The 1870s: William H. Holland
William H. Holland was born into slavery. During the Civil War, he served in the Union Army's Sixteenth United States Colored Troops, organized in Nashville, Tennessee. He participated in the battles of Nashville and Overton Hill and in the pursuit of John Bell Hood to the Tennessee River. After attending college in Ohio, he returned home to Texas and became a high school principal in Austin's Doublehorn community.
In 1873, Holland was a delegate to the Colored Men's Convention that met at Brenham. A few years later, he was elected to represent Waller County in the 15th Texas Legislature. Holland questioned the legitimacy of the Agricultural and Mechanical College that had been established in 1875, stating, "the federal government had given aid to land-grant colleges without stating this money should benefit any one race and yet A&M College is for whites only." He then introduced a bill "to establish an agricultural and manual school for colored youths of the state." Fellow African-American legislator Walter Burton promoted the bill in the Senate, and it became law in 1876. Due to Holland's efforts, he became known as the Father of Prairie View University.
Later in life, Holland petitioned the Texas Legislature to establish a Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute for Colored Youth, and legislation was passed in 1887. Governor Lawrence S. Ross appointed Holland the school's first Superintendent. He held the position for 13 years.