One West University Boulevard, Brownsville, Texas 78520 | 956-882-8200


History of the University

The University of Texas at Brownsville sits on land that was once occupied by Fort Brown. Fort Brown was a military post of the United States Army.

The United States government constructed the fort in 1845 and named it Fort Texas.  In 1846 the fort played a role in the opening of the Mexican-American War. In the Siege of Fort Texas Major Jacob Brown was killed. In honor of Major Brown, U.S. President Zachary Taylor renamed the military base Fort Brown.

In 1849, the city of Brownsville was established near Fort Brown.

During the Civil War, Confederate forces occupied the fort until 1863 when the confederate forces were defeated by Union forces. In 1964, Confederate forces once again occupied the fort and remained until the end of the war.

The historical significance of the fort did not end with the involvement of the fort in these two military conflicts. In August of 1906, the fort was occupied by an African-American infantry. There was significant racial conflict between the townspeople of Brownsville and the soldiers at the fort. On Aug. 13 and 14, 1906, someone or several people "raided" Brownsville by firing shots in the town. One man was wounded and another man was killed during the raid.

The townspeople immediately blamed the soldiers at Fort Brown for the incident. The U.S. Army investigated the incident and found the African-American soldiers stationed at the fort guilty of raiding the town. Secretary of War William H. Taft dishonorably discharged the 168 soldiers at the fort. Sixty years later, another investigation was commenced and the 168 soldiers had their discharged changed from dishonorable to "honorable. Only two of the 168 men were still alive at the time. The History Channel's program called "Histories Mysteries" recently created a program about the Brownsville Raid. The producers of the show theorized that some Brownsville residents fired the shots into the town using the same caliber of ammunition that the soldiers used at the fort and then framed the soldiers.

In 1945, Fort Brown was decommissioned. In 1948, the fort was acquired by the City of Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.

Criminal Justice Academics in Brownsville

Historically, the offering of criminal justice coursework in the city of Brownsville can be traced back to two separate and distinct institutions that would eventually merge to form The University of Texas at Brownsville.

Criminal justice studies began in Brownsville in 1971 when Texas Southmost College (TSC) created a program that focused on offering professional practitioners courses in law enforcement technology. Students interested in law enforcement careers could achieve an Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) Degree. The curriculum was vocationally focused with courses in traffic law, patrol administration, and report writing. In 1985, the program at TSC was divided into three categories of study: core courses, courses that comprised a law enforcement tract, and courses that comprised a corrections tract. These tracts were developed to meet the needs of students interested in achieving a baccalaureate degree.

In 1987 the criminal justice curriculum at TSC was changed.  Most of the applied technical courses were removed from the curriculum in favor of courses that focused on juvenile procedures and the family code, police and community relations, and additional composition courses. By 1988, the program name was changed from "law enforcement technology" to "law enforcement." In 1991 the program of study underwent yet another change. The change re-designated the three tracts of study to include a criminal justice generalist tract, a law enforcement tract, and a corrections tract.

Criminal justice courses were also offered by the Pan American University at Brownsville (PAUB). The PAUB had been located in the city of Brownsville since 1973 but did not begin offering criminal justice courses until 1979 when the school established a criminal justice program. The program of study at PAUB was the first to offer upper-level criminal justice courses.

Even though the PAUB had been co-located with TSC in Brownsville since 1973, the university and the community college were separate and distinct institutions. The lack of integration between the criminal justice programs at each school presented several challenges to students. There was a lack of agreement and consistency with respect to the transfer of course credit from the community college to the university. These problems were resolved in 1992 with the advent of the UTB partnership. The state of Texas effectively dissolved the PAUB and established the University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB). Legislation also permitted the UTB to enter into a partnership with the TSC. This established partnership facilitated a more smooth transition of community college criminal justice students into upper division coursework offered by the university.

The Department of Criminal Justice under the authority of the UTB partnership currently offers AAS degrees and baccalaureate degrees in criminal justice (BSCJ). The baccalaureate degree allows students to specialize in either police administration or correctional administration. These degrees are designed to prepare graduates for leadership and managerial positions in criminal justice agencies. The department also offers an on-line degree program in partnership with criminal justice programs at several other universities in the University of Texas system. Faculty in the criminal justice department also teach graduate courses that can be applied toward the Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies degree and the Master of Public Policy and Management degree offered by the university.

The department currently is comprised of ten full-time faculty members, eight of which hold a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice or Sociology. Current faculty members hold terminal degrees from Florida State University, Kansas State University, Sam Houston University, Texas A & M, the University of California-Riverside, the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and the University of Cincinnati.

For comments and questions, please contact the Webmaster.