A Brief History of Rangerettes Forever
by Jeanne D. Hale, Founder
Director of Public Relations, 1972-1985
Edited March 2001
In the fall of 1979, Rangerettes Forever was born. Like human births, this group was born of a dream, had a parentage and a period of gestation, and grew strong during the formative years of its infancy. Its parent organization, the Kilgore College Rangerettes, came into being in 1940 as the brainchild of our beloved Gussie Nell Davis. Not much thought was given to an offspring - even as late as 1965 when a large group of former team members celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Rangerettes.
However, in 1979 when the Rangerette museum was to be a reality, the help of former Rangerettes was needed to identify the thousands of photographs Miss Davis had saved, some of which even she could not place into a particular year.
To aid in the preparation of the Rangerette scrapbook in the museum, a get-together was planned for all former Rangerettes that could be found. The women in the 25th anniversary guest register were used as a starting point. They were written and asked to send in the names and addresses of former Rangerettes with whom they had stayed in touch. Almost two-thirds of that fourteen-year-old mailing came back undelivered. From the one-third who replied, dozens of new names and addresses were gathered. The same letter was sent to the new names, and to their friends, and to their friends, and so on in a round-robin fashion.
A large group of some 75 ladies showed up to help identify the photos and to compile the pages for their years of the scrapbook. Someone said,"Gee, this is such fun. We should do it again." So it was decided to plan a real reunion of all former Rangerettes when the showcase opened on October 13, 1979.
To inform as many people about that event as possible, Miss Davis and Mrs. Hale combed through the list of ex-students that Mrs. Hale had inherited after coming into the Public Relations Office in 1972. Although the list was computerized, names had been entered by titles and first names rather than by surnames. For example, Anne Miller was found under "A" rather than "M", and there were hundreds of ex-students under "M"because names had been entered as "Mr. John Jones". Worst of all, many of the females were lost entirely under "Mr. And Mrs. Sam Smith", with no indication of who she might be. (Since 1972 all graduates of Kilgore College are added to the list under their own names.)
Miss Davis recognized a fair number of names that were added to the growing list of former Rangerettes. Miss Davis was asked to present her class rosters so the members for each year could be listed in the scrapbook. This was somewhat complicated in that Rangerette alternates were included on her fall class rosters and omitted in the spring if they did not make the team, so the rosters had to be crosschecked. Even with all the diligent work, one or two names slipped by, and at least one alternate took advantage of the situation by joining the Rangerettes Forever organization (that mistake was resolved). Also, several women wrote to say, "I don't know how I got on the mailing list because I was not a Rangerette" (these problems were also resolved).
Following the Showcase opening, a large number of former Rangerettes met informally in the faculty lounge, declared themselves an organization, and elected Priscilla Abshier Sliva of Houston as President. There were no constitution, no dues, no formal membership, only loosely worded goals, and a resolve to meet again the following spring for a luncheon and to attend Rangerette Revels. Thus began the practice of meeting twice annually - at homecoming and in the spring.
During Prissy's term of office, the organization received its name in a general nomination and election process. All known former Rangerettes were asked to submit names that were reduced to a list of eight by the executive board and returned to the ladies for a vote. The name Rangerettes Forever, submitted by Joy Holland Coleman of Dallas, was overwhelmingly selected.
In the spring of 1981, Frances Meyer Ferguson of Kilgore was elected President. However, Frances was ill and in declining health, and within a month had to resign her post. Mazie Mathews Jamison of Dallas was elected President, and was re-elected the following year for a second term. Since then, all officers have been elected for a two-year term, although this practice is not enshrined in the organization's constitution and is subject to a person's willingness to serve for that length of time.
A logo contest was conducted in the same manner as that for the name, and was won by Mary Beth Hardin Smith of Longview. A constitution was adopted, and area representatives were established, a forerunner of the current board of directors. Minimal membership dues of $5 per year were set primarily to cover the expenses of frequent correspondence. However, through the generosity of Kilgore College, Rangerettes Forever was permitted to retain and bank their dues, and the college assumed operational expenses of the organization through the public relations budget.
Now that formal membership was established, a mailing list for dues paying members was kept separate from the list of former Rangerettes. Mrs. Hale, administrative sponsor of Rangerettes Forever, was voted the first honorary member of the organization. Joy Coleman was awarded a life membership for naming the group, and Mary Beth Hardin Smith a life membership for the logo design.
Lynn Williams Holt of New London became President in 1983, and embarked on a vigorous program to expand the scope of organization activities and influence. Lynn spearheaded a fund drive to place the Rangerette figure on the Women's Gymnasium. In her typical charming manner, she persuaded B.E. Woodruff, who was the Business Manager of Kilgore College (later President), to match her solicited funds so the project was completed in half the time. Life memberships were established during this period, with those funds going directly into a foundation or reserve account that later became the basis for the Scholarship Fund.
In 1984 the Rangerettes and Ranger Band were invited to perform in the January 1985 Shrine Game in California. The director of pageantry for the game wanted to augment the Rangerette numbers and suggested that alternates and others who had tried out for the Rangerettes be included in the group. That suggestion went over like the proverbial lead balloon. Instead, it was proposed that the pageantry include former Rangerettes. The Rangerettes Forever could fill the bill if enough were interested. And were they ever! This became the major project of the summer and fall of 1984 - securing commitments and deposits, scheduling training sessions, and performing a preview show at Homecoming. Rangerettes Forever was now ready to take its show on the road. Shrine Bowl 1985 was a huge success and established the Forevers as continuing performers. The performing group makes up only about ten percent of the active membership, and other who are not able to perform involve themselves in a variety of ways.
Illness forced Mrs. Hale to take an early retirement, and one of her concerns in leaving was that the momentum the organization had achieved not be allowed to diminish. She had no idea who would be coming into the public relations office or whether that person would be interested enough to take on the enormous amount of work required by Rangerettes Forever. With a new administrative leader and a new president, the Forevers feared that there would be a loss of continuity. Mrs. Hale prevailed upon Lynn to run for a second two-year term to provide some continuity. That four-year stint took a lot out of Lynn, but in her typical dynamic way she gave it her all. Lynn won the new administrative sponsor, Archie Whitfield, over to the Rangerettes Forever cause, and kept the ship afloat while his new sponsorship was established. Under Archie's expert guidance the organization flourished, and continued onward and upward.
The Adopt-an-Active program was established during Lynn's second term, and the first Rangerettes Forever directory was published. The organization also performed abroad for the first time in 1986 with the Rangerettes and Ranger Band in the Battle of the Flowers Festival in Cannes, France.
The crowning achievement of Lynn's tenure was the application of Rangerettes Forever life-membership savings to an active scholarship program. Mrs. Hale was privileged to be the honoree of the first Rangerettes Forever scholarship, followed by numerous other scholarships dedicated to Miss Davis, Denard Haden, Hazel Stewart, and so many others. Endowed scholarships also increased during this time, and by the end of her presidency, Lynn's goal of providing a scholarship to every active Rangerette became a real possibility.
In 1987, Pam Brandemuehl Maxey of Longview became President. A small group of Forevers returned to Nice, France, in 1987, and the larger group performed with the Rangerettes and Ranger Band at the 1988 Shrine Game in California. In the summer of 1989, the first Mini-Rangerette camp was held, with proceeds going to scholarships for active Rangerettes the following year.
Sheila Byrom Rhinehart of Longview was elected President in 1989. Her presidency was marked by growth in memberships and life memberships, and increased dedicated and endowed scholarships.
In 1989 the Rangerettes Forever performed with the Rangerettes and Ranger Band in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The first captain of the Rangerettes, Judy Lyle Hale, led the Forevers on her 65th birthday. A smaller group of Forevers appeared in the Cotton Bowl parade in Dallas. These events were part of the Rangerettes' 50th Anniversary Celebration. In addition, the first Silent Auction was held to increase scholarship funds.
The second Mini-Rangerette camp in 1990 netted more than $30,000. This brought the two-year camp total to more than $50,000. This made scholarships possible for all active Rangerettes and sophomore managers, with the excess going into a Permanent Foundation Fund for future scholarships.
The history of Rangerettes Forever would not be complete without paying tribute to a lady who has given unselfishly of her time and talent to aid the organization in all of its goals. Deanna Bolton Covin succeeded the venerable Gussie Nell Davis in 1979 as the director of the Rangerettes. Mrs. Covin did not have easy shoes to fill as she put her career and reputation on the line when she accepted the position. After all, where can you go when your group is already at the top? She took the risk of falling flat on her face if the Rangerettes faltered or diminished in any way.
Mrs. Covin's answer was to raise the bar - make the best a little better - and work harder to get there. The poise, polish, and perfection you see on the field did not happen by accident. Mrs. Covin continued in her role as director until her retirement in December of 1992, each year raising the bar a little more, and challenging the Rangerettes to make themselves a little better than they were the year before.
Mrs. Covin's contribution to Rangerettes Forever is enormous. While director, she volunteered time over and above her regular duties to train the Forevers for performances. She gave her graduating sophomores a one-year membership in Rangerettes Forever to start them on their way to remaining active in the organization. Mrs. Covin also proposed the Rangerette summer camps, and volunteered her time to the camps for years, just like the dozens of Forevers who work the camps today. We give hats off to the lady who took on the job of replacing a legend, and made a success of it.
From humble beginnings in 1979, Rangerettes Forever has grown to be an internationally known organization. Their service to Kilgore College continues by encouraging students to attend KC and by contributing their time and money to the Rangerettes Forever Scholarship programs. The incidental goal of fellowship and lifetime friendships is evident in the large numbers of Forevers who return to KC twice each year for annual luncheons and other college activities.