The year was 1974: Richard Nixon resigned the presidency, Frenchman Philippe Petit walked a high wire between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, and Hammerin’ Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record for career home runs. Texan George Foreman lost the world heavyweight crown to Muhammad Ali in “The Rumble in the Jungle” in Zaire, and, on the home front, a slasher movie called The Texas Chain Saw Massacre hit the big screen.

In May of that year, a spirited young editor named Frank Lively repurposed a state highway department publication called Texas Highways into a travel magazine—in his words, a “showpiece for Texas.” Within a year, the Texas Legislature had named the 33-page monthly “The Official Travel Magazine of Texas,” declaring that “every effort be made to enlarge its growing family of readers.”

“We learned that our readers like articles about history, scenery , travel, and wildflowers,” Frank has often said. “We placed a lot of emphasis on topnotch photographs …. And we always put the reader first.”

TH’s topics have expanded and our look has transformed over the decades, but true to the Lively legacy, our readers-active and armchair travelers alike-remain our focus, and never more so than as we launch our 40th-anniversary celebration for 2014. In fact, feedback from thousands of you has helped to shape the much-anticipated Texas Top-40 Destinations list, which we begin to reveal in this issue. Look for the countdown to continue throughout the year, with the Number One destination divulged in the December 2014 issue.

And we want to share more from you in 2014. Let us know if you have a special travel memory that Texas Highways has inspired over the years, or another interesting TH anecdote. Even with readers in every U.S. state and in 54 countries, we’re still amazed by the magazine’s reach and unexpected connections. See a recent example—email from the son of Dr. Fred Stoker, who documented Georgia O’Keeffe’s years in the Panhandle—in this month’s Merge, on page 6.

Here’s to our readers worldwide and to the TH staff present and past, including Frank Lively, who still checks in now and then to keep us in line. Now 85, he’s as frank and lively as ever.

From the January 2014 issue

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