Texas University.

As at first written the song was:

I once did know a President,
Away down south in Texas;
And always everywhere he went,
He saw the eyes of Texas.

CHORUS--
The eyes of Texas are upon you
All the livelong day
The eyes of Texas are upon you,
You cannot get away.
Do not think you can escape them
At night or early morn;
The eyes of Texas are upon you
Till Gabriel blows his horn.

Sing me a song of Prexys
Of days long since gone by;
Again, I seem to greet him
And hear his kind reply

Smiles of gracious welcome
Before my memory rise,
Again I hear him say to me:
“Remember Texas’ Eyes.”


10 July 1932, New York Times, pg. E6”
DALLAS, July 8.—Speaker John N. Garner’s campaign song, generously played at Chicago, is always reported by the newspapers as “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”

Only the tune is borrowed. All Texans know the song as “The Eyes of Texas,” the official song of the University of Texas. It was written by John Lang Sinclair, now of New York, early in this century, as a joke, having in mind the constant injunction of the then president, William L. Prather, to the graduates that “the eyes of Texas are upon you.” It goes like this:

The eyes of Texas are upon you,
All the livelong day.
The eyes of Texas are upon you,
You cannot get away.
Do not think you can escape them,
From night till earl in the morn.
The eyes of Texas are upon you
Till Gabriel blows his horn.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (1) Comments • Saturday, October 21, 2006 • Permalink


This is a great piece for the win tonight at Cowboy Stadium.
I’m now teaching my three year old son Dillon this history.

Posted by gary crosby  on  12/06  at  12:38 AM

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