DeGolyer Library Special Collections

SMU and the Spanish Flu

On October 1st, 1918, The Campus, SMU’s student newspaper, led with stories on an upcoming football game between the Mustangs and the Texas Longhorns, a look at how SMU was losing faculty to war work, and an exploration of street car service in University Park.

News about the First World War was found throughout the issue, including a student obituary on the final page.  “Elonzo Sessions Dies in the U.S. Navy” described the passing of a second year Newspaper clippingstudent from Altus, Oklahoma.  He was the third SMU student to die in service.  But he wasn’t killed in action, or during training.  Instead, the newspaper notes that “an attack of Spanish influenza developed into pneumonia, from which he did not recover.”

This was the first record of the 1918 pandemic found in the SMU student publication digital archives. The pandemic appeared in March of 1918, and spread throughout the United States, often moving throughout the network of Army training camps across the country.  By October 1st of that year, the second wave of the pandemic was underway.  This wave began in late August, and is noted for being the deadliest period for the pandemic.  The first wave resembled previous flu outbreaks, with the elderly and children most at risk.  The second wave was when unique pattern of that pandemic became apparent, as young healthy adults represented a higher than expected number of fatalities.

A week later, The Campus noted that the Texas-SMU game would be delayed.  Unlike sports delays in the fall of 2020, this was due to conflicts with military training Newspaperschedules.  A short blurb let readers know that “Spanish influenza invaded the barracks of SMU at the opening of school.  However, every precaution is being used that applies to that disease. The number of cases up to date is about fifty-four. The daily sick list, however, bears about thirty. As yet no serious cases have developed, and because of this the head nurse, Miss Wilson, believes the infirmary will soon be emptied.”

Throughout November, influenza stories were outnumbered by coverage of the end of the war.  There wasn’t a daily count of the number of students and employees testing positive or in quarantine. Yet midway through the month, the tragedy of the pandemic announced itself.  On November 13th, it was reported that Freshman Ora Mae Cox died.  Two weeks later, A.A. Vick, the SMU Registrar, sophomore Monroe Burson, and recent graduate Frank Rye had passed away. This was followed by the deaths of Student Army Training Corps (SATC) members Alvin H. Tolle, a freshman, and Dudley W. Ayres, a sophomore, and Elonzo Harvey.  Issues of The Campus also carried notes of students who fell ill and recovered, and numerous cases of students and alumni who had died from pneumonia.


Newspaper articleThe final story about the influenza ran on January 29, 1919.  “Memorial Services in Honor of S.M.U. Heroes on Friday” described a recent gathering and moment of silence at the university chapel. 473 students enlisted during the war, and 11 died in service.  Among these men, one died during a training accident, three were killed in action, six of pneumonia, and one of the influenza–Elonzo Sessions.


Dallas was largely spared from the third and fourth wave of the pandemic.  If you’d like to read more about Spanish Influenza in the Metroplex, check out the stories below:

Influenza Encyclopedia: Dallas, Texas

In 1918, Dallas and Fort Worth weren’t worried about the flue.  In a month, 1,200 died

Here’s how Dallas managed the 1918 flu pandemic

100 years ago, the deadliest flu of all time devastated Dallas as it swept through the world

 A pandemic devastated Dallas more than a century ago. Here’s why hundreds died


Explore SMU student newspapers by clicking here:


Questions? Email Christina Jensen, Head of Public Services, as

DeGolyer Library Special Collections

Exploring the Voices of SMU Collection

Last week, black students and alumni on Twitter described the racism, hate-speech, microaggressions, and harassment by police that they faced at SMU, with the hashtag #BlackAtSMU

To learn more about the historical experiences of black students at SMU, consider exploring the Voices of SMU Oral History and Digital Humanities Student Projects. The university archives is dedicated to documenting the whole of the student experience. Like most libraries and archives, the DeGolyer Library and the SMU Archives has fallen short in collecting, documenting, and supporting black voices and works.  A key part of our efforts to make up for these shortcomings is the Voices of SMU Oral History Project, a collaboration between students, alumni, and entities across campus, led by Dr. Jill Kelly from the Clements Department of History,  SMU Archivist Joan Gosnell, and the Norwick Center for Digital Solutions.

From their blog:

With Voices of SMU, Undergraduate Research Assistants conduct oral history interviews with SMU alumni from underrepresented groups. The oral histories are made available online in the SMU Libraries Digital Collections. The project grew out of a “Doing Oral History” class in 2018 and has since enabled extracurricular research experience for students—using the university archives, conducting and preserving interviews, presenting at conferences, and publishing their findings.

The interviews document not only the history of the university, but Texas as well, including the desegregation of higher education, the experiences of African American and Latinx university students, and black and brown student activism in Texas. They speak to growing up in Dallas’ Little Mexico; post-World War II African American community-building in places such as Hamilton Park, Dallas; studying as an undocumented student; organizing as minority seminarians and student activists; and shaping Texas’s churches, social ministries, and business communities upon graduation.”

The Oral History interviews are viewable through our digital library. You can browse the interviews with black students and alumni by clicking here.

Some highlights from interviews with recent graduates:

Charis ‘Kay’ Rodgers (Class of 2018)

Troy Alley (Class of 2015)

Vanessa Uzoh (B.A. 2013, M.S. 2019)


Contact Joan Gosnell at to learn more


DeGolyer Library Special Collections

Exploring the Budner Collection on Theodore Roosevelt from home

Southern Methodist University is refining plans for the eventual reopening of campus, following the Covid-19 campus closure.  In the meantime, history enthusiasts can browse our extensive digital collections,  including the Doris A. and Lawrence H. Budner Collection on Theodore Roosevelt.

Painting of Theodore Roosevelt hunting


The Budners spent more than 20 years building their collection of books, photographs, and ephemera related to the 26th president.  The couple were Dallas civic leaders, involved in public healthcare access, social welfare, and the Jewish community. 

Both were historians of President Roosevelt, with Lawrence writing his SMU master’s thesis on Roosevelt and how his time in the American West shaped his progressive social politics. 



Theodore Roosevelt giving a speech in Kansas

The Budner collection is comprehensive, ranging from Roosevelt family correspondence to campaign ephemera.  One of the more memorable items for DeGolyer staff was a Roosevelt matchbook.  If your job was to store and preserve large amounts of paper, how would you safely house a matchbook? The archivist processing the collection decided on (according to best practices) cutting off the match tips, and keeping the book. To get an idea of the scope of the collection, click here to view its finding aid.  

The immense project of making the collection available digitally begins with the photographs, which you can browse by clicking here. Also digitized is the smaller print collection, which you can view by clicking here.

If you’d like to learn more about the Budner Roosevelt collection, contact Head of Public Services Christina Jensen at