Like every city and town in the nation (if not the world), Amarillo has a history when it comes to race.
This history is not always pleasant, fair or even at times acceptable by today’s evolved standards, but the history is still there.
However, what should not be overlooked when it comes to Amarillo’s history is the good which helped improve the city and make it a better place for all.
For example, Charles E. Warford. There are few better examples of the positives in Amarillo’s history — a good man who helped improve Amarillo in ways we should all be thankful.
Warford, founder of the Warford-Walker Mortuary in the North Heights neighborhood, died Wednesday. His life is part of Amarillo history — and for good reason.
A successful businessman, Warford bridged the racial gap in Amarillo at a time when communication, acceptance and understanding were rare. Despite these odds, Warford prevailed in his quest to improve racial relations — and Amarillo is better for it.
A brief breakdown of Warford and how he shaped Amarillo: He helped found Amarillo’s United Citizens Forum and was a leader in his church, Mount Zion Baptist Church. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Amarillo National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 2002. Warford and his wife, wife Wilma, have their names included on Centennial Plaza, and the former North Branch YMCA will soon be the Charles E. Warford Activity Center.
However, as those who have lived in Amarillo for years can testify, it was the respect Warford earned from those of different races in Amarillo that led him to create unity where little existed. It would be impossible to list all those in the black community who were helped in so many ways at one time or another by Warford. And it would be equally impossible to list all those of different races who had respect for Warford, and recognized his goal of bringing blacks and whites together rather than having them sadly exist apart in ignorance and fear.
Those who were in attendance at Amarillo City Council this past August when the council voted unanimously to rename the former North Branch YMCA in honor of Warford got a small glimpse of the humble man who devoted most of his life to making Amarillo a better place.
This is also a part of Amarillo’s history. And a good part, thanks to Charles E. Warford.