In July of that year, a rising sophomore at Texas Tech by the name of Jim Phillips wrote to Governor Connally with an idea. Phillips’s family had taken a vacation in the southeastern U.S. from Wichita Falls a couple of years earlier and had driven on the Natchez Trace Parkway. Phillips described his idea thus: “I laid out my thoughts on a trail to the Governor, thinking that would at least get the idea out of my head. I was surprised when within a week, I got a letter back saying the Governor thought it was a great idea and he had forwarded it to the head of the Texas Highway Department”.
Whether Phillips’s letter is what really got the ball rolling, we may never know. But the governor in any case took the possibilities for highway tourism seriously. The TTDA began the search for a Texas advertising agency, and by January 1964, even with Connally still recovering from the gunshot wound received when the President was assassinated in November, it had narrowed its review and on February 3 selected McCann-Erickson’s Houston office to handle its account. In account executive Kern Tips’s report, two weeks later, of the agency’s initial meeting with representatives of the Highway Department (which had been responsible for all tourism promotion to date) and the new TTDA, the exploratory concept of “Texas Travel Trails” was already in the air.