70 years and counting!

September 17, 2023Doug Peters, President & CEO Abilene Chamber of Commerce

By now, you’ve probably seen photos or heard about the remarkable event a week or so ago that brought Dyess Air Force Base and our community together. Again.

To be specific, Dyess and the Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee (MAC) came together to celebrate a partnership that began more than 70 years ago.

And what a celebration it was.

While that level of cooperation and collaboration isn’t a foreign concept, what was unique was one of the reasons why Abilene has consistently risen to the top of communities recognized for community support.  70 years of unparalleled commitment and support to one of the most important segments of our community.

The level of Air Force leadership and the same community supporters that has set Abilene apart were in full display, in the Abilene way.

This partnership began seven full decades ago, and in looking back at documents on the origin of the Chamber’s MAC we found that historical documentation is spotty dating back in the early 50’s.

But here’s what we do know.

We’ve found reference to the Abilene Military Affairs Committee back into the 40’s but know that as a group it was not fully formed until somewhere between 1950 and 1953.  A memo was found from 1950 that states the Abilene Military Affairs Committee was looking to merge efforts with the Abilene Chamber of Commerce National Defense Committee as both entities were in pursuit of a new Airbase to replace the loss of Camp Barkley and Tye Army Airfield.

The merger was complete in 1953 and reference with Chamber affiliation and the MAC name was commonplace starting in 1953.

In the 7th Bomb Wing Headquarters building are the pictures of the MAC chairmen dating back to the origin with W.P. Wright, Oliver Howard, Fred Lee Hughes, David Weeks, Frank Puckett, Celia Davis, Jim Webster, Gray Bridwell, and Greg Blair (AEP Texas). In 70 years only 9 chairman have held the esteemed position of Chairman.

That continuity remains paramount to the steady support and focus on three major elements of the Dyess/community partnership – mission, airmen, and families.

I keep a letter, dated 1953, on my desk.  That letter sets out to commit Abilene and the community to always service what we’ve sold.  Abilene leadership raised the funding to acquire the land that is today known as Dyess.  And in that same letter, we pledge to ensure that Abilene, the Chamber, and it’s MAC will always receive the level of support that we committed to on day one.

And by that design, the MAC has provided unparalleled continuity to our Dyess family and will NEVER stop.

To learn more about how you and your company can become a strong, visible support of the Military Affairs Committee, reach out to our MAC staff at Gray@abilenechamber.com or Cynthia@AbileneChamber.com.


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