Joe, '49, and Barbara Allbritton

September 29, 2011
Joe and Barbara Allbritton Legacy Award Winners

Baylor Legacy Award

Individuals who demonstrate extraordinary service and philanthropy to Baylor or causes that fit the university's mission

Joe, LLB '49, & Barbara Allbritton

  • Generous supporters of Baylor Law School, the debate program, the art department, Moody Memorial Library and George W. Truett Theological Seminary
  • Donors of the Allbritton House, the home of Baylor presidents since 1974
  • Recipients of Baylor Founders Medallion in 2003
  • The Allbrittons reside in Houston and have one son, Robert Allbritton, and two grandchildren

Mr. Allbritton:

  • Founder and owner of Allbritton Communications Company, which owns and operates television, cable and Internet companies and; past chairman and CEO of Riggs National until 2003
  • Bestowed an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Baylor in 1964 and was a Baylor Distinguished Alumnus in 1974
  • Served on the boards of three presidential foundations, the National Geographic Society, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Houston Symphony Society and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as well as numerous philanthropic organizations such as the Allbritton Foundation, the Killson Educational Foundation and the Baylor Foundation

Mrs. Allbritton:

  • Active in educational, civic and religious affairs in Houston and Washington, D.C.
  • Currently a Baylor College of Medicine trustee; has previously served on boards of the Friends of the National Archives of the United States and the Smithsonian Association

As a boy, Joe Allbritton spent his summers working in the kitchen of his family's cafeteria business. Born into a Baptist family as the sixth of seven children in D'Lo, Miss., Allbritton's family moved to Texas when he was a small child.

"During those days in the kitchen, I gained a lot of experience working with other people, but I also quickly learned that the cafeteria business was not what I wanted to do with my life," remembers Allbritton.

Allbritton says his father wanted him to attend Rice, but his mother wanted him to attend Baylor.
"My mother prevailed," he says. "I enrolled at Baylor, but my education was interrupted by World War II. I returned to Baylor to complete my undergraduate studies and to receive my law degree."

Allbritton says many Baylor professors and classmates became lifelong friends, and his fondest memories are of competing on the debate team.

"Our debate team won national championships twice, and Glenn Capp, our debate professor, guided and mentored me as a student. He and Abner McCall provided two of the greatest influences of my entire life," says Allbritton.

"While I was good at debating, academics were a challenge, and I was always happy to receive a 'C'," he says. "In fact, when I was in law school, Dean Abner McCall almost flunked me. The story goes that I needed a lesson in humility! I attribute Baylor as the beginning of my opportunities to prepare me to advance in life and to achieve the successes I have been fortunate to have."

Following his time at Baylor, Allbritton practiced law in Houston before turning his attention to the financial and communications industries. In 1974, he entered the communications industry and built what is now known as Allbritton Communications Company, which owns and operates television, cable and Internet companies and He is now semi-retired after a very successful career as an executive in the banking and media industries.

His wife Barbara, a University of Houston graduate, has served as an officer and board member for many of the couple's businesses, including Allbritton Communications. Today she is director and executive vice president of Allbritton Communications and director and vice president of Perpetual Corp. in Houston.
Thankfully, the Allbrittons have allowed Baylor to benefit from their success. Many students who come through the ranks of the Baylor Law School or the debate program at Baylor University have experienced first-hand the couple's generosity. From the Law School's Abner McCall Chair in Evidence, to the Joe L. and Barbara B. Allbritton Endowment Fund in support of the Glenn R. Capp Chair in Forensics, the Allbrittons have helped provide for the recruitment and retention of a world-class faculty.

Their appreciation for the classroom experience extends through the Allbritton Art Institute, where Baylor students explore art history of the 19th and 20th centuries. A pillar within Baylor's Department of Art, the Allbritton Art Institute offers invaluable opportunities to students such as extraordinary excursions to Chicago, New York and Paris as well as a rich curriculum of art history courses and an annual symposium."

I am thankful that, with my wife and son, we have been able to establish the Allbritton Art Institute here at Baylor," says Joe. "Baylor deserved an extended arm to its art department, and with the help of John McClanahan, who recently retired as director of the Institute, we have been able to provide many new opportunities for its students. The Institute has grown from 35 students in 1998-99 to 636 students in 2010-11."

Through the years, many institutions have called upon the Allbrittons' expertise through board service. Joe served on the Baylor University Board of Trustees from 1959-68 and then as a Baylor University Regent from 1998-2001. Both have served as trustees for Baylor College of Medicine in Houston; Joe is a former chairman, and Barbara currently serves on the board. 

"Baylor has a history of outstanding leadership," says Joe. "Abner McCall was a major force in making Baylor what it is today. Ken Starr, now, has come to Baylor at a time when his experience and expertise will give Baylor a balanced leadership perspective to move well into the 21st century. Like other presidents, his family and their support are important. Alice Starr is a real asset, and Baylor is fortunate to have both of them here to guide this fine institution into a very strong and vital future.

"As the world changes, so will Baylor, I am sure of that. And its only direction is to be a stronger and better world-class university. Of this, I am very proud."