The Record Newspapers - Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

By Carl Parker
For the Record 

Lamar State College-Orange


Last updated 2/22/2022 at 7:46pm

How Lamar State College-Orange came about is a somewhat interesting story about community involvement and politics. The story really began with Port Arthur College. Port Arthur College was established in the early 1900s by John "Bet-a-Million" Gates. There were not enough radio operators which were required to be on ships. And at the time were there enough stenographers, or people with office skills available for growing Port Arthur. Gates endowed the school to teach radio and office skills. The college endured for many years but by the 60s the cost of education was such that Port Arthur College could not stay in business without charging much higher tuition which was not financially feasible.

After introducing a bill to establish a branch of Lamar in Port Arthur, I was approached by Bob Montagne and others from Orange asking that I include Orange. Opponents argued that if we wanted similar institutions in Jefferson and Orange Counties, we needed to submit an application and create a body with a local tax base to support a junior college system. Nonetheless, we pressed

forward. There were those whose argument was that it would never be used and predicted there would never be more than 200 people take advantage of either college. An additional argument was these two schools would be the only community colleges in Texas directly benefitting from state funds.

The bill passed the House and was forwarded to the Senate. In the Senate we met furious opposition, particularly from the senator who was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He made much of the same arguments. Unfortunately, too many people do not understand the system of funding higher education.

There are formulas which take into consideration the square footage of a campus, the type of

courses taught, the number of faculty and location. There were no formulas that exactly fit Lamar Orange or Port Arthur. One of the biggest factors in formulas, however, was the square footage of buildings needed to accommodate the institution. When all seemed lost, I was able to enlist the help of Ben Barnes who at the time was lieutenant governor. He urged the man who he had appointed chair of Finance to reconsider and drop his opposition to the legislation.

As part of the bargain we had to agree that no state money would go toward buildings or physical

plant. For Port Arthur it was not a problem, because the intent was always to donate all of the facilities, buildings and land that was part of Port Arthur College to the new branch of Lamar at Port Arthur. Citizens of Orange gathered together and managed to find a suitable rentable space in vacant commercial property and low and behold Lamar State College-Orange was born.

The naysayers who claimed the facilities would never see more than 200 students were way off in their prognostications. If checked today, one would learn that over 2,000 students manage to gain a substantial step forward in higher education at these two institutions.


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