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TJC in the Controversial Sixties


In the ‘60s, Tyler Junior College had men such as veteran Joe Gordon who were not only soldiers on the field during the Vietnam War, but on campus as well. 

“I saw what I would be without an education and I didn’t like it,” said Gordon. “I want to be my own boss, and you need an education to do that.”

The Vietnam War was one of two, almost back-to-back wars that required a draft. It took many friends and family members away from their homes.

“The war took several of my friends and two never came back,” said TJC alumnus Rebecca Williams. “If your grades were not that good, they would draft you right away.”

Williams was a business major when she attended TJC from 1961-1962, and from her perspective, TJC was the place to be and her classmates showed it.

“TJC always had a positive attitude,” said Williams. “The kids wanted to be there. We always went to every sport event and our teams were very good.” 

Even during the second draft in only twenty years TJC students still managed to push through uncertain times.

“Our school’s tradition was very strong despite the war,” said Williams. “Of course, TJC was the only school we had though.”

According to Williams, a couple of her classmates brought a hot, new trend to TJC’s campus. It was a revolution that still exists today.

“One day, two girls came to school in what we call ‘mini skirts’,” said Williams. “They stopped just above the knee so they weren’t very short, but still they were shorter than what we were supposed to wear and the girls got sent home. By the end of 1961 we were all wearing “mini skirts to school.”

Although mini skirts were popular, the students were just as impressed in something a little less stylish.

“We had no computers back then so we all used typewriters,” said Williams. “We thought they were wonderful.”

Williams also mentioned that the price of attending college has changed drastically since her days at TJC.

“At the time, if you lived in Smith County your tuition was very inexpensive,” said Williams. “The cost of one book today would have paid for all of my books back then.”

Alumna Gene Staples shared a common interest with Williams in the school. He and his classmates considered the school as one of the best.

“Back then, TJC was thought of as one of the better junior colleges in the state and maybe even the country,” said Staples. “We all wanted it to be a four year school we loved it so much.”

By the 60’s TJC had just made improvements to the campus and the students took advantage immediately.

“1959 was when they first built the dorms at TJC,” said Staples. “There was always a lot going on in the dorms.”

The “Rock ‘n Roll” era of the ‘50s had just passed and according to Williams that fever was beginning to fade as well.

“We spent a lot of hours in the Teepee between classes, but I don’t remember them dancing at that time,” said Williams. “We would just visit and drink Coke.”

Both Staples and Williams are grateful for their opportunity to attend TJC.

“I really appreciated the education I got at TJC because right after I graduated I received a job as Secretary for Chief of Police,” said Williams.

“TJC is an experience I will never forget,” said Staples. “I am now on the Alumni Board and we will do what we can to increase scholarships and things of that nature.”

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