Lovington — named for love

Lovington’s Chaparral Park. Photo by Charles Kelley
Lovington's Chaparral Park. Photo by Charles Kelley

Lovington became the county seat of Lea County when it was created from the eastern portions of Eddy and Chaves Counties in 1917. A man named Robert Florence Love, known by his middle name, was determined to establish a town where his homestead was located, the site of present-day Lovington. He filed for a post office permit under the name of Loving. However, it was denied as there was a settlement south of Carlsbad known as Loving. He changed the application name to Lovington, and the post office was established on September 12, 1908.

There were lean years with drought and isolation, but Lovington began to come of age in the late 1920s. Oil at Hobbs and later at Lovington caused rivalry between the two cities. However, after World War II both cities began to unite in a common endeavor.

Agriculture, Lovington’s economic mainstay, advanced with irrigation farming, and the size of herds of cattle vastly increased. This, plus the discovery of oil, gave the city increased wealth. Recently the dairy industry has branched into cheese processing.

Lovington was proclaimed a city in February, 1955. Today, with a population of 9,800, located on U.S. Highway 82, 18 miles from the Texas border, it is a friendly, uncrowded and progressive place to live. At 3,934 feet elevation the climate is dry with warm, sunny days, and cool nights. It has mild winters with an average rainfall of 14-15 inches.

Community spirit is alive and well with the Activity Center for both youth and the general public, plus the library, five city parks, one swimming pool, nine baseball fields, Little League practice fields, five basketball courts, six tennis courts, one nine-hole golf course, one eleven acre fishing lake and one shooting range. A Senior Citizens Center provides service to the elderly.

Support of the arts is evident with May and November Arts and Crafts Festivals. The July 4 celebration at Chaparral Park includes the World’s Greatest Lizard Race, with almost 100 entries of all kinds of lizards including iguanas.

Education has always been a high priority, beginning with its first school built in 1908. Serving both Lovington and Hobbs, the College of the Southwest was established in 1956. On the same highway several blocks farther south is the New Mexico Junior College, the only institution of its type in the state when it was founded, which required six years of community and legislative effort. Its first college president began serving July 1, 1965, in temporary offices and construction began in February of 1966. The college opened in the fall of that year with 728 students. Today it houses a dozen or more buildings, plus the Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame, as well as a rodeo arena.

Carlsbad Caverns is only about 90 miles to the southwest of Lovington.

About Phyllis Eileen Banks