Lamar University was founded in 1923 a few blocks from the current location as South Park Junior College and enrolled 125 students in its first fall semester. The name changed to Lamar College in 1932 in honor of Mirabeau B. Lamar, second president of the Republic of Texas and the “Father of Education” in Texas. In the early 1940s, Lamar separated from the South Park school district, which had created the college, and moved to its current location.

In 1951, the school became Lamar State College of Technology, a state-supported four-year institution, the first junior college in Texas to make such a transition. Lamar experienced tremendous growth during the 1950s and 1960s in both the number of students and the number of buildings on campus.

Lamar’s stature as a research institution continued to grow with the introduction in 1970 of its first doctoral program. In 1971, the name changed to Lamar University. During the 1970s, the university began operating branch campuses in Port Arthur and Orange, which later became separate institutions. During the 1980s, the university was part of the Lamar University System. In 1990, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recommended that all two-year programs at the university be combined into Lamar University Institute of Technology. Lamar University joined The Texas State University System in 1995, and Lamar Institute of Technology also became a separate institution.