Texas A&M University is the state's oldest public institution of higher education. The Fourth Congress of the Republic of Texas donated fifty leagues of land (221,400 acres) for the endowment of two colleges or universities in 1839. However, no public universities were built before the outbreak of the Civil War. The Constitutional Convention of 1866 provided for an additional endowment of one million acres of public land for one or more state universities. This was followed in 1883 by an additional grant of one million acres of state land. Thus, the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas became both a federal and a Texas land-grant college. The state legislature approved a bill providing for the organization of the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College on April 17, 1871, and appropriated $75,000 for the construction of academic buildings and suitable accommodations. Governor Edmund J. Davis appointed a committee of three to find a suitable location for the college, with the committee selecting a site near Bryan, following the donation of 2,416 acres of land to the college by local citizens.
The college, which began as an all-male military institution with required participation in the Corps of Cadets, developed a strong military aura. Texas A&M regularly commissioned more officers than any other institution, including the service academies, and its students have achieved an outstanding record of military service in all of the wars fought since the Spanish-American War. Texas A&M provided more officers for the army during World War II than both of the military academies (West Point and Annapolis) combined. In 1965, only after great controversy, military training became optional and the Corps of Cadets a voluntary organization. Nevertheless, the corps and “Aggie” traditions continue to shape the culture of the university. A few women attended classes in the 1890s; women were officially admitted to Texas A&M on a limited basis in 1963 and on an equal basis with men in 1971. With current enrollment of about 48,000, Texas A&M is the sixth-largest university in the nation. The George H. W. Bush presidential library is located on West Campus.