| The history of Huston - Tillotson University lies in two schools: Tillotson College and Samuel Huston College.
Tillotson Collegiate and Normal Institute was chartered as a coeducational school in 1877 by the American Missionary Society of Congregational churches and its namesake, George Jeffrey Tillotson. It opened on January 17, 1881 and had 12 presidents: "William E. Brooks, first president (1881-85), was succeeded by John Hershaw (1886), Henry L. Lubbell (1886-1889), William M. Brown (1889-93), Winfield S. Goss (1894-95), Marshall R. Gaines (1896-1904), Arthur W. Partch (1905-06), Isaac M. Agard (1907-18), and Francis W. Fletcher (1919-23). J. T. Hodges, the first African American to be president (1924-29), was followed by Mary E. Branch (1930-44) and William H. Jones, who became president in 1944." Tillotson College was a women's college from 1926-1935.
Samuel Huston College developed out of an 1876 Methodist Episcopal conference. An 1883 agreement with the Freedmen's Aid Society led to the development of the college. The college was named after Samuel Huston of Marengo, Iowa and the college opened in 1900.
On October 24, 1952 Tillotson College and Samuel Huston College merged to form Huston-Tillotson College. It then became Huston–Tillotson University on February 28, 2005.
Before the merger, future baseball legend Jackie Robinson accepted an offer from his old friend and pastor Rev. Karl Downs who was president of the college, to be the athletic director at Samuel Huston College, then of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC).
Before joining the Kansas City Monarchs, Robinson coached the school's basketball team for the 1944–45 season. As a fledgling program, few students tried out for the basketball team, and Robinson even resorted to inserting himself into the lineup for exhibition games. Although his teams were outmatched by opponents, Robinson was respected as a disciplinarian coach, and drew the admiration of, among others, Langston University basketball player Marques Haynes, a future member of the Harlem Globetrotters.