Former Man of the Year B.R. Barfield left lasting impact on Amarillo community

Bourdon Rea “B.R.” Barfield, a fourth-generation Amarilloan who served the community for decades and was named the Amarillo Globe-News Man of the Year in 1987, will be laid to rest Tuesday.

 

Barfield died in his Kerrville home on Jan. 9. He was 91.

Barfield’s family members were pioneers of Amarillo. His grandmother was Melissa Dora Callaway Oliver-Eakle, who moved to Amarillo in 1895 to join her brothers who were already residents of the frontier town. Barfield was born October 28, 1926, to Oliver Rea Eakle Barfield and Bourdon Ivy Barfield.

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity, the Longhorn fan made Amarillo his home until 2013 when Alzheimer’s and related complications caused him to move to be closer to family.

Barfield was civic minded and had a deep love for Amarillo. Beth Duke, director of Center City of Amarillo, said his ideas are evident in the city’s current downtown revitalization projects.

“He had a lot of great ideas about bringing back downtown … and keeping our historic neighborhoods,” she said. “One of the biggest legacies he gave us was the importance of saving our historical buildings. He knew once (they) were gone, we could never get them back.

“The craftsmanship and the history of those old buildings is really part of his legacy of preserving our historic downtown.”

Duke better acquainted himself with Barfield when he was heavily involved in and co-chaired the Amarillo Centennial Celebration in 1987 — the same year he was named Man of the Year.

“He really put the community first,” she said. “He was such a civic leader and what stood out to me was his love of Amarillo and his love of history. He was so proud of his pioneer heritage … his passion was for Amarillo, Amarillo’s history and also it’s future.”

In addition to properties named for him — including Amarillo’s first skyscraper, the recently renovated Barfield Building on South Polk Street at Southwest Sixth Avenue — Barfield’s family legacy is preserved by the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum as he donated a collection of his grandmother’s papers, furniture and personal effects.

In 1985, a Texas Historical marker in her honor was unveiled by Lt. Gov. William Hobby at Oliver-Eakle Park.

“This was a rough cow town,” Barfield told the Globe-News in 2001, “and I believe it’s because of people, such as my grandmother — who may have wanted to recreate elements of their childhood … things familiar to them — who shaped Amarillo into what it is.”

Barfield began serving on the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors in 1957 and he was elected president of the business-minded organization in 1961. In 1958, he helped raise funds to build a new stadium for West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M).

He joined the board of directors for Amarillo Symphony in 1959. He also served as president of the Rotary Club in Amarillo.

Barfield was named one of Amarillo’s Outstanding Young Businessmen by the Amarillo Jaycees. In 1966, he was honored by the Downtown Amarillo Unlimited group for his work to promote the redevelopment of the downtown business district.

Barfield’s memorial service will be held 3 p.m. Tuesday at First Presbyterian Church, 1100 S. Harrison St. Burial will follow in Llano Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made to a favored charity, First Presbyterian Church or Peterson Hospice in Kerrville.

“We know how happy he is to be laid to rest in Amarillo. He was so passionate about the city and the people,” said his daughter, Amanda Barfield Williams. “His deep roots spoke volumes to him. It was always his home and will forever be.”

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