History of the Texas Panhandle War Memorial
Created in 1992, The Texas Panhandle War Memorial (TPWM) honors veterans from the Texas Panhandle who gave their time and life to preserve our American way of life. The idea of a War Memorial to honor all veterans of the twenty-six counties of the Texas Panhandle is credited to Mr. L. D. Weeks. Mr. Weeks first got the idea when he noticed that a park was being built on an empty lot south of the Randall County Annex at Georgia St. and I-27.
In February of 1992, Mr. Weeks approached the Texas Panhandle Chapter 297, Viet Nam Veterans of America, Inc., with the idea for the memorial. Mr. Weeks was instrumental in setting the first meeting. He informed the chapter that he had been in contact with the Randall County Commissioners about developing the piece of land next to the Annex Building.
The first meeting of concerned citizens (later known as the Citizens Memorial Committee) met on March 27, 1992 and was attended by L.D. Weeks, Bill Willis (owner of Willis Granite Products), Pete Garcia (VVA’s Committee Chair), Terry Kirby (VVA member), Richard Izatt (VVA Chapter President), C.W. McMenamy (Randall County Judge), and John Dodson (Randall County Commissioner). Mr. Willis presented a proposed design to those present. All participants agreed that the Memorial would be a wonderful attraction for the area and an excellent tribute to all veterans.
The second meeting of the Citizens Memorial Committee was held on April 23, 1992, for the final agreement that the project would be undertaken by the local VVA chapter. It was also agreed that the first step would be to get the approval of the Randall County Commissioners Court. Present at this meeting were Pete Garcia, Terry Kirby, Richard Izatt, Will Willis, L.D. Weeks, C.W. McMenamy, John Dodson, Arthur Ware and Ernie Houdashell.
On April 27, 1992, Chapter 297 of Viet Nam Veterans of America submitted a proposal to the Randall County Commissions Court. The Commissioners gave the project approval with a unanimous vote. It was expressed that the project would be undertaken at the annex property with the understanding that it would be at no cost to the residents of Randall County.
On June 9, 1992, Pete Garcia, Richard Izzat, and John Dodson met with the Amarillo City Council members and received their support for the project.
The groundbreaking ceremony and the kick-off for the Memorial took place on July 4, 1992 at the Memorial site. The ceremony was attended by over 100 people. Various veteran organizations were represented.
On March 30, 1994, the Texas Panhandle War Memorial Committee submitted Articles of Incorporation to the Texas Secretary of State to be incorporated as the Texas Panhandle War Memorial Foundation, Inc. (TPWMFI). Approval as a nonprofit entity was received on April 11, 1994.
During September 1994, the Committee applied to the Internal Revenue Service, requesting determination as a non-profit, tax exempt corporation under regulation 501 (c) 3. This status was granted on October 10, 1994.
The Board of Directors drew up plans for fundraising activities in 1996, which included the sale of items such as caps, coffee cups, bumper stickers, lapel pins, and plaques to individuals and corporations. Other forms of fundraising included a food booth at the Tri-State Fair, golf tournaments, casino nights, and a booth at the local Texas Indian Inter-Tribal Organization Pow-Wow every year. Although the events were profitable, they were not generating the funds needs for the project. The objective of the TPWMFI Board had always been to raise the needed funds for the granite part of the Memorial only. The remainder of the project was to be funded by donations from the community.
The archway was dedicated to all living veterans on Veterans Day, November 11, 1999. The Globe News made the Texas Panhandle War Memorial a Celebrate 2000 Project. Community corporations that provided funding for the Celebrate 2000 projects, included Krause Landscaping and the Texas Potter-Randall Counties Master Gardeners, spearheaded by Ms. Barbara Harrington. The Master Gardeners planted a flower garden in the Center of the memorial site with a red, white, and blue theme.
On Memorial Day May 30, 2000, the descriptive monoliths for all the wars were dedicated. The dedication of the tablets naming those killed or missing in action in Korea, Viet Nam, and the Persian Gulf was dedicated on Veterans Day, November 11, 2000.
In November 2001, an anonymous donation of $83,000 allowed for completion of the plans set out in the initial project. On Memorial Day May 30, 2002, the monolith tablets honoring those killed or missing in action during World War I and World War II were dedicated. At the same time, a tablet was dedicated honoring students killed or missing in action who attended West Texas A&M University from its inception in 1910.
The TPWM began raising funds to build a new War Memorial Education Center on the grounds. In 2017 the Randall County Commissioners Court voted to grant the TPWM a long-term lease on their old Annex building at 4111 Georgia, next to the War Memorial Park. Donations and fundraising changed gears to remodel the Annex into the present War Memorial Center. Approximately $1 million was spent on remodeling the building. A new roof was installed along with new heating and air conditioning. Walls were moved and repainted, new ceilings were built. The 15,000 square foot building now boasts a world-class education center, the only military chapel in the Panhandle, a small military artifacts museum, two conference rooms, a gift shop, and 15 offices. The Center opened in 2020 providing referrals to veterans and their families and providing and education resource to the Panhandle.