On August 28th the Paris City Manager, John Godwin, had the Street Superintendent, Rufus Hill, bring a special guest to the City Council Meeting. At that meeting this individual was surprised to find out that Center St. that runs right in the middle of the Red River Valley Fairgrounds was renamed to “Rita Haynes Boulevard” by the Paris City Council in recognition of the 38 years of dedication, devotion and work to the Red River Valley Fair Association that she has performed. Miss Rita said she was “both humbled and surprised” especially since she had never wanted any building on the Fair Grounds to be re-named after anyone because so many wonderful people have contributed over the years and there isn’t any way to recognize them all with the gratitude they deserve. So with the Red River Valley Fair coming in September, that road literally brings with it this month’s Patron Saint, Mrs. Rita Jane Haynes.

Photo by Gordon Hogue

Miss Rita was born on a Navy Base in Hayward California and moved to Paris, TX the next year. She graduated High School in 1962 at Central School in Sumner. The summer between her Junior and Senior years she also attended Lamar Business College. Since living in Paris she has taken multiple classes and courses at Paris Junior College including night classes in Business English, Typing and Shorthand. She completed The Principles of Bank Operations course and The Law and Banking course sponsored by the American Bankers Association.

After college, her career started as a Long Distance Operator in Dallas for a few years with Southwestern Bell before moving back to Paris in 1963. She went to work at First National Bank in the Bookkeeping Department where she spent 9 years, as a Secretary for 5 years, and as the Supervisor of Bookkeeping, Proof & Computer Department for 20 years before retiring with 34 years at the bank. In 1964 she married her husband of 53 years, Billy Merle Haynes. They have a daughter, Tammy Riley living in South Carolina and a granddaughter, Mallary Matney of Texarkana.

Miss Rita has been involved in Lamar County for the last 47 years through various organizations and charities such as:

  • Area Chairman of the Mothers March of Dimes in 1969.
  • Severed on the Membership Committee for the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce.
  • Chairman of the Paris & Lamar County Cystic Fibrosis Campaign in 1976 & 1978.
  • Served as a Room Mother for Central & North Lamar Elementary Schools from 1972 to 1977.
  • Chairman of the Hospitality Committee for Central Elementary PTO, 1973-1974.
  • Worked with the Women’s Division of the Lamar County United Fund, 1975-1980.
  • Worked with the County Division of the Lamar County United Fund, 1978-1981.
  • Member of the VOE (Vocational Office Education) Advisory Board of Paris High School, 1977-1979, then as the Chairman from 1979-1983.
  • North Lamar 4-H Leader, 1975-1983.
  • Lamar County Chamber of Commerce VCC member.
  • Was a member of the Business & Professional Women’s Club (BWP), 1969-1984, where she served on various committees, in numerous officer positions and received an “Outstanding Business Woman of the Year” award for 1978-1979.
  • Was the Director of the District 12 BWP and at the state level for the Texas BWP on various committees, as the Young Careerist/Nike Chairman and as the State Recording Secretary.
  • Was one of the original members on the Board of Directors for Lamar County Crime Stoppers.

Most of Paris knows Miss Rita for her time spent with the Red River Valley Fair Association. She has been a cornerstone in the organization for the last 38 years and has served in almost every facet since she joined in 1979. Those of us that grew up around the fairgrounds now have our children involved in the same programs or events sponsored there and she is leading the way to provide them with the same fond memories that we hold dear. Her positions have included:

  • Chairman of the Youth Educational Exhibits, 1979-1982.
  • Chairman of the Building Committee, 1982.
  • Secretary, 1982-1983.
  • Treasurer, 1984.
  • President, 1986.
  • Executive Director, 1987-2017.

She brought recognition to Paris when she served on the Texas Association of Fairs & Events through various committees, in Officer roles, and as the President in 1992. In 2004 she received an award for “Manager/Professional of the Year” and in 2006 she received the “Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement” award.

I asked her what some of her most memorable things were since she has been with the Fair Association and she said it was two things. The first was she said in 1981 they started a building project fundraiser so they could get a new building, but the big tornado hit Paris in 1982 and that put a big damper on their efforts. Much of the debris from the tornado was staged at the fairgrounds until it could be cleared and removed. She said they had finally gotten back on track and had a Carnival set-up to help with the building project then the weekend it was to open, the flood hit Paris. “It was the most trying time back then to upgrade the Fairgrounds and to get new buildings erected” she said. Miss Rita has been involved and has seen every building on the 50 acre grounds built with the exception of one. The only reason she said she didn’t help with that was because the Coliseum it was built in 1921 “Prior to my time, thank you!” The second most memorable thing she said is seeing all the kid’s faces with big smiles at the Livestock shows, Fairs and other events that have been held there over the years.

The Lamar County Fair Association hosts the Spring Classic Livestock Show in April, The Showing with the Stars – Nighttime Livestock Show in June, the Back to School Livestock Show in August, the Christmas in Fair Park scheduled for December 1st & 2nd this year, and the Red River Valley Fair being held September 27th – 30th this month. You can find out more about these annual events, here, and on Facebook under “Red-River-Valley-Fair-Association-Paris-TX.”

eParisExtra selects an individual or group of individuals that show their Devotion to Works of Charity in Paris through the sharing of their heart, giving of time, or through the donation of money much like the original Patron Saint of Paris France, Genevieve. We recognize them as our “Patron Saint of Paris” Texas that month and feature a story of why they were selected. When we look at what drives our monthly selections, it always comes back to that individual or groups desire to better our community.

Miss Rita said, “Everything I have ever done in life has been a challenge for me to try to make it better.”

From when she had her employees at the bank and helped to train and mentor them to get them to where they are now, or for all the wonderful things she has been involved with at the fairgrounds and seeing the kids she started with then, their kids, and even a few of their grandkids now. She said every bit of it has been rewarding to see and she would not change a thing!

This month we recognize and thank Mrs. Rita Jane Haynes and we look forward to seeing her out and about at this year’s fair.