WACO, Texas (KWTX) Services have been scheduled for the state lawmaker and attorney who earned the sobriquet “Mr. TSTC” for authoring the legislation that transformed a former Air Force base into the flagship of what today is the Texas State Technical College system.
Murray Watson, Jr., died peacefully Tuesday night at his home in Waco.
He was 86.
Visitation is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey Funeral Home at 6101 Bosque Boulevard in Waco.
The funeral service is at 11 a.m. at Austin Avenue Methodist Church at 1300 Austin Ave. in Waco.
Tributes flowed Wednesday as news of Watson’s death spread.
"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.
Watson, a 1952 Baylor University graduate and a 1954 graduate of the Baylor Law School, was elected to the Texas House in 1957 and then to the Texas Senate in 1963 where he authored the bill that led to the transformation of the just-closed James Connally Air Force Base in Waco into Texas State Technical Institute, now Texas State Technical College, which has grown to 10 campuses around the state.
He remained in the state Senate until 1973.
In 2017, he was named Baylor Lawyer of the Year.
"He was an effective legislator as both state representative and senator and was extremely successful in supporting higher education in Texas," retired State District Judge George Allen said.
"I knew Murray very well and thought highly of him," Allen said.
Former Central Texas Congressman Chet Edwards said he was extremely saddened by Watson's passing.
"I just heard (Wednesday) morning and I was devastated."
"I knew him well and I always admired his ability to be successful in public service," Edwards said by telephone from his Reston, Va., home Wednesday.
"One hell of a man, one hell of a man is all I can say," Claude Ervin, retired U.S. Air Force captain and former administrator at Baylor University said.
Ervin sits on the Brazos Higher Education Board, one of the boards that Watson created to serve students in the Central Texas area in applying for and getting accepted to college.
Ervin said he saw Watson just a couple of weeks ago and he was spry and active.
But Ervin said a springtime bout with pneumonia that kept Watson in the hospital for several days "seemed to slow him down a little bit."
Ervin also said in recent days Watson had travelled to Houston for treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, "but he only did that one."
Ervin and Edwards both mentioned Watson's hand in the creation of TSTC.
"He has touched so many lives over the years by championing a path to higher education for thousands of Texans," Edwards said.
"I just hope young people who are benefiting from education opportunities that he and others created at TSTC someday learn about him and follow in his footsteps," Edwards said.
"All of us around here could try, but no matter what we did we never could repay what Murray Watson did for Waco, McLennan County, the State of Texas and the country," Ervin said.
"Like I said, he was one hell of a man and we're all better off for having him around for as long as we did."
Watson is survived by his wife, Greta, the couple's two children, Missy Watson Larson and Marcus Warren Watson; and two grandchildren, Annika and Niklas Larson.