Oscar and Katherine Harris Dedication Plaque Placed at Welcome Sign

New plaque at I-30 Welcome Sign

In July of 2015, the city of Texarkana Arkansas completed a dedication ceremony for a large welcome sign near I-30 as visitors and travelers cross into the city. The dedication was completed by the City Beautiful Commission under the supervision of chair Mary Warner with funds from the A&P Commission of Texarkana, Arkansas. Most travelers and citizens saw the sign, appreciated it and moved on with little knowledge of the work of love and dedication that had gone into the project.

As the Interstate continued to expand and grow in the area, it was agreed that both Texarkana Arkansas and Texas needed signs to welcome people to the area. With discussion between the two city groups, an informal agreement was made to put up signs welcoming visitors to “Texarkana”. Because of the shared resources, community, shopping, and ties the two cities have, much of the world often sees Texarkana as one city instead of the two. The groups agreed that the “Texarkana, USA” is often more associated with the area than either city entity. With an agreement in place, both city groups started searching for locations for potential placements of new signs that would welcome the world to “Texarkana” and the entire community.

It was at this time that Jerry and Nedra Turney, along with their family, decided they wanted to do more for the sign project. Jerry and Nedra, whose maiden name was Harris, wanted to find a way to help with the sign and honor Nedra’s parents. Oscar and Katherine Harris had been citizens and landowners in the area for many years and it just so happened that some of their lands were alongside the Interstate. Jerry and Nedra decided the best potential land spot for the sign would be a strip of land they could donate to the city and allow it to be the home of the new sign.

Mary Warner and the rest of the City Beautiful Commission took possession of the needs and search for a builder for the sign.  Ron Otwell, a local brick mason, who had built signs for several city parks was ultimately selected to build the large sign for Texarkana.  Funds were requested and approved from the A&P Commission of Texarkana, Arkansas, and work moved forward for the sign.  The sign was completed and dedicated with city officials, representatives from the area, and the press on July 9, 2015. 

Since the dedication, the sign has been featured in advertising, pictures, and has become a symbolic point of entry into the Texarkana area. Behind the scenes, the Miller County Master Gardeners have helped maintain the plants around the sign. The city crews have watered and have continued to work toward getting a sprinkler system to the sight. The state highway department has maintained mowing near the sign and has generously cut back trees to allow better visibility of the sign for travelers.

With all the various groups involved, the work at the sign shows no indications of ending soon.  The City Beautiful Commission still discusses and works toward the improvement and maintenance of the sign at their monthly meetings.  The Master Gardeners report updates and place recommendations for planting.  The city updates on water efforts and needs and the A&P Commission stands ready to assist financially as needed to support the sign.

Recently a beautiful dedication plaque was placed on the sign (see picture). With the placement of the plaque, Nedra Harris Turney sees the work aspect of the sign and its dedication to her parents as complete. She is quick to stress that she appreciates all the work, dedication, and help that made the sign possible. She also reminds the community that the sign will need the support of the community and city groups long after this generation is gone and that each generation will need to pick up, work, and maintain the sign so that it will always be a beautiful and unique welcome to the area known to the world as simply Texarkana.