At Weatherford College, the name Roy Joe Grogan is often associated with the generosity of the Project Opportunity scholarship program, or the visionary decision to relocate the college campus in the 1960s. But Grogan’s roots extend far deeper into the history of Parker County.
“I’m related to practically everybody in Parker County,” Grogan said in a 2010 interview for the University of North Texas Oral History Program.
The Grogan family rode into Parker County via covered wagon in 1861, eight years before Weatherford College was established. Seven generations later, the family still maintains a presence in the community.
Grogan, 90, grew up during the Great Depression and witnessed his father transition through several jobs as the economy fluctuated and the United States entered World War II.
“We were all poor, but we didn’t know it and everyone was happy,” he said.
Following his graduation from high school in 1943, Grogan attended one semester at North Texas Agricultural College, now the University of Texas at Arlington, and one semester at Weatherford College before enlisting in the military shortly after his 18th birthday.
Grogan trained at several bases from Tennessee to Oklahoma and was accepted into a special program geared toward shooting down kamikazes. Just when his crew was about ready to start their mission, the atomic bomb was dropped in Japan and their plans were scrapped.
While his brother, Douglas Reid Grogan, saw action during WWII, Grogan spent the remainder of his war days in Hawaii.
“I had to spend…,” he laughed, “this is a real sacrifice…I had to spend eight or nine months over on Maui. Beautiful.”
Grogan returned to WC and completed his associate’s degree. He applied to and was accepted to Harvard University, but due to a waiting list caused by the influx of returning students from the war, Grogan decided to study law at Duke University instead.
At the same time, he remained a reservist in the military. When he graduated from law school the Korean War was picking up pace, and, concerned he may be called back to active duty before he could start up his law practice, Grogan joined the FBI.
He blew back into Weatherford following his training, married his girlfriend of five years, Jeanne, and whisked her away to California where Roy began his job with the FBI’s Communist Squad. His job was to locate small, splinter groups of communists and knock on their doors to talk with them.
“I have been cussed out in a lot of different languages,” Grogan exclaimed.
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Fellow lawyer and FBI employee Jack Borden convinced Grogan to return to Weatherford and go into practice with him. In addition to his career as a lawyer, Grogan was elected Parker County District Attorney, Weatherford City Council member and a member of the WC Board of Trustees.
Grogan also found success in commercial real estate. In 1959, he built the first shopping center in Weatherford, located on South Main Street, as well as other shopping centers, an apartment complex, and other projects around Weatherford.
During his 12 years on the Weatherford College board, Grogan played an instrumental role in the college’s move from South Main to its current location.
“We were overrun with students,” Grogan recalled. “That old building was meant to accommodate about maybe 250, and we had about 600 kids and they were parking everywhere.”
To construct the nine buildings that made up the new campus, the board decided to sell the old campus, including the iconic building nicknamed “Old Main.”
“A lot of people didn’t like that,” Grogan said, “but we needed the money to build the new campus.”
In a dedication ceremony for the Roy and Jeanne Grogan Historic Plaza on the WC campus held in the fall of 2016, Jeanne recalled: “I asked him, ‘Why would you want to move Weatherford College from South Main to that way out there place?’ We got some very interesting phone calls, by the way, that weren’t too appealing. But he weathered that storm.”
Even with selling the old campus, the college had to hold a bond election. The City of Weatherford had just lost a bond issue, but the college’s passed by a 7-to-1 ratio, Grogan recalled.
“We had support from a lot of people,” he said. “Some people didn’t particularly want us to go out there, but others saw it in much the same way we did and supported us and the process. It turned out great. We were very proud of that and still are.”
The Grogans have contributed more than $120,000 in scholarship funds to the WC Foundation over the years, and Roy was the driving force in establishing the Project Opportunity program in 1991, which pays the tuition of deserving Weatherford High School graduates to attend WC.
“I saw an article, and I think it was even on TV, a deal about this fellow in Louisiana in the oil business,” Grogan said. “And he started a program much like that for the underprivileged kiddos in Louisiana to get a college education, and it struck me that was a very great thing and we needed something like that.”
He found several others who were interested in the idea and the rest is history. Hundreds of WHS students have attended college through Project Opportunity.
“He is the most generous, competent, person of integrity that I have ever known in my life,” Jeanne said of her husband of 65 years. “And people who know him say the same thing. He is remarkable in many ways.”
NOTE: This feature appears in the Spring 2017 edition of The Hilltop,
a magazine for alumni and friends of Weatherford College. If you would
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