by Mike Magers
Clovis is the county seat of Curry County, New Mexico. It was founded about 1906. Like many other towns in New Mexico, the construction of a railroad through the area contributed to it, as much as any other event or cause.
The Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad was being built to connect the eastern United States to the west. The rail line itself was fairly new, having been chartered only in 1859 and founded by Col. Cyrus K. Holliday of Kansas. Despite its name, the main line never actually ran through Santa Fe, but rather took a westerly course from Clovis to the Red River via Fort Sumner, Vaughn, Mountainair and Belen before beginning to angle to the northwest through Laguna, Grants and Gallup. The railroad companies would typically purchase the land for their rights of way and larger parcels of real estate periodically, bot in an effort to contribute to commerce as well as provide maintenance and service for its equipment. The line grew and flourished for 90 years and maintained its identity until the merger with Burlington in 1996.
My great grandfather also moved to the area around 1906 to a tiny community called Blacktower, located about where Cannon Air Force Base now sits, to provide for his small family by farming and ranching. Now more than 100 years later, some of his descendants are still in the area. Living from Portales to Gallup, several of them worked for the railroad to supplement their agricultural income.
Originally the town was named Riley’s Switch, but the station master’s daughter reportedly chose the name Clovis from the historical Catholic king of France. It also refers to the prehistoric Native American peoples whose remains were found nearby at Blackwater Draw between Clovis and Portales.
The railroad dominated commerce in the area, until livestock and agriculture built up. Cannon Air Force Base began in 1942 to support the military effort in World War II and has greatly contributed to the economy since then.
Clovis High School’s mascot is the Wildcat. The school has experienced considerable success in many sports and has done well in football. Its 13 state titles ranks third on the all time list behind only Lovington and Artesia. In football championship game appearances, the Wildcats are tied with Lovington, both having 22 and trailing only Artesia again.
Almost all the titles have come under head coaches William Frank “Dunny” Goode and current coach Eric Roanhaus. Goode coached for only five years, from 1973 to 1977, but his teams took the championship game twice. Prior to his tenure, Clovis had one only one title. Goode was born in a dugout tent in Pampa, Texas and played football at Hardin-Simmons University where he made a good enough impression to be the first round draft choice of the Washington Redskins. However a career in the NFL was not to be, as he was drafted to serve in the Korean War. After he left the military, he began his coaching career which eventually brought him to Clovis. After his tenure with the Wildcats, he went on to coach at Eastern New Mexico University and several more high schools before his retirement in 1993.
Goode was followed by Coach Roanhaus who won his first championship his first year there and would add another 9 to date, ranking second on the list behind Coach Cooper Henderson of Artesia. Roanhaus would take root in Clovis and as of 2015, he has earned more wins than any other New Mexico coach, making his career record 335 wins (328 at Clovis) against 137 losses and 5 ties. In tenure, his 38 years ties him with Bill Gentry and third on the all time list.
Coach Roanhaus was born in California but played football in Canyon, Texas at West Texas State University before beginning his coaching career. In addition to his teams’ success, a number of assistant coaches have gone on to careers in coaching and/or administration. The records from Coach Roanhaus’ career at Clovis will likely be further improved as time goes on.