About the area
Paris, Texas is the second largest Paris in the world, with some 13 cities and communities scattered throughout the United States with the same name. The city was named “Best Small Town in Texas” in 1998 by Kevin Heubusch in his book The New Rating Guide to Life in America’s Small Cities.
With a city population of 25,000 plus an additional 23,000 residents in the county, the population base serves as the hub for healthcare and retail for Northeast Texas and Southeast Oklahoma.
Once noted for its agriculture economic base where cotton was king, Lamar County is the home to three noted Fortune 500 companies-Campbell’s Soup, Kimberly-Clark Corporation and Sara Lee Bakery. With a diverse industrial base, some 5,500-6,000 jobs are linked to these and smaller companies in the city and county.
Speaking in Paris several years ago, noted radio commentator Paul Harvey described the place we call home as “Where tomorrow fell in love with yesterday and side by side they lived happily ever after.”
Our community is graced with dozens of vintage homes and unique architecture which sets the stage for a thriving community and a contemporary lifestyle. An array of cultural events, historical, scenic and recreational sites and community activities along with a rich selection of youth events makes this a great place for young families to raise children and older citizens to spend their retirement years!
In addition, you’ll find:
- Two 18-hole golf courses; one nine-hole course
- Lakes throughout Northeast Texas and Southeast Oklahoma for boating, fishing, camping recreation (including Pat Mayse Lake, Lake Fork, Lake Crook and Beaver’s Bend State Park in Southeast Oklahoma.)
- Multiple industrial parks for a growing business environment
- Regional junior college with recognized technology programs and health education opportunities
- Our own 65-foot- tall Eiffel Tower complete with a red cowboy hat!
- Year-around adult and youth sports programs
- Four-year university, Texas A&M-Commerce, only 38 miles away offering undergraduate and graduate studies.
- Annual events such as Festival of Pumpkins, Paris Art Fair, Red River Valley Fair, Tour de Paris Bicycle Rally, Uncle Jesse’s (the late Denver Pyle) Memorial Big Bass Classic, Christmas Tour of Homes, Turkey Trot, Municipal Band Concerts
- Something for everybody!
The first recorded settlement in the vicinity was in 1826, and settlements were known to be in the area as early as 1824.
The town was founded by merchant George W. Wright, who donated fifty acres of land in February 1844, when the community was also designated the county seat by the voters. It was incorporated by the Congress of the Republic of Texas on February 3, 1845. The community has no factual knowledge of who named the town, but it is assumed it was named after its French counterpart. Paris was on the Central National Road of the Republic of Texas, which ran from San Antonio north through Paris to cross the Red River. By the eve of the Civil War, when it had 700 residents, Paris had become a cattle and farming center. It is the site of the first municipally owned and operated abattoir in the United States.
Lamar County was one of the few Texas counties that voted against secession, though many of its inhabitants later served in the Confederacy. In 1877, 1896 and 1916, major fires forced the city to rebuild.Paris has long been a railroad center. The Texas and Pacific reached town in 1876; the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe (later merged into the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway) and the St. Louis – San Francisco Railway] in 1887; the Texas Midland (later Southern Pacific) in 1893; and the Paris and Mount Pleasant (Pa-Ma Line) in 1910.
Paris Junior College was established in 1924. In 1990 it was one of the oldest junior colleges in Texas; at that time the main campus had twenty buildings, including a new $1.1 million physical education center, and the college offered both technical and academic instruction. Its jewelry technologies department, now known as The Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology at Paris Junior College, is internationally recognized. Recently, the PJC Dragon’s Men’s basketball team won the NJCAA national championship in 2005.
From 1942-45, the U.S. Army operated Camp Maxey, 10 miles north of Paris. The camp served as an infantry-training camp. Named in honor of Samuel Bell Maxey. It was activated on July 15, 1942 and deactivated October 1, 1945. It also served as an internment center for many German Prisoners of War.
On April 2, 1982, Paris was hit by an F4 tornado that destroyed more than 1,500 homes, left 10 people dead, 170 injured and 3,000 homeless. The damage from this tornado was estimated at $50 million in 1982 dollars.
The town has been home to:
- Raymond Berry – Pro Football Hall of Fame Member as Baltimore Colts and head coach of the New England Patriots
- Samuel Bell Maxey – a Major General for the Confederacy in the Civil War and later represented Texas in the U.S. Senate
- A. M. Aikin, Jr. – a Democratic State Senator who served in the Texas legislature for 46 years-known as the ‘Dean of Texas Education’
- Gene Stallings – football coach; college (University of Alabama, Texas A&M University), pro (Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals)
- William Johnson McDonald – Banker, initial donor for the University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory
- General John P. Jumper – Chief of Staff of the Air Force from 2001 to 2005
- Admiral James Richardson – US Navy
- Berry and Stallings coached teams-Patriots vs. Cardinals, faced each other in the 1986 Hall of Fame game in which the Patriots won 21-16
Sources: Paris-Lamar County Chamber of Commerce, NFL Hall of Fame website