Former State Sen. Tim Jennings, right, st ands with Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Administrative Director Tina Williams. Jennings was honored as the 2013 Heritage Winner Tuesday during the 32nd annual Heritage Dinner. (Jill McLaughlin Photo)
Friends and Historical Society of Southeast New Mexico supporters enjoyed a memorable evening Tuesday as former State Sen. Tim Jennings was honored as the 32nd Heritage award winner.
“Thank you for letting us honor you and for all you’ve done all these years,” said John LeMay, HSSENM vice president.
The society celebrated a year of change during its annual Heritage Dinner. Longtime director Roger Burnett retired and Tina Williams was appointed as new director. The society is also starting on repairs to the property and digitizing books, maps and other items from its collection into software.
Bill Wolf, a friend of Jennings from childhood, introduced the former statesman. He began with a biography and then related a touching story about Jennings’ wife’s struggle with breast cancer. His wife, Patty, died in 2009 after a long battle.
“Tim said there isn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t miss her,” Wolf said. “Tim’s like a brother to me.”
Jennings shared stories about when he first ran for office at the young age of 23. He told a neighbor he would cut his tree down if he won, and he did. He was also encouraged by the Chaves County clerk at the time to run.
“’What have you got to lose?’ she said,” Jennings remembered. “I was 23. I wanted to learn about what goes on.”
Then, when he was elected to the Senate in 1979, he first met Clay Buchanan, who “never said anything,” though Jennings asked him several questions. Little did Jennings know, Buchanan was a vault of information. Buchanan was from Roswell and raised by a mother who was a telephone operator, he said.
“He knew everything about me,” Jennings joked.
Jennings related the stories of his childhood, growing up with five brothers and sisters and going to the shoe store with his father, riding in his family’s old car.
“I hope that you will take a little time … to move our community forward, so we can move down the road,” Jennings told the crowd. “We have some really interesting artifacts (and history) we need to pass along.”
He asked those around him to remember to listen to the children around them and to remember to share the stories of the past.
“It’s been an incredible ride,” Jennings said. “I can’t tell you the life we’d had together. I had the best parents in the world. I had the best wife in the world, the best kids in the world.
“Thank you all so much,” he said. “Thank you for letting me serve you for 38 years. Thank you for your support and friendship.”