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The Eyes of Texas

UT Students and Football players singing The Eyes of Texas after a win versus Nebraska

"The Eyes of Texas" is the school spirit song of the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at El Paso. It is set to the tune of "I've Been Working on the Railroad." Students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the University sing the song at Longhorn sports games and other events.


  • History 1
  • Usage in popular culture 2
    • Appearances in film 2.1
    • Appearances in other songs 2.2
  • Notes 3
  • External links 4


The Eyes of Texas at a University of Texas basketball game
The Eyes of Texas after a University of Texas baseball game

The song was written in 1903 by John Sinclair, editor of the Cactus yearbook and a UT band member, per the request of band member Lewis Johnson. Johnson was also the program director of the Varsity Minstrel Show that raised funds for the university track team. He debuted the song at the minstrel show, also known as a blackface performance. [7]

The lyrics are said to be intended to poke fun at University President Colonel Prather. Prather had attended Washington College, now Washington and Lee University, whose president, Robert E. Lee, would frequently tell his students, "the eyes of the South are upon you." Prather was known for including in his speeches a similar admonition, "The Eyes of Texas are Upon You," meaning that the state of Texas was watching and expecting the students to go out and do great things. Prather enjoyed the song and promoted its usage. He died not long thereafter, and the song was played at his funeral.

An alternate source for the song's inspiration is offered in Hood's Texas Brigade: Lee's Grenadier Guard, a 1970 book by Col. Harold B. Simpson that tracked the history of the vaunted Texas Brigade during the Civil War. The brigade served under General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and fought with distinction in nearly all of the Civil War's pivotal battles. But their finest hour occurred on May 6, 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness.

General Grant's troops had broken the Confederate line and were driving the fleeing graycoats in disarray back into their reserves. The collapse of Lee's army - and the Confederate cause - seemed imminent when the Texas Brigade arrived with a resounding Rebel yell after an exhausting overnight march.

Moved by their fighting spirit, Lee himself rode to the front of the Texas line on his horse, Traveller, and remarked to his aides, "Texans always move them." The remark was passed down the cheering line, and the brigade formed into attack formation. Knowing that the charge would be deadly, the Brigade refused to move until General Lee moved behind them. ("General Lee to the rear.") Their commander, Col. John Gregg, then ordered them forward: "Attention Texas Brigade. The eyes of General Lee are upon you. Forward march!"

The 811-man brigade surged forward and stopped the federal advance before driving the bluecoats back through two of their defensive lines. Their frontal assault against superior numbers was brutal and costly with 565 casualties (dead and wounded). But it saved the day and prolonged the Confederacy for another year.

Simpson's history is exhaustively sourced and deserving of serious consideration as the primary inspiration for the song. After the war, Lee retired to Washington College (now Washington and Lee University), where he taught Prather and could easily have related both the story and the saying. Lee had an abiding respect for the courage, strength and character of his "Texian" fighters, who were arguably the South's finest troops. Prather was one of the pallbearers at Lee's funeral in 1870.

The song is sung at momentous occasions such as graduation and even solemn occasions such as funerals. Led by the Longhorn Marching Band, it was sung at the July 14, 2007 funeral of First Lady Ray Castoldi played it when the Houston Rockets defeated the New York Knicks in the seventh game of the 1994 NBA Finals to clinch Texas' first NBA championship.

Highway rest stops through the state feature road signs stating that "The Eyes of Texas are upon You!" These signs feature a silhouette of a Texas Ranger, encouraging motorists to call 9-1-1 to report criminal activity.

The Eyes of Texas is also the alma mater of the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). At the time, UTEP was called Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy (TCM). It was adopted in 1920 by the student body after UT (Austin) had declared it their school anthem. UTEP is the second oldest academic component of the U.T. System, having been founded in 1914.

The Eyes of Texas is also the sung at the graduation of University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). UTMB is the first, but not the only state medical school. [8]

The song originally appeared in the "Carmina Princetonia: The Princeton Song Book" as "Levee Song." It combines both the "Eyes of Texas" and "Texas Fight".

Usage in popular culture

Appearances in film

Appearances in other songs

  • The song forms the chorus portion of "VI. Chorale and Finale" from Oedipus Tex and Other Choral Calamities.
  • The rock group Masters of Reality uses the title in the lyrics of their song "The Eyes of Texas", on their 1988 self-titled debut album.
  • The Aggie War Hymn references the song with the lyrics "'The Eyes of Texas are upon you', that is the song they sing so well (sounds like hell)".
  • The opening fanfare of "If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)" features Alabama's vocalists – accompanied by just a piano – singing a few bars of "The Eyes of Texas." This introduction leads into the single's opening, which suddenly picks up the tempo to a quick duple-meter.
  • The Christmas song "Santa Got Lost In Texas" is based on the melody, with lyrics rewritten by Ken Darby. It was introduced by Michael Landon in the LP "Bonanza - Christmas On The Ponderosa" in 1963. The Jeff Carson version became a national chart record in early 1996.


  1. ^ Holley, Joe (July 15, 2007). "Lady Bird Johnson is remembered". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  2. ^ a b "Lady Bird Johnson Funeral - The Eyes of Texas". Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  1. ^ "It’s a Century Later, and the Eyes of Texas are Still Upon You" Support UT news story from March 2003 concerning the centennial of The Eyes of Texas
  2. ^ Film review of "Giant" - Accessed 20 March 2006
  3. ^ The Alamo - Accessed 20 March 2006
  4. ^ "The Eyes of Texas Are Upon Excellence Award Winners"
  5. ^ P.D.Q. Bach. "VI. Chorus and Finale". Oedipus Tex and Other Choral Calamities. CD. Telarc CD-80239, 1990.

External links

  • "The Eyes of Texas" performed by the Texas Longhorn Band
  • Eyes of Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online
  • Lyrics and history of "The Eyes of Texas" and other Texas traditionals
  • Official Student Organization listing of "The Eyes of Texas"
  • The Eyes of The Eyes of Texas Are Upon Us at the Wayback Machine (archived October 12, 2004)
  • The Eyes of Texas Award
  • [12]
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