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Rudder James Earl

James Earl Rudder
Major General
Serial Number:
2nd Ranger Battalion
Date of Death:
College Station Cemetery, Texas
Section F
Distinguished Service Cross; Legion of Merit; Silver Star; Bronze Star with

Rudder was born on May 6, 1910, at Eden, Texas,the son of Dee Forest Rudder and the former Annie Clark. He attended John Tarleton Agricultural College in 1928-1929. He then enrolled in 1930 at Texas A&M and graduated in 1932 with a degree in industrial education. After graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry in the United States Army Reserve. In 1933, he began work as a football coach and teacher at Brady High School in Brady, Texas. On June 12, 1937, he wed the former Margaret E. Williamson (1916-2004). In 1938, Rudder became a football coach and teacher at Tarleton Agricultural College. He was called into active military duty in 1941. Rudder took part in the 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 and, under constant enemy fire, scaled 100-foot (30 meter) cliffs 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. Seven months later, Rudder was assigned to command the 109th Infantry Regiment, which saw key service in the Battle of the Bulge. Rudder became one of the most decorated soldiers of the war. By the end of the war, he was a full Colonel and was promoted to Brigadier General of the United States Army Reserves in 1954 and Major General in 1957. Rudder served as mayor of Brady, Texas, from 1946 to 1952 and was vice president of Brady Aviation Company in 1953. On January 1, 1955, he assumed the office of state Land Commissioner after the abandonment of the position by James Bascom Giles. 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. On the strength of his many reforms, Rudder was the Democratic nominee, and won the election for land commissioner in 1956 and served until February 1, 1958. That year, he became vice president of Texas A&M University. Rudder became president in 1959 and president of the entire A&M System in 1965 until his death in 1970.Since his death in 1970, an annual service has been held in Normandy, France, in his honor. 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 and allowed women to attend. There are many reminders of Rudder on campus, including Rudder Tower, next to the Memorial Student Center, and a statue. Additionally, a special training unit within the Corps of Cadets known as "Rudder's Rangers" is named in his honor. Cadets within the Corps of Cadets at A&M are expected to be able to recite an excerpt from the inscription on Rudder tower, a "Campusology" that reads: "In memory of James Earl Rudder, 1910-1970, Class of 1932, Heroic Soldier, Commissioner of the General Land Office of Texas, Sixteenth President of Texas A&M University Third President of Texas A&M University System. Earl Rudder was architect of the dream that produced this center. In this, as in all he did, he demonstrated uncommon ability to inspire men and lead them to exceptional achievement."