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Texans in an Uproar After Highway Commission Takes License With Their Image

Times Staff Writer

Lordy, what a ruckus.

The people of the Great State of Texas are fit to be tied. To hear it, you’d think all the commotion was over something important, like football. But no, it’s over a new license plate.

All the Texas Highway Commission did was decide that the official Texas motto--"The Friendship State"--should be printed across the bottom of the plate.

The reaction was like putting two bobcats in a gunny sack. A week ago, after the word had spread, the Texas Highway Department received 700 calls about the new plate. There have been hundreds more since then. Tommie Pinkard, highway department spokeswoman, said exactly three people liked the license plate. The rest hated it.

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“We made an error in that we didn’t see what an emotional issue this would be,” she said. “You have the Supreme Court ruling that retarded youngsters can be executed and no one says anything. You get something like this, that is only words, and it gets very emotional.”

Just Too ‘Wimpy’

So far, three gubernatorial candidates have come out against the new plate. Ann Richards, a Democratic candidate, said “Friendship State” was just too “wimpy.”

The Houston City Council Tuesday approved a resolution calling for the highway commission to reconsider its decision. Disc jockeys are giving out the fax numbers of the state’s highway commissioners. The Houston Post received 1,477 letters on the matter in a single week.

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The vast majority of callers prefer that Texas be called the “Lone Star State” rather than the “Friendship State.” In fact, most people thought “Lone Star State” already was the official Texas motto. But Texas was officially dubbed the “Friendship State” by the 1930 state Legislature. Friendship is a translation of the Indian word tejas , from which Texas takes its name.

Wayne Duddleston, one of the three highway commissioners, said he had “not the slightest idea” the license plate decision would cause such a furor.

“It’s probably as large a miss as any three commissioners can make,” he said. Before choosing the state motto, he said, the commission also rejected two other options: “Drive Friendly” and “The Wildflower State.”

Ready to Give In

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Duddleston plans to bring the matter up again at the commission’s August meeting.

“I’d like to declare a victory and give in,” he said.

Ray Stoker Jr., another one of the highway commissioners, said all this could be an incentive for the state Legislature to change the motto of Texas to “Lone Star State.” He also said that perhaps a compromise would be to give Texas residents a choice of either “Friendship State” or “Lone Star State” on their plates.

“If nothing else, this flap has educated people about what the real motto of Texas is,” he said.

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