The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Aggies to celebrate 100th anniversary of the War Hymn at Saturday’s game

Photo by Photo by Olivia Treadwell

A painting by local artist Julie Metz shows J.V. Pinky Wilson writing the Aggie War Hymn. 

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Aggie War Hymn, written by J.V. “Pinky” Wilson, Class of 1920.
Wilson was an Aggie Marine who fought in World War I and is known for writing the battle song in the trenches of France in 1918. When Wilson returned to Aggieland after the war, the song was a hit with students, including the Aggie Yell Leaders. It was eventually submitted to a contest and became the official Texas A&M fight song.
At Saturday’s football game, family members of Wilson will be present at Kyle Field to honor and commemorate the anniversary. Relatives attending include Wilson’s niece, Mary Alberts, and his grand-niece, Cathy Rosell.
“It’s an unbelievable honor,” Rossell said. “We’ve all been so proud of this accomplishment of Uncle Vernon’s that any time I meet an Aggie, the first thing out of my mouth is ‘my uncle wrote the Aggie War Hymn.’ Every time I hear the Aggie War Hymn, I get chills.”
University Archivist Greg Bailey said the War Hymn is a rich part of the university’s history that has been passed down for generations.
“Some of the lyrics to the song were Pinky pulling together old yells,” Bailey said. “There is a history of old A&M yells that aren’t used anymore by the Yell Leaders, and during the time that he was a student, in the early 19-teens, the yells were used on campus.”
These old yells include well-known phrases such as “Chigaroogarem” and “Saw Varsity’s horns off.”
Head Drum Major of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band Claudio Trevino said he believes the importance of the War Hymn lies in unity and spirit.
“The moment that you can put your arms around a complete stranger and saw varsity’s horns off with them is the moment you become an Aggie,” Trevino said. “That’s when Aggies come together, lock legs and lock arms, and share the Aggie Spirit.”
According to Rossell, the phrase “Hullaballoo, caneck, caneck” has a unique battlefield origin.
“The word Hullabaloo is a very old word used way before that era,” Rossell said. “What we’ve been told is that ‘caneck’ was the word put to the sound of the bullets as they were whizzing by. If you take the word and say it really fast, you can see how that would have come to him.”
Recalling memories of her great uncle, Rossell said Wilson was a man of generosity, kindness and humor. She said the song shows that even when Wilson was far from Aggieland, his commitment to Texas A&M remained strong.
“There are a lot of legends that go around, but he really did write it on the back of a letter he had gotten from his parents while in the trenches of World War I in France,” Rossell said. “To think of this school while you’re over there in the trenches, as bullets whiz by … it’s incredible.”
Mary Alberts, Rossell’s mother and Wilson’s niece, said Wilson gave her the first print edition of the Aggie War Hymn when she graduated from high school in 1939. The paper includes a note that reads “To my niece Mary Ellen, with love -Uncle Pinky.” Alberts has kept this with her ever since, though she recently decided to donate it for future Aggies to see.
“He rode his horse from his ranch up to ours and gave me the first copy of the Aggie War Hymn,” Alberts said. “I play it at weddings, I play it at funerals, I play it at church, I played it at dances. I play it in the same key that my uncle played it in. They had to write it in B flat for the band, but Pinky played it in C.”
Alberts said when Wilson died in 1980, two life-size bronze statues of the famous Aggie were commissioned by a funeral home director who was friends with Wilson today stands next to the Sanders Corps of Cadets center facing Kyle Field.
“He is even buried at the State cemetery,” Alberts said. “Not just anyone can be buried there. That just shows how much the Aggie War Hymn means to people.”
Rossell said the War Hymn holds a special place in the Aggie family and her own family.
“There is something about the reaction people have to that song,” Rossell said. “You can’t put it into words. It’s about pride — being proud of your family. The feeling that the A&M family gives you is palpable. It reaches in and just grabs your soul.”

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