EDINBURG, TEXAS - A tribute to Rio Grande Valley land developer John H. Shary, the "father of the Texas citrus industry," was among the highlights of the formal dedication of the new John H. Shary Room at the University Library of The University of Texas-Pan American Thursday (April 15).
"It's a terrific honor, this beautiful room that houses my grandfather's papers and memorabilia," said Allan (Bud) Shivers Jr., Shary's grandson and the son of the late Gov. Allan and Marialice Shary Shivers. "It is a wonderful tribute that my mother and father dreamed about. I'm sorry they didn't live to see it, but they would be very proud of it."
The John H. Shary Room, located just off the main lobby of the University Library, is the focal point of the Shary Collection of business correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs and other important memorabilia that provide an insight into the business operations of one of the Valley's most influential business leaders.
"John H. Shary was a man of vision," said Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez, president of UTPA. "When he came to the Rio Grande Valley in 1912, he looked at brush land and he saw opportunity. When he looked at empty acreage, he saw productive family farms. When he looked at small backyard orchards, he saw an industry. But most of all, when he looked at the Valley, he saw a place he wanted to call home."
Shary, who was born in 1872 in Nebraska, bought and subdivided thousands of acres in the Rio Grande Valley, including the area now known as Sharyland. He became convinced that the area's soil and climate were ideal for a commercial citrus crop, especially grapefruit. With guidance from some California citrus growers he brought to the Valley, he built an irrigation system, cleared thousands of acres of land, planted 15,000 trees and produced one of the state's first commercial citrus crops, thus launching an enterprise that would give birth to the now world-renowned Texas citrus industry.
He also helped establish one of the first agricultural co-ops, the Texas Citrus Fruit Growers Exchange; built the first modern commercial citrus packing plant in the area; introduced the "TexaSweet" label, which was eventually adopted as the trademark for all grapefruit produced in Texas; and developed the United Irrigation Company.
The dedication ceremony included the screening of a 10-minute video on Shary's contributions to the development of the Rio Grande Valley that included interviews with Blaine Holcomb, who has managed the Shary-Shivers interests for more than 50 years.
"Through the generosity of the family of Marialice Shary Shivers - and the incredible assistance of Mr. Blaine Holcomb - the Shary Collection has been growing in our Lower Rio Grande Valley Historical Collection for a number of years, and now it has a real home in the John H. Shary Room," said Dr. Farzaneh Razzaghi, interim director of the University Library.
Blaine Holcomb, right, manager of the Shary-Shivers Interests,talks with Special Collections librarian George Gause at the dedication of the John H. Shary Room at UTPA. In the background is a portrait of Shary's daughter, Marialice Shary Shivers.
Funding for the John H. Shary Room and maintenance of the Shary Collection, as well as for the creation of the Marialice Shary Shivers Chair in Fine Arts at UTPA, came from proceeds of the sale of the historic Pease Mansion in Austin, donated to UTPA and the UT Austin Law School by Gov. and Mrs. Shivers. The Shary grandchildren also donated the Shary-Shivers Estate in Sharyland, built by John H. Shary and used as the Valley residence of the governor and his wife, to the UT Pan American Foundation.
"We are proud of our association with this great family, and we are proud to be here today to share the latest evidence of that partnership - a partnership that has reaped wonderful dividends for this institution," Nevárez said.
Sound bytes associated with this story can be seen at this location.
For more information about the Shary Room, contact the Special Collections Department of the University Library at 956/381-2726.