By Whitney Peil
Cotton production is a legacy and a way of life for Don and Barbara Harris, and their love for the cotton industry inspired them to promote cotton in new ways.
Don Harris is a remarkable man credited with making cotton the state fiber and fabric of Texas in 2002, but his dedication to the state’s cotton industry does not end there.
He and his wife, Barbara, were raised in cotton-producing families, and they began dreaming of ways to promote cotton. When a contest to design the state quarter for Texas was announced, Barbara designed a quarter with a cotton boll on it, and she and Don entered the contest.
“We wanted to have a cotton boll in every pocket in the United States,” Don said. Although their design did not win, they did receive an honorable mention in the Dallas Morning News, and they continued to look for opportunities to promote the cotton industry.
Don recalls driving around Lubbock, Texas, one day and looking at the car in front of him. The car was sporting an endangered species specialty license plate.
“I thought, if they could have that on their car,” Don said, “why couldn’t I have a cotton boll on mine? We need to promote what we have. It’s our legacy.”
Barbara designed a license plate with a cotton boll on the left-hand side along with the words, “cotton, the fabric of our lives” after receiving permission from Cotton Incorporated to use the well- known slogan. The words, “state fiber and fabric,” appear on the plate as well.
“I designed it in honor of our dads,” Barbara said. “Don and I grew up as cotton farmers, and we know how important the cotton industry is to West Texas.” She and Don then began the long process of making the license plate dream a reality.
It took four years to get the license plate approved and ready to market. In order to produce a die for a specialty license plate, the state of Texas requires $15,000 and once 3,500 plates are sold, the sponsors are reimbursed. City Bank, Rachel’s Fabrics, Harris Appraisal, and Lubbock Self-Storage helped sponsor the cotton boll license plate.
In February 2004, the Texas Department of Transportation made available the cotton boll license plates for anyone who wants to show their connection to the cotton industry.
The application fee is $30, and $22 will be used to fund scholarships for students who are pursuing an agricultural degree related to the cotton industry. Of course, Texas drivers can personalize them if they wish.
To request a set of cotton boll license plates, use TXDOT form VTR-999, Application for A Specialty License Plate. A downloadable version of the form is available from the Plains Cotton Growers Web site, www.plainscotton.org, or directly from the TXDOT Web site, www.dot.state.tx.us.