The board, authorized to appoint a principal teacher to administer the college under the direction of the president of Texas A&M College, selected Mr. L.W. Minor, who served in that capacity for only one year. On March 11, 1878, eight young Negro men became the first of their race to enroll in a state-supported college in Texas. Among the instructors were two brothers, E.H. and L.C. Anderson, who became the second and third principals of the young and struggling college.
E.H. Anderson became principal in 1879, when the enrollment grew to 60 students. The A&M College Board of Directors, meeting in Hempstead on August 28 of that year, authorized the teaching of 13 subjects on the elementary and secondary levels.
L.C. Anderson became principal of Prairie View A&M in 1885 and served for 12 years. He was also the founder of the dynamic and politically active Colored Teachers Association of Texas. He managed a college budget of $39,000 and staff of 11 instructors in what was essentially a normal school program. The grey stone administration building was erected in 1890, and Prairie View became embroiled in an intense and sometimes bitter legislative and political debate over the status and future of the college. The Twentieth Legislature agreed to the attachment of an Agricultural and Mechanical Department to the normal School, and the Hatch Act brought the college a branch of the Experiment Station. Other facilities erected included an academic hall, six cottages for teachers, a brick mechanics shop, and artesian wells.
In 1897, Edward L. Blackshear was elected principal of the college, and he served until 1915. During his tenure, the curriculum and the physical plant grew significantly. In 1889, the Twenty-sixth Legislature changed the name of the school to Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College, and the new name reflected the expansion of the curriculum. The Twenty-seventh Legislature, in 1901, authorized the school to offer a four-year course of study that included the Academy and Normal School in four Divisions: education, agriculture, home economics and mechanical arts. A diploma and bachelor of science degree were given upon completion of any curriculum. The first three degrees were granted in 1903. New additions to the physical plant during this period included two dormitories for men, Foster Hall and Luckie Hall (1909), Crawford Hall for women (1912), and a combination auditorium/dining hall (1911).
I.M. Terrell, the fifth principal, held the position during the war years of 1915-1918. Despite the world conflict, the school plant expanded significantly. A household arts building, a power and ice plant, and a laundry building were erected in 1916. Spence Hall was erected in 1918 to house the Division of Agriculture. The close of World War I brought the first recognized Reserve Officers Training Corps to the campus. The Cooperative Extension Service was also launched at this time.
The sixth principal of Prairie View was J.G. Osborne, whose tenure lasted from 1918 to 1925. The nursing division was established in 1918, and six buildings were added to the campus in 1924 and 1925: a veterinary hospital, science building, college exchange, elementary training school, home economics practice cottage, and music conservatory. The four-year senior college program was begun in 1919 and included training in vocational home economics, vocational agriculture, liberal arts, and mechanical arts.
W.R. Banks became principal in 1926 and served until his retirement in August of 1947, when he was named principal emeritus. During this period, the physical plant doubled in size with the addition of a dining hall, a hospital, three apartment buildings for male teachers, three dormitories for women, a greenhouse, an incubator house, a classroom building, an NYA resident center , a library, and more than 60 cottages for faculty families.
The Senior Academy was discontinued in 1930 and the division of Education was renamed the College of Arts and Sciences with major department in teacher-training. The Division of Graduate Study was organized in 1937, offering Master of Science degrees in agricultural economics, rural education, agricultural education, school administration and supervision, and rural sociology.
The name Prairie View Normal and Industrial College was changed by the Forty-Ninth Legislature in 1945 to Prairie View University, and the school was authorized to offer, "as the need arises", all courses offered at the University of Texas.
Dr. Edward B. Evans became the eighth principal on September 1, 1947. That same year, the Fiftieth Legislature changed the name of the institution to Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. The act provided that "courses be offered in agriculture, the mechanic arts, engineering, and the natural sciences connected therewith, together with any other courses authorized at Prairie View at the time of passage of this Act, all of which shall be equivalent to those offered at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas."
In march of 1947, the Old Administration Building was destroyed by fire. The fiftieth Legislature, then in session, made an emergency appropriation of $300,000 for the erection of the present administration building, which was completed in March of 1949.