As with most beloved Aggie traditions, it began with a few ordinary cadets during Texas A&M University’s halcyon days. In 1922, the Aggie football team had dropped its two opening games against Howard Payne and Tulsa, and the consensus around campus was that Coach Dana X. Bible’s squad was cursed.
To break the curse, two Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band members, Oluf “Red” Carlson ’26 and Julius “Sarge” Dorsey ’26, marched around Kyle Field, playing a funeral march on piccolo and brass horn along the way.
Others joined the strange ritual, and the Aggies shut out their next opponent, Southwestern, in a 33-0 rout. The cadets continued the practice after every game for the rest of the season, including victories against LSU, Rice and their rival, Texas.
When the same cadets were seniors in 1926, they led their class in a similar march around campus to reflect on their waning time in Aggieland—this time in a single file, with each cadet placing his hand on the shoulder in front of him.
“They looked like elephants about to die,” an onlooking freshman remarked, referencing the myth of old elephants walking away from their herd when they feel their end is near. Thus, Elephant Walk was born.
Since it had already happened at least twice on campus, Elephant Walk was inevitably christened an Aggie tradition. In time, Class Councils sponsored and organized the walk, routinely holding it before the season’s last home football game.
Over decades, the tradition evolved and added new elements, including expanding its route to stop at various campus landmarks, staging yell practices and presenting the senior class gift to future generations of Aggies.
Traditionally, underclassmen in the Corps of Cadets are banned from referring to Elephant Walk by its full name since “elephant” was quickly deemed a “senior word” after the tradition picked up steam. Thus, underclassmen have been instructed to call the tradition “E-Walk.”
Aggies by the Sea attending Texas A&M University at Galveston also take part in the tradition, keeping in line with the branch’s status as a full extension of the College Station campus.
When Bonfire was held on campus, the eight senior redpots who supervised the stack’s construction led the annual parade.
During the ’80s and ’90s, an ongoing Cold War of sorts between the junior and senior classes regularly came to a head during Elephant Walk, with juniors sabotaging the celebration for their upperclassmen peers.
These attempts at obstruction involved throwing water balloons, baby powder and shaving cream at marching seniors. To defend the march, members of the Corps of Cadets scouted ahead of the parade to intercept junior pranksters.
After some peace talks, Class Councils established Junior E-Walk in 1992, giving juniors an alternative celebration that symbolized their imminent rise to campus leadership. Their E-Walk started minutes after Elephant Walk began, marching in the opposite direction of seniors until the spinoff tradition was retired in 2019.
It’s been a century since those two cadets set out on their funeral march, and the Elephant Walk tradition lives on.
The festivities are not as wild or as laden with property damage as they once were, but seniors still march, one after another, year after year, across the place they’ve called home with the people they’ve called friends and fellow Aggies.
They go with heads held high, like elephants walking proudly into the wilderness.