Politician stands tall in tale of Clovis history

By Don McAlavy: Curry Historian

I don’t believe any other man stood taller in the estimation of Clovis citizens than Bill Duckworth.

He was a pharmacist, drug store owner, politician (Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico), state senator for six years, Curry County Commissioner, automobile dealer, farmer, 33 degree Mason, Rotarian who achieved an almost unbelievable record of over 30 years of perfect attendance, a collector of books which he donated to the Clovis library and had a 15 minute radio show almost daily where he gave a history of old timers. Duckworth lived in Clovis from 1910 to the day he died in 1970 at age 84.

The amazing thing about Duckworth was he was a Republican politician in the midst of staunchy-Democratic politicians who at that time, 1922 and later in 1960, controlled Curry County.

William H. Duckworth was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa on Aug. 24, 1885. His father was born in Maryland and his mother in Scotland. He quit school at age 16 to go to work for the McKesson drugstore company as a traveling pharmaceutical salesman.

Duckworth sold drug store medications in the Texas panhandle and in New Mexico, coming in 1908 to Clovis. He liked the up-and-coming town and in 1910 moved to Clovis permanently. He purchased the Southwest Drug Co. at Main and Grand and sold it in 1922 to go into the automobile salesmanship business. He was also dealing in real estate and farms until 1928 when he purchased his own Dodge dealership

Duckworth said in the early years of the depression, he “was active in running a business and a farm and meeting both financial success and fiasco.” In 1934, he opened Duckworth Drug Co. at 320 Main and ran it until 1952.

Can you believe that through the years Duckworth was very active in the community and civic life? He was a working member of the Clovis Chamber of Commerce, was on the ENMU Board of Regents, on the Lincoln County Memorial Commission, on the State Board of Pharmacy and a member of the State Tax Commission. He was also one of Clovis’ historians.

His first wife was Mabel Shannon, whom he married in 1917 in Clovis. Years after her death he married Lucia Staubus, widow of Rock Staubus.

The sad thing: Bill Duckworth never had any kids.

A man who had only an elementary education, Duckworth was recognized as a man with a “brilliant mind who devoured book after book in his day.” His office located upstairs over his drug store was crammed with books he purchased by the box-full. He gave most of these books, a truckload, to our public library. It was also said he “could play mental solitaire, picturing the cards and remembering where each one was without utilizing the deck . . . so sharp was his mind.”

Death for the county’s dean of Republican politicos, came at 5 p.m., May 21, 1970, at Clovis Memorial Hospital where he had undergone amputation of his right leg on May 5th.

I wish Clovis had made a statute of him instead of mounting a tall flagpole at his home.

Material for this column was taken from David Molina’s story of Bill Duckworth’s history and death. Molina was a long time Staff Writer and Managing Editor at the Clovis News Journal. Molina was my friend and I mourn his death too. He died on June 14, 2005, at age 67. He is also remembered.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: dmcalavy@telescopelab.com