As 1917 began, the country was on the eve of U.S. involvement in the First World War, officially entering when Congress declared war that spring. By March, Texas Governor James Ferguson was under investigation for impeachable offenses by the Texas State Legislature, and he was out of office by September.
In the midst of such political disorder, in March 1917, Professor Mayo’s college at Commerce was purchased by the Texas State Legislature. Mayo expected that state acquisition of the university would keep the institution open. Public funding was becoming the new model for higher education, and as such, Mayo’s college was one of several Texas institutions purchased by the state at that time.
Professor Mayo passed away just prior to the state’s acquisition of the college. Shortly after his death, state legislators renegotiated portions of the sale. First Lady Etta Mayo, with citizens of the City of Commerce, contributed tens of thousands of dollars to renovate buildings across campus prior to the final transfer to the state.