Mention the name T.J. around Lubbock and one person usually comes to mind.
But Patterson almost didn't become a Lubbock resident. The graduate of Bishop College was working in Fort Worth selling insurance when his aunt offered him a car if he would come to work at her private school in Lubbock. His plan was to claim the car and then make his way to Atlanta.
"I was young and single and familiar with the works of MLK. I wanted to get involved in the civil rights movement. I wanted to contribute something to society," he once told a reporter.
His social contributions are many, but they took place in Lubbock.
He taught until he was drafted into the military, serving 13 months in Vietnam. He returned to become assistant director and then director of the Community Action Board, a post-war program created by President Johnson. Later he worked and taught at Texas Tech.
With his reputation and respect growing in the city's black community, he joined Eddie Richardson as co-publisher of the Southwest Digest. Richardson said in a 1999 interview that Patterson often chooses to see only the good in life. "One of the things I kid him about all the time is that he sees things in a fairyland situation."
Patterson's citywide recognition blossomed when he became Lubbock's first black council member in 1994 in the city's first single-member City Council election. He would hold the seat for 20 years.
Patterson built a reputation as a tireless advocate for change... for the entire city. He heightened drug awareness in Lubbock through community marches, battled for economic development in East Lubbock and led the quest for expanded opportunities for youths of all backgrounds in the city. He was named president of the Texas Municipal League, an organization that works to lobby the Texas Legislature on behalf of municipalities' interests. He was the first African-American to hold that post.
Reflecting on Patterson's work, former councilman and now U.S.
Rep. Randy Neugebauer said, "T.J. is a selfless public servant. He is always thinking about Lubbock and what's good for Lubbock. He is always interested in what's the right thing to do."
Of his crusade against drugs, Neugebauer said, "He is fearless. I have lost count of the number of marches that he has been on, but he has marched right in front of drug dealers' homes in his neighborhood and other neighborhoods... that's pretty brave."
Patterson was modest when interviewed in 2000 about his civic leadership: "I've heard some folks say leaders are born. I don't know if I agree with that. You have to go through the muck and mire. It's thrust upon you, and you have to accept it when it's there, and it's a lonely position."
Some knew him as "Mr. Lubbock."
Others thought of A.B. Davis as "Mr. Fair."
Regardless, Davis, who was hired in 1924 as executive director of the Chamber of Commerce oversaw the explosive growth of Lubbock for 38 years.
At the same time he pulled the South Plains Fair out of a hole and spurred its continuation.
During his tenure with the chamber he helped Lubbock grow from a small town of 6,000 to a city of 130,000 residents.
Davis came to Lubbock in 1924 to lead the chamber, a position he held until retiring in 1962.
Upon arriving in Lubbock he also was named manager of the South Plains Fair Association and continued to guide the growing exposition until Oct. 16, 1967, when health forced his retirement, shortly after the 50th edition of the fair was dedicated to him.
He is credited with a multitude of successes in both his chamber and fair association duties.
His efforts ranged from promoting construction of Lubbock's first major hotel, the Pioneer, and securing right-of-way funds to get the Fort Worth and Denver Railroad into town to saving Lubbock's banks from financial collapse during the depression and securing Reese Air Force Base -all the while chewing continuously on an unlit cigar that hung from the corner of his mouth.
His list of accomplishments parallel the city's growth. He helped lure four major airlines to the city, directed a campaign drive for Jones Stadium, promoted the organization of what would become the United Way, was a local supporter of the Canadian River Water Authority and used his political connections to secure a federal court for Lubbock.
Yet he declined singular credit. "Cities do not happen. Men and women, working together, build them."
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