The University of Texas has not been the only focus of the Friar Society’s efforts to “lend a hand in the social, moral, and intellectual uplift of the society wherein it may be its members’ lot to dwell.” The Society, from time to time, has been blessed with motivated men and women who not only work at bettering their communities and their state, but also see fit to involve their Friar brothers and sisters in their efforts.
C. B. Smith
One of these community-minded Friars is C. B. Smith of Austin. Smith was a leader in the economic and cultural development of the Austin community from the late 1940s to the mid-1980s. Born in Rotan, Texas, C. B. began his higher education at the Arlington Jr. College Branch of Texas A&M University, and then transferred to the University of Texas as a junior.
As a student, C. B. played football and competed in track and field. He was the first manager of the Little Campus Dormitory, majored in history and government, and did graduate work with Walter Prescott Webb, who became his life-long friend. In 1928, C. B. received B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University. After graduation, C.B. taught and coached at Houston Jr. College, then traveled to Mexico, where he developed his life-long passion for building better relations between the United States and Latin American nations. During WWII, C. B. served on the National War Production Board in Washington, D. C.
After the war, C. B. returned to Austin and started his highly successful Volkswagen dealership, located downtown on Lamar Ave. Between this time and his retirement, C.B. was chairman of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, president of the Austin Area Economic Development Foundation, co-founder of the Headliners Club, and board member for Brackenridge Hospital, St. Stephens School, St. Andrews School, and American National Bank.
While never elected to public office, C. B. was active in the Democratic Party and was a member of President Lyndon Johnson’s President’s Club. He has continued to give back to the University through numerous monetary and non-monetary gifts, including books from his private collection and multiple endowed chairs in Latin American studies.
Aside from Friar Smith’s personal accomplishments, he has, over the years, involved his fellow Friars in his exploits. In 1964, he initiated a program in cooperation with the University of Texas Press and the active Friars to have Friar alumni donate books published by the UT Press on Texas heritage, history, and current trends to their local libraries. In 1969, C. B., concerned about growing unrest on college campuses nationwide, arranged a breakfast with students and administrators at his home to discuss issues of concern in an effort to prevent situations similar to those at Kent State, Harvard, or Cornell from happening in Austin.
In March of 1962, C. B. lent a helping hand to fellow Friar John Connally in his successful bid for governor. As president of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association (TADA), C. B. wrote fellow dealers across the state to encourage them to support Friar Connally, specifically referencing the Society as the first occasion in which he had the opportunity to meet Connally. This is just one documented example of C. B.’s passion for both the Society and the improvement of Texas.
The Friar Cocktail
Friar Bill Murray began a Friar tradition in the 1960s that lasts to this day and does well to facilitate informal contact among Friars and State and University officials — the Friar cocktail. Murray started these cocktail parties initially as a way for the (at the time) all-male society to involve their wives and girlfriends, who by tradition were not permitted to attend the Society’s semester breakfasts.
While many of the initial cocktails were hosted at Murray’s Lake Austin home, over the years they have grown to include non-Friars as well as Friars, and they are generally hosted by a Friar alumnus or group of alumni at locations across Austin the night before the Sunday morning Friar breakfast.
The Friar cocktails not only honor the Society’s new initiates, but they also provide the Society an opportunity for old friends from across the state, nation, and even the world to come together in a “reunion” format — but it’s a reunion with a purpose: to work toward bettering the University of Texas.