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Gaines was one of four African Americans to serve Texas as a State Senator during the 19th century. History records that he was "daring, keen of mind, courageous and firm in equality for all men without regard to race, or color. Gaines fought for many issues: education, aid to the insane, prison reform, the protection of the African Americans at the polls and their election to public office. In 1870, he played a strategic role in passing the Militia Bill.
Matthew Gaines made valuable contributions towards the establishment of free public education in the state of Texas. Gaines sponsored successful legislation to exempt educational and religious groups from taxation as an incentive to improve communities. In 1871, Senator Gaines supported the Free School Bill that helped finance an agricultural and mechanical college (now Texas A&M University).
As a result of his accomplishments, integration is now occurring in all schools. Also he was responsible for the free public education in the state of Texas.
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