John Tarleton’s dream to create a higher education institution for students of modest means is reality. Tarleton State University offers an affordable, quality education and boasts graduates whose accomplishments would make its founder proud.
This monthly column, by an anonymous university author, looks at the school’s progress, achievements and challenges through the eyes of John Tarleton—a dreamer’s point of view.
Never in a thousand years did I dream that Tarleton’s connections with neighboring communities would have such an impact.
Two of those partnerships—the W.K. Gordon Center for Industrial History of Texas and the Dora Lee Langdon Cultural & Educational Center—showcase Tarleton’s commitment to be a good neighbor. We enjoy them because two generous ladies had a dream, and believed Tarleton could and would keep their dream alive.
The late Mrs. W.K. Gordon Jr. provided funding for the museum, research center and special collections library in Thurber, and the late Dora Lee Langdon donated her property in downtown Granbury to Tarleton in 1996.
A musician and composer in her own right, Dora Lee dreamed of a regional center for the arts in Hood County. It opened with a world-class Suzuki string program and performance series, designed and directed by acclaimed musician Paris Rutherford. Later, more performance opportunities, like the monthly Sunday Concerts, resulted from suggestions by local folks.
Each week after Labor Day, artists and authors from all across Texas and beyond arrive for Langdon Review Weekend, a Tarleton event begun 14 years ago. In part, the weekend celebrates the publication of the latest Langdon Review of the Arts in Texas—Tarleton’s annual journal applauding cultural accomplishments in Texas.
Tarleton transferred the Langdon property to the city of Granbury nine years ago but continues to provide entertainment, programming and management, and operate a Small Business Development Center in a federal partnership on the site. The city maintains and rents event spaces.
It’s the best example of “town and gown” you’ll find anywhere.
Since the W.K. Gordon Center for Industrial History of Texas opened its doors 15 years ago, more than 50,000 people have visited, making it a Texas treasure.
The Gordon Center is the state’s only institution focused on the industrial history of Texas and the Southwest. It’s located off Interstate 20 midway between Fort Worth and Abilene in what was once a booming town founded by the Texas and Pacific Coal Company, run by Mrs. Gordon’s father-in-law.
In the early 1900s, Thurber was the largest coal mining community in Texas, boasted the best-equipped brick factory west of the Mississippi and, with the discovery of the McClesky oil well, opened the door to west Texas petroleum production.
At the height of Thurber’s brick manufacturing, 800 workers produced 80,000 bricks per day to pave streets and construct buildings throughout the Southwest, including Congress Avenue in Austin and the Dallas Opera House. Thurber bricks were used in Tarleton buildings and elsewhere in Stephenville, too.
The W.K. Gordon Center chronicles that history and is a monument to a unique community of immigrants who came from around the world to work and live in Thurber.
Center visitors can listen to some of their stories, view exhibits of historic photos and artifacts—most collected by the Thurber Historical Association over the last 50 years—stroll past reconstructions of the city, and learn what happened when the discovery of oil disturbed the balance between the T&P and the community.
As we give thanks this year, it’s fitting that we remember the dreams of Mrs. W.K. Gordon Jr. and Dora Lee Langdon, and their faith in Tarleton to be a good neighbor.