In the early part of 1966, Texas Western College (now UTEP) acquired a new celebrity on campus named Henry. A burro, Henry was chosen to be the mascot of Texas Western College. Ron McCluskey, the Student Association President, described Henry in 1968 as symbolizing “the school spirit of the student body,” and “the stubbornness and determination characteristic of the athletic teams at U.T. El Paso.” Henry did not, however, become the school’s mascot without some controversy. He arrived on the campus scene largely due to a decision made by Texas Western’s president at the time, Joseph M. Ray. According to Ray, Henry’s predecessor, a burro named “Clyde,” was short not only in quality but also in physical appearance. The unfortunate Clyde was characterized as having a remarkably low-hanging belly, which gave him a strange-looking silhouette when standing in the sun at Texas Western’s football games. It became clear to many that the replacement of the unlucky Clyde needed to occur. In a letter written to the Dean of Students, Dr. C.E. Kelsey, Ray expressed “I have seen just about all I can stand of that sorry-looking, pot-bellied burro they have at the football games…Please be my agent and clean this matter up once and for all.” The burro Henry replaced Clyde shortly after the letter and was scheduled to appear at every football home game.
The Fall 1968 issue of UT El Paso’s NOVA magazine described Henry as “small, well-formed, attractive, and fun-loving, Henry handles with ease his position as U.T. El Paso’s mascot.” Although Henry seemed to be more satisfactory in appearance than Clyde, he was described as having a difficult temperament at times and an affinity for wandering. During Homecoming in 1967, Henry decided to leave his temporary dwelling in the Kappa Sigma fraternity’s backyard. Unnoticed by fraternity members, Henry wandered unescorted up to the stadium causing some commotion after nipping at bystanders whether out of irritation or a desire for attention. After his escape, Henry was moved to a new abode off of campus with a family who resided in the Upper Valley. The burro’s troublemaking during the 1967 Homecoming celebration led to Henry having an article written about him one year later in a November, 1968 issue of The Prospector. The campus newspaper article was published only two days before the 1968 Homecoming week began. In The Prospector, Ward Lynde, the official fraternity keeper of Henry claimed that the burro was a “cantankerous fellow last year.” Although Henry the burro was quite stubborn, he was accepted by the staff and student body as the school’s official mascot. Also In 1968, the then acting-president of U.T. El Paso, Dr. Milton Leech, remarked about the mascot:”Since the halftime show has become such a spectacle in American football games, institutions have had to try harder than ever before to provide entertainment not only for the hometown crowd but also for the TV audiences. Since we can’t have a real miner to represent U.T. El Paso, the next best thing seems to be the miner’s inevitable companion, the burro.”
Clyde and Henry were not the only burro’s to have the honor of being the school’s mascot. In 1943, “Dynamite” was the mascot when the school was known as the Texas College of Mines. Apparently, Dynamite was donated to the college by “Tio” Sam Myers, owner of the S.D. Myers Saddle Company in El Paso. “Jennie,” another burro, was shown in the October 28, 1948 El Paso Times, delivering newspapers to students who were painting the “M” on Mount Franklin, near Scenic drive. However, it is not known for sure if Jennie was an official mascot of the college. Another burro in the late 1950s was also the mascot, however there is no documentation as to what he was called. From the early 1960s, Clyde was Texas Western College’s mascot until his demotion by president Ray in 1966. After Henry’s time had passed as the mascot, another burro was named the official mascot and called “Mike the Miner burro.” Mike, who also went by the name Frank, was taken care of by the Chi Gamma Iota fraternity (XGI, from the Vietnam war,) and taken to the UTEP football games.
[Sources: NOVA: The University of Texas at El Paso Magazine, Fall, 1968, Vol. 4, No. 1.; The Prospector, November 12, 1968.; and Miner Mascots Exhibit Display Sheet: Live Burros, by Willie Quinn and the University of Texas at El Paso Heritage Commission, 2010.]
Bryan Winter is an assistant in the C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department of the UTEP Library. He earned a BS in Geography from New Mexico State University, and is currently in his final year as an MA student in History at UTEP.