When I was last in the Woodson I was looking for something specific: the file folder in Dr. Lovett’s papers that held the correspondence with the Semper Fidelis Club. After I found it I took some time to look around a bit and I came across something completely unexpected. This is one of those time when I knew most of the pieces of a puzzle (although I was unaware that it was a puzzle) but lacked the one that would make them all click together.
Remember this? I wrote about it back in 2017. It’s the first page of an info sheet for students who were giving campus orientation tours circa 1949-50. In particular note entry number two, Autry House, with its crazy history of WMR’s non-existent friend Max Autry, who allegedly founded Autry House for Rice students:
What I stumbled upon the other day was this:
So the tale as told in the orientation outline is horribly mangled, but there was indeed a Max–but Max Autrey, not Autry. (The families aren’t related and the confusion pops up in the archives regularly.) His mother’s gift to Rice in his memory was a student scholarship fund:
But this was just the start for the Autrey family and Rice. Nettie Autrey’s other son Herbert and his wife Lynette came from two old Texas families. The Autreys owned downtown real estate and Galveston-Houston Breweries (formed out of the post-Prohibition merger of Galveston Brewery and Houston Ice and Brewing), famous back in the day for Southern Select Beer among others. (This brewery has come up twice before, here and here.) The Sternenbergs were timber men whose land holdings were in East Texas, near the Big Thicket and the Sour Lake oil field. The Autrey’s had no children, lived frugally and managed their many business affairs adeptly. Although they had no direct connection to Rice, their longtime friend and attorney, Hank Hudspeth, certainly did. Herbert died in 1973; Lynette in 1978. Both left large gifts to Rice, in the end about five and half million dollars. This time the gifts went not to students but to the faculty, resulting in the initial creation of six chairs in the humanities, social sciences, and business, half named for Lynette, half for Herbert. I don’t know how many Autrey chairs there are today but I know it’s more than six.