Downtown post office honors Merle Haggard


Fitzgerald Graves

CSUB President Horace Mitchell and House Representative Kevin McCarthy greet one another at the Merle Haggard Post Office Dedication in Downtown Bakersfield.

Fitzgerald Graves, Reporter

On Friday April 6ththe downtown Bakersfield United States Post Office located at 1730 18thSt. was dedicated to a country music icon and Son of Bakersfield, Merle Haggard. Several members of the public, local, state and national government officials were in attendance to honor Haggard’s legacy of redemption and accomplishments.

As this measure took an act of congress to enact, the lead on this effort was United States Representative of California’s 23rd   congressional district and Majority House Leader, Kevin Owen McCarthy.

McCarthy spoke candidly about the challenges Haggard faced throughout his young life. And how he was able to maintain his passion and talent while paying his dept for an earlier transgression that led to Haggards incarceration. “Although Merle was not perfect, he is a model of not giving up and pulling yourself up …….and having a better life”, said McCarthy.

McCarthy said, “Getting this act passed was not a partisan effort, but a bi-partisan effort and representatives from both sides of the aisles have a love for Merle Haggards music.”

The Act H.R.1988 was passed by the One Hundred Fifteenth Congress of the United States of America at the second session approved the name change/dedication of the United States Post Office in Downtown Bakersfield to officially recognized as the Merle Haggard Post Office Building.

Protestors at the event silently held up signs that read, “Why haven’t you brought H.R.1406 and 401?” Another sign read, “McCarthy (should Know) Torture is Not OK.”

Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh was a speaker at the dedication to Haggard. She reflected on the 40 number one country hits Haggard accrued and a litany of awards he received. “What a wonderful city we have and how honored we are to Have Merle give [share with] us his gift the…. gift of music.” Haggard’s song Today I Started Loving You Again,has been recorded by roughly 400 various musicians.  Bakersfield Sound was also started by Haggard and his band, The Strangers, solidifying their original sound through the twang of a Fender Telecast.

Johnny Owens and the Buck Fever Band performed some of Haggards popular songs. Johnny said, ”It’s a great honor to be apart of this celebration that celebrate a great country music icon.

Goh presented Theresa Haggard, widow to Merle Haggard, with a certificate of honor from the City of Bakersfield in celebration of the life and legacy of Merle Haggard and the newly dedicated post office.

Postmaster Lynda LaForce, the first ever female postmaster in Bakersfield, was the first speaker at the dedication. “It was on this day two years ago that Merle Haggard died and it was important that we have the dedication on April 6th…. although it was a short turn around on the passing of the Act, planning the dedication to Merle, and like myself as well as all who help put it together felt that this event had to be done on this day.”

LaForce said,” Merle is a Bakersfield treasure……. whose music I was introduced to by my husband [boyfriend at the time] … and his music is very moving.

He has a highway named after him, that I travel on everyday…he has an overpass named for him in Northern California near his home where he passed [Palo Cedro, CA] …. Actually, he is internationally acclaimed.” Said LaForce.

Several of Haggards friends gathered near the steps of the newly dedicated Merle Haggard Post Office to share memories about their friend amongst each other. His long-time friend and manager Fuzzy Owens said, “I’m very pleased to see my friend be honored this way.”  Stu Taylor, who was Haggard’s head of security and friend for 40 years said, “I really miss the Hag’s sense of humor. What a great honor for a great friend.”

Merle Haggard Post Office Building is a great honor for the Hag and for the town of Bakersfield. Merle’s life of music took him from the jailhouse to the mail house!