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Aiken, Bruce Tansil, (Historian), 1921-2002



  • Existence: 1921-09-05 - 2002-12-23


Born September 5, 1921 in Brownsville, Bruce Aiken was the oldest of three children born to Riley and Olga Aiken. He grew up in downtown Brownsville, a few blocks from the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.

Following his graduation from Brownsville High School in 1939, Aiken enrolled at Brownsville Junior College, later renamed Texas Southmost College. As UTRGV does for many students today, the junior college fed Aiken's lifetime love of learning and teaching.

At the junior college, Aiken was the artist for the yearbook, El Charro, played for the basketball team and was a member of the Foreign Language Club. In 1941, Aiken graduated with an Associate in Arts degree from Brownsville Junior College. He was one of 34 students in his graduating class.

Aiken continued his studies at The University of Texas at Austin. With the beginning of World War II, he joined many other young men in leaving college to join the military.

Shortly after completing service in the Army, he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from UT Austin and was inducted into Alpha Chi, the national honor scholarship society in 1949.

An early desire to go into business quickly became a dedication to teaching and education. In his 38-year career with the Brownsville Independent School District, Aiken was an elementary school teacher and principal, assistant high school principal and top-level administrator. While at BISD, he created the Personnel and Safety and Insurance Departments. An elementary school in Brownsville bears his name.

He also served as an adjunct faculty member for Texas Southmost College and Pan American University at Brownsville, teaching personnel and general management as well as marketing courses. He also served as a field supervisor for Alternative Certification interns for the Education Department.

At the age of 60, Aiken returned to college and enrolled in graduate school. Aiken recalled many times he was ready to give up, but in 1982 he walked across the stage and received his M.B.A. from Pan American University at Brownsville.

Considered Brownsville's "best living authority," Aiken was an expert on the history of Brownsville and South Texas. A member of the Texas Historical Commission, Aiken published extensively and was sought out frequently by researchers and authors for his historic expertise.

A chance encounter with a tourist at the airport, just after the war, sparked his continuing love affair with local history. Then an airplane employee, Aiken was approached by a visitor who wanted some background on Brownsville's Immaculate Conception Church. Aiken was mortified when another agent, new to South Texas, knew more about this landmark than he did.

Aiken served as Executive Director for the Historic Brownsville Museum, and wrote a weekly column on the city’s history for The Brownsville Herald. He compiled his newspapers columns in a book entitled Ballots, Bullets and Barking Dogs.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

UTB/TSC Spring Commencement & Distinguished Guests Reception, May 16, 1996

 File — BLIBR-0075-IA-N, Box: 1, Folder: 19
Scope and Contents

Folder contains UTB/TSC 1996 Distinguished Guest Reception program. NOTE: 1996 Commencement Program not included.

Dates: Event: May 16, 1996