(Photo Cutline: The P-51 Mustang funded by local donations and named Spirit of Bryan Field makes its first landing at Bryan Army Air Field. Dedication of the air base was delayed until construction of the aircraft was completed.)
In the weeks before the first anniversary of the bombing of the U.S. naval installation at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, a group of construction workers, thousands of miles away on the outskirts of the Texas town of Bryan, pledged to donate a day's pay for the ongoing war effort. They asked local businessman Travis B. Bryan, president of the The First National Bank of Bryan, to put together a program to direct their contributions through the appropriate channels.
Bryan, the man, did a lot more of that.
Travis Bryan was a direct descendant of William Joel Bryan, for whom his home city was named. William Joel Bryan was the nephew of Stephen F. Austin, considered to be "the father of Texas." Travis Bryan had been instrumental in bringing the Bryan Army Air Field, on which the generous laborers were working, to the area. He also knew that when the war ended, the air field could be at risk and he wanted his community to join together in making a sizable gesture which might ensure the base would benefit not only the nation but also the local area. To purchase an aircraft which he knew could contribute to the war effort, he set the fundraising goal at $50,000.
Just six months later, on June 6, 1943–a year to the day, as it turned out, before the D-Day invasion of the German stronghold at Normandy, France–Bryan Army Air Field was dedicated and a young girl by the name of Anne Leonard christened, before tens of thousands of local residents, a P-51 Mustang parked on the runway and bearing the name "The Spirt of Bryan Field."
In committing to the concept and plan for the RELLIS Campus, Chancellor John Sharp of The Texas A&M University System has made a like commitment to his community and constituencies. The Spirit of Bryan Field lives on through Sharp's vision for what the RELLIS Campus will be.
Like Travis Bryan's efforts to build an airplane and unify a community, this website seeks to tell the history of the RELLIS Campus one individual at a time. As you'll see on the Recollections page, the story is varied. The thread runs from before Texas independence through two major wars to the growth and maturation of one of America's leading institutions of higher learning. Along the way, hurricanes were invaded; cadets were housed, fed and drilled; a pair of astronauts honed what proved to be "the right stuff;" bees have been studied and countless cars were crashed.
That's naming only a few of the recollections you'll find on this website.
And, more are being added every day. You can contribute a favorite memory or story passed on by a loved one here, too. Just go to Add Your Story and fill out the form you'll find there.
For more information on the present and future of the RELLIS Campus, go to rellis.tamus.edu