Chambers of commerce have long been a fixture in small towns across Texas. Some date their origins to the turn of the 20th century or beyond, while others were founded in more contemporary times.
The Mineola Chamber of Commerce is one such chamber of commerce that wasn’t founded until the waning years of World War II.
The Mineola Chamber of Commerce got its start on Friday night, June 2, at Herm’s Place in Mineola.
The chamber was “organized…amid much enthusiasm and if the same spirit is shown down through the years, much good can be expected. Between 50 and 60 men and women who had signed membership applications during the previous four days were present to enjoy dinner…” the Mineola Sunday Record noted.
Ray Neill was elected the Mineola Chamber of Commerce’s first president. Other officers were Sebe Smith, vice president, Joe J. Armstrong, secretary, and D.S. Armstrong, treasurer.
Board members were Ocie Fair, Clifford Merritt, Sam Weitz, and R.H. Caraway for three year terms; J.C. Judge, George D. Minick, D.D. Starnes, and J.Y Thomas for two year terms; and Lee Lechner, Leland Long, Wesley Lott, and Lewis Willeford for one-year terms. Four directors were to be elected yearly.
Annual dues were $12.
Founding a chamber of commerce in Mineola had been a project of the Mineola Rotary Club for the year 1944. J.C. Judge, who was president of the Mineola Rotary Club and among the chamber’s first elected directors, chaired the chamber’s inaugural meeting until officers were elected.
Following their first business meeting, the newly founded chamber members heard an address from the head of the East Texas Chamber of Commerce.
“Ray Neill Elected As the First President Friday Evening,” The Sunday Record, Vol. 15, No. 10, Sunday June 4, 1944, p. 1
He lives in Colorado County, Texas with his two dogs, Lyndon "Puppy" and Senfronia.
He serves on the Colorado County Historical Commission and as Managing Editor of The Colorado County Citizen.
He recently secured a Texas Historical Marker for Etta Moten Barnett. the first black woman to sing solo in the White House. In April, 2019, he was named South Texas Press Association Journalist of the Year for Division I.
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