Texas Cowboys

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The Texas Cowboys is an honorary men's service organization at the University of Texas at Austin. It was founded by Arno Nowotny and Bill McGill in 1922 with the purpose of serving the University of Texas, as well as the surrounding area, with the motto: "Give the best you have to Texas, and the best will come back to you."[1][2] The Texas Cowboys also serve as ambassadors of the University of Texas and are present at all significant university-sponsored events.

The Texas Cowboys firing Smokey the Cannon.

The Texas Cowboys are responsible for keeping and maintaining Smokey the Cannon, which is present at all Texas Longhorns home football games.[3] Smokey is fired off after the Eyes of Texas, at the end of every quarter, and after all Texas touchdowns, field goals, kickoffs, and two-point conversions.


In 1922, the University of Texas at Austin found itself in need of a men's service organization. Two men, head cheerleader Arno Nowotny and Longhorn Band president Bill McGill, began working together to recruit a very select group of young men who were dedicated to leadership and service. In 1922, forty men from all aspects of campus life were chosen by McGill and Nowotny to be the first Texas Cowboys. Throughout its nearly 100 years of existence, becoming a Texas Cowboy became a high honor, developed through the accomplishments of its members and from the organization's tradition of service and spirit.

In 1954, Smokey the Cannon was presented to the University of Texas by the Texas Cowboys. That same year, the Cowboys began their involvement with and support of The Arc of the Capital Area.

On the Monday following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Smokey fired a 21-gun salute to the fallen President during the climactic moment in a public ceremony in front of the state Capitol building.

Smokey II was created by the Cockrell School of Engineering to replace the original Smokey in 1968. Smokey II served the University well until 1988. The following year, Smokey III, a civil war replica cannon standing six feet tall and weighing 1,200 pounds, was constructed and remains in service to this day.

In 1995, the Texas Cowboys were cancelled as a campus organization following the accidental death of one of its members and a determination by the university administration that the organization had violated the university's hazing policies. The organization was already on probation for hazing at the time, and this was the third penalty for hazing in as many years.[4][5] Through the efforts of the Texas Cowboys Alumni Association, the campus organization was reestablished in 2000 with the expressed mission "to represent and serve the University of Texas at Austin with spirit, character and leadership."[6]

In 2004, the Texas Cowboys Alumni Association, in conjunction with the Texas Exes, completed construction on the Texas Cowboys Pavilion. It is the only structure on the University campus named for a student organization.[7]

On September 30, 2018 Newman Nicholas Cumberland was involved in a car crash returning from an initiation retreat. He suffered serious injuries and died about a month later. On November 19, 2018, the family of Cumberland accused the Texas Cowboys of engaging in hazing at the event and the University of Texas opened an investigation of the Texas Cowboys.[8][9]

Today, the Texas Cowboys serve the university in service, spirit, and social capacities. Each year the Texas Cowboys organize and host Harvest Moon,[10] a fall concert held in Waterloo Park, and Spring BBQ, an on-campus barbecue to raise funds for The Arc of the Capital Area. Previous headliners at the Harvest Moon concert include:

1985: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jerry Jeff Walker, Delbert McClinton

2005: Jerry Jeff Walker

2006: Pat Green

2007: Cory Morrow, Aaron Watson

2008: Cross Canadian Ragweed

2009: Stoney LaRue, Roger Creager

2010: Robert Earl Keen

2011: Josh Abbott Band, Jack Ingram

2012: Casey Donahew, Roger Creager

2013: Aaron Watson, Turnpike Troubadours

2014: Randy Rogers Band


Texas Cowboys membership is reserved for current students at the University who demonstrate exceptional leadership, character, spirit, and service. The application and interview process is overseen by the university administration, the Texas Cowboys Alumni Association, and the current Texas Cowboys Selection Committee. Invitations to join the organization are extended to no more than 25 students each semester, all of whom must have completed at least three semesters at the university. In order to ensure new members come from diverse organizational backgrounds, no more than two-thirds of each incoming class may be affiliated with a fraternity from the Interfraternity Council.[11]

Student applicants are often deeply involved in campus life. Former and active Texas Cowboys have included fraternity presidents, student body presidents, head cheerleaders, varsity athletes, and other organizational leaders.

Distinguished alumni[edit]

Political and judicial figures

University figures

Athletes and coaches



  1. ^ Directory of Alumni http://www.texascowboysalumni.org/listallmembers.cfm?s=FirstName&svalue=&submit=Submit#data[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Directory of Active Members http://www.texascowboysalumni.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=9[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Smokey the Cannon "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2004-10-22. Retrieved 2010-08-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ https://www.apnews.com/96c93b4c5731cdb1f9656c3e714f5990
  5. ^ http://www.spokesman.com/stories/1995/sep/16/hazing-death-punishment-reinstated/
  6. ^ When the Smoke Cleared: The Rise, Fall, and Return of the Texas Cowboys "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-20. Retrieved 2010-08-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ History of the Texas Cowboys "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-05. Retrieved 2010-08-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ https://www.statesman.com/news/20181119/hazing-preceded-car-crash-that-killed-ut-student-family-says
  9. ^ http://www.dailytexanonline.com/2018/11/18/family-of-texas-cowboys-pledge-requests-investigation-following-deadly-crash
  10. ^ Harvest Moon Charity Concert http://www.texascowboysharvestmoon.com/
  11. ^ Membership Information http://www.texascowboysalumni.org/associations/3775/files/Spring%202010%20Cowboys%20Application.pdf[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "TU EX-Student Leader Jailed In Slaying; Malcolm E. Wallace Charged in Death of Golf Professional". Valley Morning Star. Harlingen, Texas. October 24, 1951. p. 1.
  13. ^ Jones, Garth (August 14, 1985). "Federal Official's Death Certificate Ordered Changed". The Victoria Advocate. Victoria, Texas. AP. p. 8A. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  14. ^ Dalton, Kyle. "Butler Pitch and Putt in Austin: Murder in the clubhouse, fun on the golf course". www.golftexas.com. Retrieved June 16, 2014.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]