Heroes Among Us Series

The “Heroes Among Us” story series will be released twice monthly, featuring local heroes and organizations that exemplify the Totally Texas, All American spirit that is the fabric of the Gainesville Community. Stories are contributed by the City of Gainesville, Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Gainesville Economic Development Corporation, Gainesville Independent School District, and North Central Texas College. Keep an eye out for the stories and see who we celebrate next!

Release is coordinated by the City of Gainesville. 

Heroes Among Us

MARGARET PARX HAYS

MPHays

Margaret Parx Hays leaves Bogota, Colombia, where she worked for a time during her career in the Civil Service.  Photo courtesy Morton Museum of Cooke County.

Margaret Parx Hays did much for the City of Gainesville and Cooke County area.  Apart from her term as the first, and still only, female Mayor of Gainesville, she was instrumental in many historic preservation projects and made more than great strides in maintaining the history of Gainesville. 

Born and raised in Gainesville, Hays left for work with the Civil Service after an eleven year term at North Texas State Teachers College (now the University of North Texas), and then rounded out an exciting, impressive, and even envious career with the State Department as a Foreign Service Clerk.  She served in such locations as Buenos Aires, Argentina, Bogota, Manila, Mexico City, Washington, D.C., and Hong Kong, and held prestigious positions including Second Secretary and Consul. 

Her travels were far and wide, but ultimately brought her back to her home for great tasks.  After retiring from the State Department, Margaret returned to Gainesville where she helped to successfully save the former city hall building from destruction.  The building, constructed in 1884, once housed the fire station and jail.  The Morton Museum of Cooke County now occupies that location.  Hays continued involvement with the museum for many, many years in various roles, including staff, volunteer, and on the Board of Directors. 

She also helped to establish the Cooke County Historical Commission, where she devoted hours of service.

For two decades, Margaret worked with the Historic Preservation Foundation to restore the Santa Fe Railroad Depot.  She assisted by writing grants, which would eventually help to bring in the necessary funds.  Her diligence elicited kind words from Rep. Ralph Hall at the floor of Congress in December 2001.  He said, “This would be a better world, with more kindness and caring, and more success in the healthy growth of a city or area, if we had Margaret Parx Hays in each of our cities.  She is, other than being a wonderful person, a great asset to the City of Gainesville — and all who live there who want and expect to have gracious living. Margaret brings this to the table of public service because she cares.”

Funds for the Depot’s restoration were also raised in part by the Depot Day Festival, which began in 1986 and has continued since.  Hosted by the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, the festival celebrates the rich history of the railroads and trains that made Gainesville what it is today and is one of Gainesville’s signature events.  This year, local and out-of-town visitors will take part in the 31st annual event on Saturday, October 13, 2018.  The Cooke County courthouse square will be full of live entertainment, performances, a kids’ zone, arts and crafts vendors, festival foods, and an impressive antique car show that features over 200 cars.

In addition to accomplishing hefty preservation goals, Hays received many awards, including the naming of a dormitory at North Central Texas College in her honor.  Local historian Ron Melugin had noted Hays was the first recipient of the F.M. Hemphill Distinguished Alumni Award in 1995.  The award is the highest honor granted to graduates and former students of NCTC by the NCTC Alumni & Friends Association.

Margaret Parx Hays was indeed a preservationist, a historian, and in the very least a “Hero Among Us.”  Thanks to her many attributes, the City of Gainesville and its surrounding areas have been preserved and restored for decades to come.  

Information acquired from previously released articles concerning and obituaries of Margaret Parx Hays: Geo. J. Carroll and Son Funeral Home, Obituary of Margaret Parx Hays, May 8, 2008; Gainesville Daily Register Article, “First woman mayor, civic leader, diplomat, Hays dies at 95”, published May 9, 2008; Congressional Record, United State of America, Proceedings and Debates of the 107th Congress, First Session, Wednesday, December 19, 2001, Page 27959.

Story contributed by Caitlyn Huddleston, City Secretary, City of Gainesville.