Most of you remember 1986 — Texas Sesquicentennial, the 150th birthday of the Great State of Texas.
All across the nation’s second largest state... the only state admitted to the U.S. by treaty and the only state with the constitutional right to divide itself into five individual states... cities, towns and villages wrote proclamations, celebrated the birthday, remembered the Alamo, competitively cooked chili, erected monuments and hosted contests to write new municipal mottos. High school art classes were tasked with developing new logos and municipally-owned pickup trucks were decorated with new decals.
It got downright tedious.
Except in Kilgore.
Led by the late Nelda Lewis, a committee of Kilgoreos — including members of civic clubs, Kilgore Improvement and Beautification Association, Kilgore Historical Preservation Foundation, the civic affairs committee of the Chamber of Commerce, city employees and folks who just wanted to lend a hand — completed a number of worthwhile celebratory projects.
In March 1987, Mrs. Lewis and her committee presented to the city those completed projects. The list included a plaza at the corner of Kilgore Street and Powderhorn Road (we’re told that fountain once worked), a shell project at City Park (not the amphitheater completed shortly after the birth of the new millennium), a mobile project at Wood Park (the official name of the park where the “fountain” is located, according to Mayor Ronnie Spradlin), wildflower projects at roadsides and traffic islands and Texas and Sesquicentennial flags at the airport
Mrs. Lewis offered thanks to the city commission for its support during the three years and eight months the committee labored over the projects and she delivered Sesquicentennial awards presented by Governor Mark White and the Sesquicentennial Commission in Austin, a special award from District 3 of the Texas Garden Clubs, and an award for KIBA.
All of which was cool. Evidence of some of those projects is still visible around town, most notably the Sesquicentennial Plaza and its formerly-wet fountain.
Today, the most mysterious of the Sesquicentennial projects was a song featuring lyrics by Jean Stevenson, a Kilgore native. The song celebrated the state’s history and was set to music by Charles Woolridge — a friend of then-mayor Mickey Smith — and recorded in a professional studio.
Early in the committee’s existence, Mrs. Lewis introduced that song and played it for the city commission, seeking the commission’s approval. That approval was, commission minutes report, required if the local committee was to have the song copyrighted and released to radio and television stations.
Mrs. Lewis then told city officials the library was creating a special section where all the city’s sesquicentennial documents and records – presumably (though not specifically listed) including either sheet music or a recording of the song – would be forever preserved.
On a motion by Commissioner Bob Barbee and second by Mayor Pro Tem Bob Bustin, the commission unanimously approved the song and authorized its release as the city’s official Sesquicentennial Song.
Alas, the song appears to have been lost in the mists of time; even the name of the song, not recorded in the minutes of that 1985 commission meeting, may be forever unknown. The library’s archivist is unable to turn up any trace, not even a mention, of the anthem. Our go-to historian, Mayor Spradlin, says he had no idea there was ever such a song.
Surely someone here knows the name of the tune, maybe someone even has a copy. If that’s the case, please email me at the News Herald, in care of Editor Lucas Strough, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Woodall is former co-publisher of the News Herald and now the oldest intern at city hall where he is tasked with preserving (and celebrating) the city’s aging records.