Friday, August 11, 2017


The former avowed Marxist history professor at College of the Mainland and its de facto president for 17 years was a best buddy until we had a bitter outfalling over Iraq War 1

Wednesday, August 9, 2017 was a very sad day for me. I lost a former good friend when Larry Smith passed away.

Larry learned in June that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer and would have only a short time left to live.

When I joined the faculty at College of the Mainland in 1970 it didn’t take but a few weeks for me to realize the school should have been named College of the Disneyland. The college had a nice but nutty president whose goal in life was to atone for the sins of his slave-owning ancestors. The school seemed to be influenced by a few Marxists on its faculty. In keeping with the communist proclaimed equality of mankind, students were considered junior partners of the faculty. Awarding students a failing grade was considered an undeserved form of punishment.

Larry was the leading Marxist at the college. He was a very principled person and one of the very few at COM who actually practiced the schools motto, Humanhood Through Brotherhood.

Larry was committed to make life better for the common folks. He was not a phony! He firmly held to the belief that capitalism was evil, that it oppressed the workers. According to many of my students, Larry’s history course was replete with rants about the evils of capitalism and the mistreatment of our indigenous peoples and, of course, our minorities. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was his hero.

Despite our political differences, Larry and I became good friends from the get go. We had many heated discussions in which I criticized what he was teaching in his history classes. Those differences did not affect our friendship which remained firm until the outbreak of Iraq War 1. Larry believed the real reason we invaded Iraq was to protect America’s evil and oppressive oil companies. As a patriotic citizen I was sickened by Larry’s stance on the war and as a result we had a long lasting outfall.

Larry’s number one booster was Roy Engelke, a long-time trustee of the college. In 1983 I suffered a crushed heel in the wake of Hurricane Alicia when I fell off a ladder while trying to saw off a partially broken tree limb. While I was in the hospital I was visited by Roy. After a few remarks about what happened to me and about my condition, Roy asked me, “How would you feel if Larry Stanley became president?” When I told him I did not care one way or another, he told me that he had asked Larry to be president. According to Roy, Larry appreciated the offer but suggested he find someone else because he was too controversial. When Roy asked him who he would recommend, Larry recommended Larry Stanley, a music instructor at the college whose only management experience was during a brief stint as chairman of the college’s fine arts department. That was only a supervisory position and not an administrative one.

And that’s how Larry Stanley became COM president. There was no search conducted as required by state law and no interviews conducted for the position. Even though Stanley never had any administrative experience and served only briefly as a supervisor, Roy persuaded his fellow trustees to appoint an unqualified faculty member as president. But during the 17 years Stanley served as president (1983-2000), Larry Smith was the de facto president of College of the Mainland. The two Larrys were tighter than the bark on a tree. I doubt Stanley would have gone to the restroom without first getting Larry’s approval.

Actually the real reason Larry turned Roy down was not because he was controversial, but because as president he would no longer have a platform to voice his displeasure with capitalism and all the perceived wrongs about how the country had been and was being governed.

Two incidents come to mind. One time another Marxist and I were about to engage in some fisticuffs on campus. Larry and Jim Finley, another professor, spotted us and ran over to break us apart. Larry and Jim probably saved my bacon because the other guy, who was later fired for groping a secretary, was much bigger than me.

Even after our outfalling, Larry still came to my aid. When the Texas City newspaper started publishing Larry’s views on the Iraq war and his other criticisms of our government, physics professor John Hubisz and I went to the paper to express our opposing views. On one occasion, my wife and I offered to buy Larry a one-way airline ticket to any country of his choice. This infuriated the Dean of Instruction who had been appointed to his position by the two Larrys. That weasel of a dean went so far as to physically confront me in the presence of a dozen or so students and followed that up with a letter warning me I would be fired if I continued to criticize Larry in public.

Receipt of that letter led me to seek help from the Houston-Galveston area chapter of the ACLU. When I went to Houston to present my case to the ACLU board of directors, there to my surprise, one of the directors was Larry. When the board agreed to represent me, one of those who voted in my favor was Larry. He believed, along with the other ACLU board members, that my rights to free speech were being infringed by the dean of destruction – oops – that should read instruction.

Some years after I retired in 1993, Larry and I buried the hatchet at a COM employee recognition event.

Some of you may see this post as a left-handed tribute to Larry. But far from it, Despite our differences while we were friends and after our fallout, I always saw Larry as a man of principle who was a true believer in the causes he espoused. I admit this is a slap at COM, but definitely not at Larry. As I said before, Larry was one of the very few at COM who actually practiced the schools motto, Humanhood Through Brotherhood.

I am so very glad that my son and I were able to visit with Larry on Sunday, just three days before he passed on. Although he had lost weight, Larry looked good and seemed to be in good spirits, outwardly at least. We had quite a few laughs together and I never imagined the end of his life was so close at hand.

There has to be a special place in heaven for guys like Larry, even if they don’t believe in God.

My condolences go to Larry’s children. Your dad was an amazing man. He was loved by and will be missed by many former COM students. Many children are not blessed with having a father who strived hard to make life better for the common man. Your father was the real deal.

Larry, you old SOB, may you rest in peace!


bob walsh said...

My condolences on the loss of your old compadre.

Anonymous said...

COM educated several members of my family. Regardless of the history of left wing politics being taught, COM made education affordable for a lot of Galveston County residents. Many of those residents went on to become nurses, welders, teachers, police officers and even politicians.

COM provided opportunities for many.

RIP, President Larry Smith.

BarkGrowlBite said...

Very well said Anon. And during the 23 years I taught criminal justice at COM, several of my students became Chiefs of Police and several of my students became state prison inmates.

You are absolutely right. COM deliberately kept its tuition lower than most other community colleges in order to give people in Galveston County an opportunity to obtain a higher education which they might not have afforded otherwise. And the college did a good job for those who took advantage of that opportunity.

Thank you for your comment. I should have said that in my tribute to Larry. I didn't, and that's my bad.