EDITORIAL — Courtyard fitting tribute to librarian

Published 3:02 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Ray Cline’s passion for public libraries was initiated in this state’s high country, 4,600 feet in elevation in Texas’ most northwestern county of Dallam, where Highway 87 wanders into New Mexico. In fact, some in New Mexico still claim Cline’s native Texline — population 507 — as part of their own state, in a lingering border dispute brought on by an 1859 survey still at issue.

These days, Cline, former Port Arthur librarian, carries on his passion for libraries unabated in our city, just seven feet above sea level, a long stretch and downhill roll across Texas and away from his boyhood roots. From the boy who volunteered at the library during his junior and senior high school years in Texline — he graduated in a class of 10 — he grew to become a student library assistant at West Texas A&M. He later served a hitch in the military, assigned as custodian of documents, before entering a graduate program in library science at the University of North Texas. Master’s degree in hand, he joined the Port Arthur Public Library — it was housed in the Gates Library on Stilwell Avenue, then — helped open the new library at its current, Ninth Avenue location in 1980, and rose to director in 1986, a position he held until his retirement in 2005.

Nowadays, Cline serves as president of the Friends of the Library, “still in the mix” and of great counsel to him, library director Steven Williams said last week. In fact, Cline saw such promise in Williams when the latter was a youngster, waiting tables at Cline’s favorite restaurant, that he encouraged Williams to apply as a student worker at the Port Arthur library, launching the younger man into a career in which he rose steadily to the top.

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Come Saturday, Cline’s long ties to the library he loves will draw tighter still as the refashioned courtyard attached to the library will be renamed in his honor. That will occur on “Ray Cline Day,” proclaimed for June 1 by Mayor Derrick Freeman at last week’s City Council meeting.

Last week, Boy Scouts from Troop 122 in Beaumont were planting shrubs and flowers in the courtyard, working long hours to prepare for Saturday’s event. A plaque will be placed inside the library at the door where patrons will exit into the courtyard, which, in addition to greenery, will be enhanced with seating areas for those who want to read under the warmth and light of the sun.

The Ray Cline Courtyard will become official, and, as the mayor urged in his proclamation about Cline, “…in the city of Port Arthur… ask all citizens to follow the example of service, leadership, and volunteerism set by him to make our community a better place for all citizens.”


See also: Port Arthur library: Courtyard named for former director