A good trip often begins with a good road. But at the turn of the nineteenth century “good” roads were in short supply. Muddy when it rained and dusty when it didn’t, most roads were little more than two dirt ruts cutting through the land. Bone-jarring, spoke-breaking potholes vexed travelers and farmers alike.
By the end of the 1800s, bicyclists—men and a few women on the cutting edge of modern transportation—started calling for better-quality paved roads and the Good Roads movement was born. Soon, automobile enthusiasts—mostly the wealthy and well-connected—climbed aboard the bandwagon and focus shifted from the bicycle to the car.
By the early 1900s, Senator John Hollis Bankhead and John Asa Rountree were the president and secretary of the National Good Roads Association. This group of politicians, professionals, merchants, farmers, and automobile owners worked together to create a network of all-weather roads linking towns and cities.
In 1916, Rountree came up with two brilliant ideas: the first, a 4,000 mile transcontinental highway across the southern United States. The second, to call it the Bankhead Highway in honor of his friend and fellow Good Roads Association officer, Senator John Hollis Bankhead.
Around this same time, the Texas Chapter of the Good Roads Association was officially organized. When the Bankhead Highway project was announced they—along with the newly formed Texas Highway Department—lobbied for the Bankhead to run through the great state of Texas.
In the end, Good Roads—and the good people who drove them—did come to Texas, right down the Bankhead Highway. On brick and paved roads, riding in new-fangled automobiles, the modern world was traveling to and through the state, bringing opportunity and progress with them.