by Mike Magers
John Watson is the individual for whom Watson Memorial Stadium in Hobbs (Lea County), New Mexico is named. The stadium is just about to enjoy its 50th anniversary. John moved to Hobbs with his family, Mr. and Mrs. Finn Watson, in 1937 when he was 6 years old. His father started Watson Truck and Supply in Hobbs and the company still operates under the leadership of the family. The company began as an International Harvester truck dealership in 1943 and expanded in 1944 to include a General Motors truck and automobile dealership.
Watson was an outstanding athlete. At Hobbs High School, he earned 12 varsity letters in football, basketball, track and baseball. He was named to the 1948 Football All-Star Team and received more votes than any other player, 135 points from listings on 23 of 37 ballots. His head football coach, Duane Fisher, tied in the voting for Coach of the Year. Fisher had come to Hobbs in the late 1940s and was credited for turning the then-floundering program around, leading the Eagles to back to back state championships in football in 1948 and 1949. John Watson went on to begin a promising career at University of New Mexico and quickly rose to be the number one tailback on the squad, but his college career ended before the 1952 season due to a severe knee injury. He remained in school and in 1953, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Watson returned to Hobbs to join the family business and quickly became a civic leader. In 1967 he was named Outstanding Young Man of the Year in Hobbs and was named Lion of the Year in 1955 and 1956 by the Hobbs Downtown Lions Club. He was president of Watson Truck and Supply when he died at the age of 42 after a long illness.
He was honored in 1965 by the Hobbs Chamber of Commerce for his efforts in promoting New Mexico Junior College, which at that time was the only junior college in New Mexico. He was an original member of the steering committee that worked to enact legislation and encourage support in the community for the institution. Watson has been called the father of the Lea County junior college. It was said by founding trustee Ben Alexander that “it was this man’s determination and tenacity that overcame many of the obstacles and setbacks in the long road to the creation of NMJC.” The John Watson Student Apartments on the campus was dedicated in his honor in 2011.
Watson Memorial Stadium was dedicated and named for John Watson in 1964. With a capacity of 15,000, it remains the stadium with the largest seating capacity in the state.