Doc Stewart deserving thanks from region

One of eastern New Mexico’s more prominent citizens will receive a public thank-you today. Few are more deserving than Doc Stewart.
The longtime area car dealer and Committee of Fifty member will be recognized at a reception — open to all — from 6 to 8 p.m. today at The Landing at Cannon Air Force Base. City of Clovis officials have declared this Doc Stewart Day.
Born Ernest Oscar Stewart Jr on Sept. 2, 1924, he earned the nickname Doc by serving 3 1/2 years as a corpsman in the Navy.
His military contributions have continued for seven decades.
In 1956, Stewart joined the Committee of Fifty — the military affairs committee of the local Chamber of Commerce — soon after arriving in Clovis. In 1965, he was elected chairman of the Washington Committee, a group with which he still travels to lobby for Cannon projects.
While most of Clovis and Portales support Cannon for its impact on the region’s economy, friends say Stewart’s interest is more personal.
“Doc has always been a people person,” said Clovis builder Chad Lydick, 54, who’s known Stewart most of his life. “He’s gotten involved in the lives of a lot of men and women who’ve served out there and he’s never forgotten them. He’s stayed in touch with a lot of (them) on a daily and weekly basis.
“His relationships with those people have been genuine and very long lasting. A lot of people care about things, but they don’t stay with it and develop personal relationships the way Doc does. … Doc has taught us all how to do that.”
At 79, Stewart remains an active promoter of Cannon whose voice is respected in the nation’s capital. Lydick said Stewart has helped him understand that Cannon’s future in eastern New Mexico is dependent on Cannon’s importance to the Air Force.
“We’ve always gone and talked to the top leadership of the Air Force about the Air Force mission and the mission at Cannon, and how we can keep Cannon in the forefront,” said Lydick, who joined the Washington Committee in 1996.
“We’ve always ended our conversations saying ‘Now what message can we carry from the Air Force to our legislative delegates?’ Then we go and take their message to our leadership (in Congress). We’ve always believed in the mission of the Air Force, not just Cannon.”
Lydick said Stewart helped develop that philosophy.
Our region’s relationship with Cannon has never been more important as the government plans another round of base closures in 2005. We’re confident Cannon will survive those cuts, in part because of our wide-open spaces that provide room for its expansion. But our community’s welcoming attitude toward Cannon is no less important to the base’s future.
The relationships Doc Stewart has been building at Cannon for nearly 50 years is one key factor in the region’s favor.
With Doc Stewart Day, we say thanks.