It Started With My Dad’s Centennial Plate

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Happiness is 2020 in our rearview mirror.

— Apologies to Mac Davis


This is the first day of a new decade, the end of a year in which time seemed to practically stop. Our darkest season is slowly, but inexorably, fading away. While COVID-19 continues to rage, and we must remain vigilant, it is possible to feel hopeful again. Two vaccines are being distributed with more headed to the final clinical testing stage. Perhaps in a few months — God and science willing — life will feel less restrictive, less fraught with peril.

Last January, I was finishing up interviews for a book project — @longviewtx150 — which marked Longview’s sesquicentennial by profiling people from all walks of life in our town. My collaborator is O. Rufus Lovett, the noted photographer and a longtime friend and colleague. He was finishing up making portraits last January. We had gotten full funding for publishing the book from Vera Bank, with all proceeds going to the Women’s Center of East Texas. The plan was to unveil the images and profiles at an exhibit at the Longview Museum of Fine Arts and to publish the book, both in mid-July.

Then the pandemic arrived in full force by early March, and most everything shut down. Rufus was not able to safely complete making images. I was able to finish interviews either by phone or email. Once warm weather arrived, he resumed making portraits outside, masked up. But the opening and book arrival was understandably pushed back, at first until October. By late summer, it was obvious ’Rona was not going anywhere, and the unveiling was pushed back until April 17. In the interim, Rufus and I have designed the 136-page book, which will go to the printer this month. One way or the other, hopefully with vaccines in most folks’ arms — including ours — we will make that date.

I got the idea for the project one night in September 2018, while pouring a glass of wine. A plate hangs on the wall of our minibar. It is from Longview’s centennial in 1970 and contains a series of images from Longview’s first century of existence. It was commissioned by the centennial committee. My dad, Brad Borders, a commercial artist who created fine art at night — hunched over a drawing table in a converted carport that served as his studio — was chosen to draw the images for the plate. I had just read a newspaper story about plans for Longview’s 150th birthday. A light bulb went off — probably 30 watt. We could profile 150 folks in Longview to mark the sesquicentennial. I bought Rufus a beer the next night when I got off work at LeTourneau library. He readily agreed to the collaboration. We have worked well together off and on for more than three decades — at Kilgore College, for Texas Monthly, and World Wildlife Magazine.

It has been a deeply satisfying project. I was privileged to meet, or learn more about, a lot of different folks. The extra time allowed Rufus and I to continually tweak the book’s design — sitting together in my study, both masked up. Now that 2021 has finally arrived, and there is increasing hope of a slow return to normal lives, we are both excited about finally unveiling this project in April. We are grateful to our subjects, to the book’s sponsor — Brad Tidwell, CEO of Vera Bank — and to Tiffany Jehorek, LMFA director, for their support and willingness to delay this project until it was safer for us to gather together. Rufus and I are already talking about what our next project might be when everything is fully open.


It was a hard year for all of us. Certainly, I am far more fortunate than most. I fully acknowledge that and am deeply grateful. It is my fervent prayer that this new year brings an end to the pandemic, to the political chaos of the past four years, and it brings a rebirth of kindness and empathy. We are going to need a large helping of both to recover from the most challenging year of our lifetime.

I plan to eat an large portion of cabbage and black-eye peas later today. Just hedging my bets.

Happy New Year!

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