Frank Lively at his desk by a typewriter

Frank Lively, circa 1962

Today we received news that Frank Lively, the founding editor of Texas Highways, passed away on Sunday, Nov. 18, at age 90. Frank began working fulltime in the Travel and Information Division of what was then called the Texas Highway Department in July 1961. When he became the editor of Texas Highways in September 1962, the magazine was a 24-page highway design, construction, and maintenance journal for department employees. In May 1974, Frank directed the transition of Texas Highways magazine into the now familiar travel publication, and he edited the magazine until his retirement in August 1990. In honor of Frank’s immeasurable contributions to Texas Highways and his steadfast commitment to its readership, we’re sharing a column he wrote for the magazine’s 25th anniversary edition in September 1999:

I have thousands of memories about my career at Texas Highways. Here are just a few off the top of my head.

After Texas Highways became a travel magazine in 1974, it didn’t take us long to build a reputation for beautiful scenery and Texas history. Within a few years, readers were calling us the National Geographic of Texas. They often wrote that they clipped our photos, mounted them, and hung them on the walls. One of my favorites, and the readers’, was a cattle-grazing center-spread taken by Jack Lewis in the Davis Mountains near a water tank.

I remember one of our most popular covers: a single Texas Longhorn standing in a copse of scrub mesquite facing the photographer (August 1978). Readers were calling and writing for prints. We made the transparency available to a local studio so they could get 8×10 prints.

Photographers always told me that the best light for photos was early morning or late afternoon. One time we had a wildflower photo that we planned to run on the cover (April 1988). I chided photo editor Bill Reaves that it looked as if he had taken it at high noon. It turned out to be a favorite with our readers.

Our readers have been truly loyal through the years. Owners of tourist attractions told us that visitors began to show up with copies of Texas Highways in hand, saying that each month they visited the areas recommended by the magazine. The trust was mutual—we always put the reader first.

One summer, my wife, Sarah, and I attended the Cowboy Breakfast at the Figure 3 Ranch just east of Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo. In the early morning, guests climb onto low-slung trailers and sit on bales of hay as pickups pull them to the edge of the canyon. Boy, what a sight—watching the sun rise on the canyon. On the way back to ranch headquarters, Sarah and I struck up a conversation with another couple. When the wife learned I was the editor of Texas Highways, she said she had to have my autograph. When we parked, she ran to her car and got a copy of the magazine. It was a first for me, and I was highly flattered.

Last April, I met a young man at the State Capitol who said he was a subscriber when he was in the Peace Corps in Africa about 11 years ago. He remembered my column about being moved from my office the eighth floor of the highway building overlooking the Capitol grounds—the best view in Austin. It was wonderful to watch the seasons change the trees and shrubs, or a dark rain cloud form behind the Capitol dome—wonderful. About two years before I retired, our offices were moved into a building several miles north of the Capitol, and the view out of my window was the bottom of a wooden fence.

When you write a column, you want it to be personal. You hope the reader will take it as you intended. The young man made my day. He said, “Your column was just like getting a letter from home.”

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