Originally known as West Texas Military Academy and formerly known as Texas Military Institute, TMI Episcopal was founded in 1893 by James Steptoe Johnston, a bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. TMI offers classes for students in grades 6-12 and an optional JROTC program for students in grades 8-12. Its website states that it is “the oldest Episcopal Church-sponsored, college-preparatory school in the Southwest.”
Johnston was born in Mississippi in 1843. He had enlisted in the Confederate Army in the Civil War as a private and participated in several major battles including Manassas, and Antietam Creek. Johnston was captured in 1863 and held in a Union prison camp for about a year until the end of the war. After the war, he studied law and ran the family plantation until he decided to go into the ministry. He was ordained in the Episcopal Church in 1871 and served in various churches in the southeast until the late 1880s.
In the summer of 1888, Johnston became a bishop in the western Texas missionary district. Among his other duties, Johnston set about trying to improve educational opportunities in the area, leading to the establishment of a number of schools in San Antonio, including West Texas Military Academy. He worked to achieve financial stability for the institutions by educating and cultivating the concept with his parishioners and in 1904, the Episcopal general convention admitted the Western District of Texas as a self-supporting diocese. Johnston was elected to be the first bishop of the diocese. Johnston retired in 1916 after forty-five years in the ministry and twenty-eight years as a bishop, with the school as his legacy.
The name of the school was changed to Texas Military Institute in 1926 under the leadership of Dr. W. W. Bondurant, who merged it with the upper school of San Antonio Academy. In 2004, its name was changed to TMI – The Episcopal School of Texas and in 2017, the school adopted its current name, TMI Episcopal.
(Image credit: TMI Episcopal)
Its first campus was on Government Hill, adjacent to Fort Sam Houston. The second was nearer downtown in Alamo Heights until 1989. Currently the campus is located on West Tejas Trail in northwest San Antonio.
TMI played football since its inception. The school is proud to note an early game in which the University of Missouri came to Texas and were fresh from defeating the University of Texas in Austin by a score of 28-0. Missouri did not want to make such a long trip without playing at least one more game so they came to San Antonio looking to perhaps play a YMCA team. Unable to find a YMCA team, instead they scheduled the Cadets of WTMA and were handed a 6-0 loss by the cadets.
Throughout the years, TMI has had some outstanding and notable graduates, including military leaders, artists, actors, astronauts, politicians and others. A member of the first class of students and perhaps the best known graduate was Douglas Macarthur who entered with the inaugural class. Douglas’ father Arthur Macarthur was serving at nearby Fort Sam Houston and Douglas became the team’s quarterback in 1896. Macarthur graduated as valedictorian of his class in 1897.
Macarthur went on to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1903 where he graduated at the top of his class. He served in the Invasion of Veracruz, World War I, World War II and Korea until he was removed by President Harry S. Truman in 1951. Macarthur retired from the United States Army after this event. Being a popular public figure, the General was considered as a possible candidate for President of the United States, though he never ran for this office. Following his military retirement he was a sough-after speaker and held popular but controversial views including the role of the United States military, United States policy and foreign relations after World War II.
A second former student also distinguished himself in the military. He is Brig. General David Lee (Tex) Hill. He was born in Kwang Ju, Korea in 1915 to Christian missionary parents, Dr. Pierre Bernard Hill and Ella Thraves Hill, though he grew up mostly in the United States from the age of six. As opposed to some other students of TMI, his father was a Kerrville minister rather than a San Antonio military man. Hill attended San Antonio Academy, Texas Military Academy and Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio, but graduated from high school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Along the way, he picked up the nickname Tex which was to stick with him.
After attending Texas A&M and graduating from Austin College in Sherman, he entered the United States Navy, training as an aviator at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. He spent one year as a torpedo bomber pilot on the carrier Saratoga and another six months as a dive bomber pilot on the Ranger. While still in the Navy, he was approached to join other American volunteers in 1941 to fly with the American Volunteer Group, better known as the Flying Tigers in China under Clair Chennault. He flew with the group until 1942 until it was disbanded, but not before Hill had become a double ace, credited for 12 1/4 victories. After his service with the Flying Tigers, he completed the war as a United States aviator in the Army Air Corps, being credited for 18 1/4 more victories. In the post war years, he moved on to jet aircraft until he was asked to accept command of the Texas Air National Guard where he achieved the rank of Brig. General.
There are many other notable graduates. To name a few, they include actor Dan Blocker of the long running television series Bonanza, astronaut David Scott of the Gemini and Apollo space programs (the first astronaut to pilot a lunar rover, on Apollo 15), attorney James A. Baker, Jr., banker Tom Frost, rancher Charles Schreiner III of the YO Ranch, politician and columnist Maury Maverick, Jr. (great grandson of Samuel Maverick), and four recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross including Brig. General David Lee (Tex) Hill.
The school is associated with the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Enrollment has varied over the years, but currently has just under 500 male and female students.
(Dedicated to TMI graduate, Dennis Wesley, who inspired and encouraged my interest in Texas history.)
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