John E. Conner Museum

Biography of John E. Conner

John Edwin Conner, son of Harriet (Williamson) and William Trustan Conner, was born on November 21, 1883, at Field Creek in Llano County, Texas. Soon after his birth, the family moved one county west to Mason County. Conner was raised in Pontotoc and graduated from Pontotoc High School in 1904. In those days, a high school diploma sufficiently qualified one for a career in public education and Conner worked as a teacher, a principal, and later, a superintendent, at several different schools throughout South and Central Texas. In 1911, Conner earned his Teacher's Certificate from Southwest Texas Normal School. Later that same year, he married Fannie Johnson with whom he would have three children.

In 1923, Ralph Bartow Cousins, the newly appointed president of the new college to be built at Kingsville, offered Conner a position as the College's sole Professor of History. Needing advanced degrees for his new role as a college professor, Conner entered the University of Texas in 1923, receiving his B.A. in History in 1924.

In 1925, Conner began his long career at South Texas State Teacher's College, taking a brief sabbatical to earn his M.A. in History from the University of Texas in 1927. In 1929, STSTC became the Texas College of Arts and Industries (now Texas A&M University-Kingsville), and Conner became Dean of the College.

As early as the summer of 1925, people were bringing to Conner's office historical memorabilia; in 1929, these objects were collected into the John E. Conner Museum of History. Conner retired from the university in May 1954 but continued to serve as Director of the Conner Museum until 1964. During his career as educator and Museum Director, he also published four textbooks on Texas history.

In September 1988, Conner was the oldest living graduate of the University of Texas and the oldest living holder of a Phi Beta Kappa key. He died on September 1, 1989, in Corpus Christi at the age of 105.


Conner as Dean of the College Conner showing the collection to a student Conner at his desk, 1960s