Make Harbin Drive Great Again

Dr. Malcolm Cross

The Stephenville City Council recently voted to change Harbin Drive’s name to University Drive.  The council should reverse its decision ASAP and keep Harbin Drive’s original name.

As a historian as well as a political scientist, I prefer remembering to forgetting, and I favor naming and renaming things to help us remember rather than forget.  On the Tarleton campus we have the O. A. Grant Humanities Building, the Dick Smith Library, the Barry Thompson Student Center, and the Lamar Johanson Science Building, in which the Robert Fain Lecture Hall is located, to name just a few of the buildings and rooms named for people who made outstanding contributions to the development of Tarleton and the welfare and success of its students.  A new and beneficial trend underway is to name specific Tarleton Schools, such as its colleges of engineering and business, after generous benefactors.

I also think that renaming the Northwest Loop after former state senator Robert Glasgow was a superb idea.  His contributions to both Stephenville and the state of Texas made the renaming both a well-deserved and a long-overdue honor.

On the other hand, I usually oppose renaming something if to do so makes us forget the original person or entity after which it was originally named.  One issue which the city council had to deal with was the renaming of the Optimist-Jaycee Park to make it simply the Optimist Park.  The reason given is that nobody on the council or in attendance in the audience could remember when Stephenville had a Junior Chamber of Commerce or who was in it or what it actually accomplished.  I argued that even if the Jaycees no longer existed, they once had, and evidently they had somehow contributed to the development of the park.  Their contributions should not be sent down the memory hole.  

Nor should the contributions of the late Erath County Judge Harbin.  He was, by all accounts, an able and well-regarded public servant who died way too young.  He should be remembered, not forgotten.

But what about Tarleton’s presence and contributions, which have been cited in support of the University Drive name change?  Nobody can deny the all-important role Tarleton has played, and continues to play, in the growth and economic prosperity of Stephenville.  Indeed, so great is Tarleton’s presence that it’s impossible for anyone living in Stephenville or even visiting our city to ignore it.

And that is exactly why replacing the “Harbin Drive” name with the more generic “University Drive” name is unnecessary.  Tarleton needs no help from the city council or anyone else in celebrating its presence.  It’s large and ever-expanding campus, its beautifully kept grounds, and its genuinely impressive buildings—including its expanded NCAA Division 1-grade stadium along You-Know-What Drive—constitute Tarleton’s own monument not just to itself but to all it has contributed, and will no doubt continue to contribute, to Stephenville’s welfare.  Indeed, in a sense, Stephenville itself is a monument to Tarleton.

But not to Tarleton, only.  Tarleton’s contributions to Stephenville are great, but Tarleton alone is not responsible for making Stephenville what it is today.  Also deserving credit to varying degrees are many others who, through the years, have done their best to contribute to Stephenville’s best interests.  They deserve to be remembered for what they did, not forgotten.  And while we can’t remember or honor everyone who may otherwise deserve to be remembered, we can at least refuse to forget those whom we have remembered and for whom there is no good reason to forget.  That includes Judge Harbin.  Restore his name to the road, and to our collective memory.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville since 1987 and taught politics and government at Tarleton for 36 years, retiring in 2023. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990-2024).  He was Mayor pro-tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He has served on the Board of Directors of the Stephenville
Economic Development Authority since 2018 and as chair of the Erath County Appraisal District’s Appraisal Review Board since 2015.  He is also a member of the Stephenville Rotary Club, the Board of Vestry of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, and the Executive Committee of the Boy Scouts’ Pecan Valley District.  Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

1 Comment

  1. I agree with Mr. Cross 100%. I would also like to know what individual or individuals submit this request and for what purpose? Who will also supply the time, assistance to the businesses and residents living on Harbin Drive when they must change their addresses for mail communication, business accounts, business and personal stationery, advertising for business address…etc. For me, I see absolutely NO REASON to change the name of a thur-affair that has been apart of Stephenville’s history for so long. Ridiculous, Absolutey Ridiculous.

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