Maj. Gen. James Earl Rudder returns to his beloved Tarleton

STEPHENVILLE (October 19, 2017) — James Earl Rudder returned to his beloved Tarleton this afternoon when the university unveiled a life-size bronze of the Army major general and American hero who later became president of Texas A&M University and chancellor of The Texas A&M University System.

Rudder started at Tarleton in 1927 (then a two-year college), where he captained the championship football team, became a ROTC lieutenant and majored in civil engineering before moving to Texas A&M to complete his bachelor’s degree. He returned to Tarleton in 1938, serving as teacher, head football coach and athletic director before entering active military duty in 1941.

The public unveiling of Rudder’s statue—the grand finale of Tarleton’s centennial celebration as founding member of the A&M System—took place following the fall Board of Regents meeting on the Stephenville campus. In concert with the ceremony, Vanderbilt Street on the university campus officially became Rudder Way.

Rudder rose to fame during World War II as commander of the historic assault up the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc—part of the Normandy D-Day Invasion—and is remembered as Texas A&M’s innovative president who transformed a regional all-male military school into the renowned university of today. The school became co-ed and integrated, and he championed its research function. Rudder died in 1970 as chancellor of the A&M System, having spent his final day on the Tarleton campus.

“The general is truly a great American hero and a visionary of higher education,” said A&M System Chancellor John Sharp. “Bringing him back to his beloved Tarleton is the right thing to do. His adult life and career began and ended on the Tarleton campus. This is the place he wanted to be.”

From left, Mike Tabor; Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio; Maj. Gen. James Earl Rudder’s daughters, Anne Erdman and Linda Williams, and son, Bud Rudder; Regent Anthony “Tony” Buzbee; and A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp celebrate the newly unveiled statue that serves as the centerpiece of Rudder Way.

In addition to Sharp and the A&M System Regents, more than two dozen members of the Rudder family attended the unveiling.

“Maj. Gen. Rudder forever will be remembered as a man who exemplified Tarleton’s core values,” said President F. Dominic Dottavio. “A monument to honor this distinguished alumnus, heroic soldier and forward-thinking leader is truly fitting as we wrap up our centennial celebration.”

Tarleton Distinguished Alumnus Mike Tabor created the Rudder statue, and Regent Anthony “Tony” Buzbee funded it.

As a member of the A&M Board of Regents, Buzbee had passed Rudder’s statue on the campus of Texas A&M in College Station hundreds of times and thought it made perfect sense for Tarleton to have one, too. Like Rudder, Buzbee is a Texas Aggie. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas A&M and a law degree summa cum laude from the University of Houston Law School.

“I deeply admire the men and women who bravely served and fought in World War II,” Buzbee said. “My grandfather was part of the D-Day Invasion at Normandy. It is a great honor to invest in Tarleton State University and the legacy of Earl Rudder as a true hero of The Texas A&M University System.”

Tabor graduated from Tarleton in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in art. One of America’s most respected Western Expressionist painters and an accomplished sculptor, his multiple-media portfolio includes the national renowned life-size bronze of Team Hoyt, the father-son duo best known for their 32-year participation in the Boston Marathon.

Tabor started work on the Rudder bronze at year’s end 2015, taking eight months to create a statue that portrays the military hero as a true American soldier and leader.

“My goal was to honor a fellow Tarleton alumnus with something meaningful for others to look at,” he said, “and to inspire them to live the Rudder Way.”

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