Written by Dr. Floyd Golden, the late second president of Eastern New Mexico University, "The Golden Years: 1928-1960" details the years preceding the 1934 opening of Eastern through 1960.
Between 1890-1921, county lines were changed several times, especially in eastern New Mexico, to create the governmental structure of today. This political arrangement was important since the eastern section of the state would eventually be served by Eastern New Mexico University.
Between 1889-1909 seven higher educational institutions were established. The first institution created, in 1889, was the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque.
The next institution created is known today as New Mexico State University, followed by New Mexico Tech.
Other schools established included New Mexico Highlands University, Western New Mexico University, New Mexico Military Institute and Northern New Mexico College.
Several churches also established higher education institutions—some now closed. These included Alamogordo Baptist College, Montezuma Baptist College, College of St. Joseph on the Rio Grande, St. Michael's College and New Mexico Baptist College.
During New Mexico's Constitutional Convention in Santa Fe in 1910, an effort was made to write into the document a provision that eastern New Mexico should have an institution of higher education. Since New Mexico was a very poor and sparsely populated state, many delegates did not think an additional institution was needed or could be afforded.
Since the east side of the state had only 16 of the 110 delegates, including W.E. Lindsey, James A. Hall and C.M. Compton of Roosevelt County, getting approval for an institution on the east side was an uphill struggle.
There was a lot of discussion, compromising and trading with delegations from other areas before they would consent. Gov. Thomas Mabry told Dr. Floyd Golden there was little expectation among the other delegates that such an institution would ever be opened even if it was approved. The governor said that the delegates from other areas of the state were convinced that they could defeat any effort in the future to actually open an institution on the east side.
After much negotiation, the east-side delegates achieved their goal of having an institution approved.
The State Constitution, adopted in 1912 when New Mexico entered the Union, provided for "a normal school which shall be established by the legislature and located in one of the counties of Union, Quay, Curry, Roosevelt or Eddy." It also reserved 30,000 acres of public land for the institution.
However, there was no guarantee that a school on the east side would ever be established.
There were many in Clovis who were convinced that the normal school would be located there.
An editorial on March 21, 1912, in the Clovis News-Journal was headlined: "Looks Like State Normal School Is Sure Thing for Clovis."
The editorial stated, "The question of Clovis being the logical spot for this institution is not debatable. Every fair-minded man concedes this fact…we only have to go after it as we should to get it."
Years passed with little interest shown in locating a normal school on the east side. Other events became more pressing, including World War I and a depression in its aftermath.
The state legislature showed little interest in establishing the school.
Since other schools in the state were so far away, many residents on the east side attended what is now West Texas A&M University in Canyon.
Finally, in 1927, the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce became interested in locating Eastern New Mexico Normal School at Portales.