January 17, 2014

A former Texas A&M University head yell leader and Corps of Cadets member established six endowed scholarships through the Texas A&M Foundation to benefit high-potential cadets for years to come.

Standing, from left: Texas A&M University Yell Leaders Eugene E. Fudge, R.D. “Smokey” Hyde Jr. and John Wooten. Kneeling, from left: Joe M. Leeper and Richard Biondi. From the 1959 Aggieland yearbook.

R. Daniel “Smokey” Hyde Jr. ’59 of Bossier City, Louisiana, created the scholarships because he attributes his own values and success to the military training he received in Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets. To pass these values to future generations of cadets, Hyde funded the R. Daniel “Smokey” Hyde Jr. Head Yell Leader ’59 Corps of Cadets 21st Century (Corps 21) Scholarships. He created the first scholarship in 2011 and recently committed to five additional endowments.

Corps 21 scholarships are awarded to the organization’s top cadets, who demonstrate outstanding success both in academics and leadership. Each scholarship will provide one full-time student with a yearly check to help offset the costs of tuition and expenses—including senior boots and sabers, outfit dues and other Corps-related expenditures—for up to four years; once a student graduates, another will be awarded. Donors have funded 150 endowed Corps 21 scholarships, which will continue to support Texas A&M cadets forever.

“The Corps of Cadets has given me more skills for my business career than I ever learned in the classroom,” Hyde said. “It is these basic but essential people skills that brought me success. I see so many young managers who don’t know the fundamental principles of leadership and human relations, and I hope these scholarships help them mature into strong leaders who others want to follow.” 

The industrious Hyde had worked multiple jobs by the time he graduated from Wichita Falls Senior High School, and like many students of his time, he arrived in College Station carrying everything he owned in a footlocker. He recalls his years at Texas A&M, where he studied business, as the happiest four years of his life. At the end of his sophomore year, however, he had no money to pay tuition.

Enter A. D. January, a district engineer for the Texas State Highway Department in Wichita Falls, who not only employed him in the summers but promised that if Hyde would work double shifts—80 hours per week—for three months, he would fund the remainder of his Texas A&M education.

“That double-income check got me through my last two years at A&M,” Hyde said. “I knew then that if I ever had any money, I would want to give back to hard-working kids like me who needed a leg up. I will never forget Mr. January because I would not have a college degree without his generosity.”   

After graduation, Hyde attained the rank of captain in the U.S. Army active reserve, and during that time sold printing presses and later launched a career in radio and TV broadcasting that culminated in ownership of several successful stations in Louisiana, Nevada, Arizona and Texas.   

In 1996 Hyde and his two sons, R.D. III and Stephen, founded Budget PrePay Inc., one of the nation’s largest prepaid communication companies. The family also owns Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki dealerships in Baton Rouge and Slidell, Louisiana. Hyde has four children and 10 grandchildren.

His scholarships give Cadet Andres Guerra, a second-year political science major, an upper hand by exposing him to interactions and experiences that Guerra says he would not have gained outside the Corps. A non-contract cadet and the first of many to receive Hyde’s scholarship, Guerra aspires to attend law school after graduation.

“The Corps of Cadets puts you in a leadership role, which can really help you in the real world,” Guerra explained. “If you’re going into corporate America, it’s important to know people’s strengths and weaknesses and how to help them succeed, and in going through the ranks each year, you definitely learn that.”

Hyde hopes that all of the cadets who receive his scholarships complete their degrees and stay in the Corps all four years. “I know that I’m doing something that will improve their lives and something that is good for the world because of the leadership skills they will learn and pass on.

“A good man won’t knowingly bring you a bad deal, but a bad man can’t bring you a good deal. I hope my gift will help these cadets grow into good men.”