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James Earl Rudder

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Subject: History of Texas A&M University, 2nd Ranger Battalion (United States), Eden, Texas, United States Army Rangers, Texas A&M University
Collection: 1910 Births, 1970 Deaths, American Military Personnel of World War II, Chancellors of Texas A&M University System, Commissioners of the General Land Office of Texas, Légion D'Honneur Recipients, Mayors of Places in Texas, Operation Overlord People, People from Concho County, Texas, Presidents of Texas A&M University, Recipients of the Bronze Star Medal, Recipients of the Croix De Guerre (Belgium), Recipients of the Croix De Guerre (France), Recipients of the Croix De Guerre 1939–1945 (France), Recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross (United States), Recipients of the Distinguished Service Medal (United States), Recipients of the Legion of Merit, Recipients of the Order of Leopold (Belgium), Recipients of the Purple Heart Medal, Recipients of the Silver Star, Tarleton State Texans Football Coaches, Texas A&M University Alumni, Texas A&M University Faculty, Texas Democrats, United States Army Generals, United States Army Rangers
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James Earl Rudder

James Earl Rudder
Born (1910-05-06)May 6, 1910
Eden, Texas
Died March 23, 1970(1970-03-23) (aged 59)
Houston, Texas
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1941–1967
Rank Major general
Battles/wars World War II
Cold War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal (2)

James Earl Rudder (May 6, 1910 – March 23, 1970) was the United States Army major general who as a lieutenant colonel was the commander of the historic Pointe du Hoc battle which was part of the Invasion of Normandy. He also at various times served as Texas Land Commissioner, the sixteenth president of Texas A&M University, third president of the Texas A&M University System, the mayor of Brady, Texas, and was a high school and college teacher and coach.

Early life

Rudder was born on May 6, 1910, in Eden in Concho County east of San Angelo. He was the son of Dee Forest Rudder and the former Annie Powell. He attended John Tarleton Agricultural College for two years before transferring to Texas A&M. He earned a degree in industrial education in 1932. In 1933, he began work as a football coach and teacher at Brady High School in Brady, in McCulloch County, Texas. June 12, 1937, he wed Margaret E. Williamson. The couple had five children: James Earl "Bud" Rudder, Jr., Jane Rudder Roach (d. 1984), Robert Dee Rudder, Anne Rudder Erdman, and Linda Rudder Williams. In 1938, Rudder became a football coach and teacher at Tarleton Agricultural College.

Military career

Texas historical marker in the German observation bunker at Pointe du Hoc

After graduation from Texas A&M, Rudder had been commissioned a D-Day landings as Commanding Officer of the United States Army's 2nd Ranger Battalion. His U.S. Army Rangers stormed the beach at Pointe du Hoc, scaling 100-foot (30 meter) cliffs under enemy fire to reach and destroy German gun batteries. The battalion's casualty rate for this perilous mission was greater than 50 percent. Rudder himself was wounded twice during the course of the fighting. In spite of this, they dug in and fought off German counter-attacks for two days until relieved. He and his men helped to successfully establish a beachhead for the Allied forces. The siege was replicated in the 1962 epic film The Longest Day.

Seven months later, Rudder was assigned to command the 109th Infantry Regiment, which saw key service in the Battle of the Bulge. Rudder earned military honors including the Distinguished Service Cross, Legion of Merit, Silver Star, Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, French Legion of Honor with Croix de Guerre and Palm, and Order of Leopold (Belgium) with Croix de Guerre and Palm. He was a full Colonel by the war's end and was promoted to Brigadier General of the United States Army Reserve in 1954 and Major General in 1957.

Political and academic career

Rudder's statue on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, Texas.

Rudder served as mayor of his hometown of Brady, Texas for six years. In 1953, he became vice president of Brady Aviation Company. On January 1, 1955, he assumed the office of Texas Land Commissioner after James Bascom Giles abandoned the position. At that time the Veterans Land Program was under scrutiny for mismanagement and corruption. Rudder undertook the task of reforming policies, expediting land applications, and closely supervising proper accounting procedures. He also oversaw the proper leasing of state lands by employing more field inspectors for oil and gas sites and adding a seismic exploration staff. In addition, he improved working conditions for his staff and instigated a program to preserve the many deteriorating General Land Office documents.

Rudder won the 1956 state land commissioner election as a Democrat. He became vice president of Texas A&M University in 1958. Rudder became president in 1959 and president of the entire A&M System from 1965 to his death in 1970. In 1967 President Lyndon B. Johnson presented him with the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest peacetime service award. Since his death in 1970, an annual service has been held in Normandy, France, in his honour.

While president of Texas A&M, Rudder is credited for transforming the University from a small land-grant college to a renowned university. Specifically, he made membership in the Corps of Cadets optional, allowed women to attend, and led efforts to integrate the campus. While the changes were hugely unpopular to the former students (it has been said only a president with Rudder's heroic military record could pull off such drastic changes), there is no doubt these changes freed Texas A&M to become one of the largest universities in the U.S.

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