Funeral arrangements have been set for former state legislator Murray Watson, Jr who died at his home Tuesday night at age 86.
Visitation will be Friday from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. at Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey Funeral Home at 6101 Bosque Boulevard in Waco.
Funeral service wil be Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at Austin Avenue Methodist Church at 1300 Austin Avenue in Waco.
He was elected to the Texas House of Representatives 1957 and served there until 1963 when he was elected to the Texas Senate.
Watson filed legislation in 1969 to separate what was an arm of the Texas A&M University system to become a stand-alone institution for technical education that was first called James Connally Technical Institute for the former Air Force Base where it was located and which later became Texas State Technical Collage with campuses in various locations across the state.
“If there was ever a Mr. TSTC, it would be Murray Watson,” said Elton Stuckly Jr., TSTC’s executive vice chancellor and chief strategic relations officer.
At TSTC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in April 2015 in Austin, Watson was honored with a Founder’s Award.
Watson’s name is on TSTC’s student recreation center on Campus Drive. That factored into his wife, Greta, having been honored with the nearby Culinary Arts building being named for her.
Stuckly said Watson was a mentor who would give him advice.
“He always stayed in contact with me by email,” Stuckly said. “He was always looking for ways and ideas of how to make TSTC a better college.”
Stuckly said he and Watson always found much to talk about.
“He grew up in Mart, and I was raised in Penelope,” Stuckly said. “He always wanted to ask about TSTC first, then talk about farm cattle and his feed store and what I used to do on the farm. He said, ‘Elton, there aren’t many people that I can talk to who relate to those times.'”
Verna Lastrapes, a TSTC college outreach specialist, grew up knowing the Watson family in Mart. She said Watson’s family owned the local feed store, which she would visit as a four-year-old with her father at least twice a week to catch up with residents.
“Murray Jr. was a senior at Mart High School then,” she said. “I knew him well because he and my sister, Barbara, were friends.”
Pete Rowe, TSTC’s vice president for institutional development, hauled hay for Watson when he was a teenager in Mart. Rowe also graduated from Mart High School.
“It’s a personal loss for me because I loved him so much,” Rowe said. “He was a great mentor to me. He and Mrs. Watson have always been very kind to me and have done a lot for me in my life and career.”
Lastrapes said residents in Mart thought Watson would be president one day.
“He did not become president, but he did become our state representative and our state senator,” she said. “As a teenager, I remember helping campaign for him. Just about everyone in Mart campaigned for him.”
The feed store factored into Watson’s law career.
“When he lost the campaign for U.S. representative and went into private law practice, he had his office in Waco and one in Mart above the feed store,” Lastrapes said. “For years that is where he conducted all legal transactions with my daddy and other rural area farmers and businessmen.”
Rowe said Watson raised cattle and is sure he must have encountered on his ranch some of what TSTC teaches today.
“Murray was a highly intelligent person,” he said. “He was way ahead of the curve in the education field. He really studied education. He knew what to do.”
Lastrapes worked several years at the Brazos Higher Education Service Corp. Inc., which financed student loans. Watson was one of the organization’s founders.
“He had his own time schedule,” she said. “We began to say, ‘The starting time is when Murray Watson gets there.’ That was for everything!”
John K. Hatchel, chair of the TSTC Board of Regents, worked with Watson as a member of the Brazos Higher Education Service’s board of directors.
“He was very quiet, but he was consistent,” Hatchel said. “If there was a person who needed something or help, he was the first in line to do his part. He did it not expecting any accolades or thank-you’s. He just did it as a person.”