Jarvis Christian University, an accredited, private, co-educational, church-related college, is located one mile east of Hawkins, Texas, and four miles west of Big Sandy, Texas, on U.S. Highway 80. It is fourteen miles from U.S. Interstate 20. Accessible Texas cities within a radius of thirty miles are Mineola, eighteen miles west; Gladewater, fifteen miles east; Tyler, twenty miles south; and Longview, twenty-five miles east. Tyler and Longview have populations of approximately 83,800 and 75,500, respectively. Both cities have daily airline service to the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Shreveport, Louisiana is accessible via Interstate 20 for airline connections to all parts of the United States and foreign countries.
Jarvis is free from the noise and smog of the big city and is conducive for study, but retains access to neighboring metropolitan areas. It is approximately 100 miles southeast of Dallas.
The campus is situated in an attractive wooded area of about 1,000 acres, providing adequate room for future expansion. The campus proper covers approximately 243 acres.
Jarvis Christian University is a historically Black institution that has been affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) since inception. Jarvis Christian University began as Jarvis Christian Institute, modeled after the Southern Christian Institute of Edwards, Mississippi. Formal instructional programs commenced on January 13, 1913, with an enrollment of twelve students, all in the elementary grades.
The recorded history began in 1904, when the Negro Disciples of Christ in Texas, spearheaded by Mrs. Mary Alphin, State Organizer, in conjunction with the Christian Woman’s Board of Missions, began planning for a school for Black youth. Financial goals were set. The Negro Disciples of Christ in Texas were to raise $1,000 for a school; the Christian Woman’s Board of Missions would contribute $10,000 if this were done. Meanwhile, Miss Virginia Hearn, State Secretary for Women’s Work, convinced Mrs. Ida Van Zandt Jarvis of the need for a school for Black youth.
In turn, Mrs. Jarvis worked to persuade her husband, Major James Jones Jarvis, to donate land upon which a school could be built. In 1910, Major and Mrs. Jarvis deeded 456 acres of land near Hawkins, Texas, to the Christian Woman’s Board of Missions on the condition that it “keep up and maintain a school for the elevation and education of the Negro race… in which school there shall be efficient religious and industrial training.” Inherent in the spirit of the donation was the idea that the land would be used to educate “head, heart, and hand” and to produce “useful citizens and earnest Christians.”
Although the thrust of the educational program has changed dramatically since then, Jarvis Christian University has continued to educate “head, heart, and hand,” a challenging and ambitious purpose. Shortly after the land was donated, the Negro Disciples of Christ in Texas, largely through the efforts of the women of the churches, successfully completed the fundraising campaign.