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Debate Team Hall of Fame

Date released: 03/08/04

SAN MARCOS – The LBJ Debate Society, the Elton Abernathy Forensics Society and the Department of Communication Studies at Texas State University-San Marcos celebrate the 100th anniversary of debate at the university with the induction of the inaugural class into the Debate Team Hall of Fame.

The first class of eight inductees included two professors, several Texas State Distinguished Alumni and one U.S. president: Elton Abernathy came to Texas State as speech chairman and debate coach in 1946, retiring in 1979 after 33 years at the university. He coached the debate team for 15 years and in 1970 the forensics team honored him by naming the organization after him.

Dr. Benjamin Peter Dailey, Jr., received his B.S. in chemistry from Texas State in 1938 and was a pioneer in microwave spectroscopy, whose work lead to the invention of the laser and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging. He was named a Guggenheim Fellow as well as a Fellow in the Academy of the American Sciences and Art and has been a researcher for the National Defense Research Committee.

Dr. John T. Dailey was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Texas State in 1975, graduating with a with a degree in Government and Education in 1936. A pioneer in the anti-terrorism tactics, Dailey developed psychological and behavioral profiles for the detection of potential airplane hijackers in the 1960s when he worked for the FAA.

Howard Melvin Greene taught government at Texas State from 1923-1957 and was instrumental in establishing the Jeffersonian Literary Society as a focal organization for interests in history, debate, politics and literature in 1931. His former student, Lyndon Johnson, introduced him to President John Kennedy as “The man that started the fires under me.”

Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, is perhaps Texas State’s most famous former debate team member. The architect of the Great Society graduated with a B.S. degree in 1930. Prior to entering politics, he took a job teaching public speaking at Sam Houston High School in Houston, where his debate team won the district championship.

Clyde Willbern graduated from Texas State in 1940, teaching speech and coaching debate in Yoakum. He received a law degree in 1948 from the University of Texas and went on to become a corporate attorney for Phillips and Getty Oil. He was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the Department of Communication Studies in 1995.

Roy Willbern received his B.A. in speech and English in 1938, teaching and coaching debate at Alvin and Regan High Schools. He received his law degree in 1951 and was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 1987. In 1989 was named Outstanding Alumnus of the Department of Communication Studies. His book, The White Star Story, provides an excellent look at debate in its early years.

York Willbern founded Pi Kappa Delta on the Texas State campus and served as its first president. He is a Professor Emeritus and University Professor Emeritus of political science at Indiana University. He has also served as a visiting professor at Duke University and Columbia University as well as Victoria University, New Zealand, and American University, Beirut.