County dedicates marker to historical route - Odessa American: Local News

County dedicates marker to historical route | Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 3:04 pm

The Ector County Historical Commission unveiled a new historical marker Tuesday near the intersection of Second Street and Grant Avenue to recognize one of America’s first transcontinental highways.

Bankhead Highway was the name given to the second cross-country highway that connected the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., and San Diego, California. The route is named after John Bankhead, a former U.S. representative and senator from Alabama, because of his contributions to legislation that authorized the passing of the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916.

Board members of the Ector County Historical Commission said the starting point in Texas for Bankhead Highway was Texarkana, then moved on to Garland, Dallas, Fort Worth, Abilene, Midland-Odessa as U.S. Route 80 and continued to El Paso, a total of 825 miles.

The Ector County Commissioners Court awarded a contract on Oct. 10, 1921, for construction of 24.7 miles of a 16-foot wide gravel road on Bankhead Highway, which was built in Ector County in 1921.

The Bankhead Highway continued to serve Ector County and West Texas until the need to replace the highway became necessary, ECHC’s application to the Texas Historical Commission stated.

ECHC member Jim Evans said some of the original roadbed is still visible in parts of Penwell.

He said the route has changed over the years, but Interstate Highway 30 and Interstate Highway 20 roughly parallel segments of Bankhead Highway.

Evans said recognizing Odessa’s ties to state and federal history is important, and the new marker can be found next to the Boy Scouts of America Buffalo Trail Council building at 204 N. Grant Ave.

“We try to keep the history of Ector County alive for people to understand,” he said. “We think that history should be preserved.”

Fellow ECHC member, David Cherry, said the board will continue to look for more pieces of Odessa’s history to bring into the spotlight as the population continues to grow with newcomers who are not as familiar with the city’s rich history.