Two national Route 66 associations merge into one

U.S. 66 Highway AssociationThe National Historic Route 66 Association and the Route 66 Alliance have merged into one group as the previously disbanded U.S. 66 Highway Association, according to a news release Monday afternoon.

Here is the news release:

Tulsa, OK, January 5, 2015 – Dormant since the 1970s, the original and most influential Route 66 organization, the U.S. 66 Highway Association, is being re-established following the consolidation of the Route 66 Alliance and the National Historic Route 66 Federation. Originally, created in 1927 by enterprising Tulsan, Cyrus Avery, known today as the “Father of Route 66,” the U.S. 66 Highway Association dominated as Route 66’s singular national umbrella organization for nearly 50 years.

Avery’s grandson, Cyrus Stevens Avery II confirmed today that Michael Wallis’ Tulsa-based Route 66 Alliance and the National Historic Route 66 Federation run by Executive Director David Knudson in California have consolidated their organizations under the U.S. 66 Highway Association’s re-established banner. The historic announcement will combine both groups’ resources under the Avery association’s auspices.

In the decades since the U.S. 66 Highway Association was dormant, no entity had definitively established itself as the sole national clearinghouse of information for Route 66 enthusiasts. As a combination 501c3 and 501c4, the Alliance and Federation under the re-energized U.S. 66 Highway Association banner will accomplish that goal, creating a collected entity with international reach and influence.

“We’re delighted that Michael and David will continue the family legacy,” Avery II stated this morning. “My Grandfather created 66 in Tulsa, Michael is a fellow-Tulsan, and both he and David have done well to carry my Grandfather’s vision forward these past many years.”

David Knudson’s California-based National Historic Route 66 Federation is responsible for the 1990’s legislation that established the $10 Million funding bill aimed at preserving Route 66. Through it, the Route 66 Corridor Program overseen by the National Park Service was established.

“We’ve been discussing partnering since late 2013,” said Knudson. “There’s a perception of division between our organizations, but we’ve always shared a mission statement of Route 66 preservation, promotion, and education. Creating unity to quiet the dividers while also reaching our global fan-base made sense.”

As the voice of the sheriff in Disney/Pixar’s 2006 film Cars, Wallis has a fan base of his own. A three-time Pulitzer-prize nominee, he wrote Route 66: the Mother Road in 1990, the book commonly seen as a catalyst to Route 66’s nostalgic rebirth. He established the Route 66 Alliance in 2008 with co-founder Rick Freeland to ensure the road’s survival for future generations and he travels extensively each year promoting it. Says Wallis, “U.S. 66 is another piece of the puzzle for Tulsa to reclaim pride of ownership over Route 66’s heritage. Tulsa, my friends, has always been the ‘Washington D.C.’ of Route 66.”

The U.S. 66 Highway Association also re-registered the names Route 66 Association and the Highway 66 Association, which it was sometimes referred to. “We’ll use those again too,” laughs Avery II. “Anything we were then, we’ll be again.”

A phone call to Wallis’ assistant, Kathy King, confirmed the new association will be based in Tulsa. The U.S. 66 Highway Association eventually would be housed in the Route 66 Experience museum that’s planned on the banks of the Arkansas River in Tulsa. The group that is submitting a plan for the museum — which includes members of the Route 66 Alliance — will need to raise millions of dollars to build the museum in a public-private partnership.

The current officers of both associations will continue to have roles with the new association. Merger talks had been going for some time, and an eventual consolidation had been expected.

Naturally, two associations as one could mean a lot of big things in the future. For one, the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program will sunset in a few years, and the National Park Service has long wanted the grant program to eventually transition to private hands. The new association conceivably could take over part or all of that role.

Having one national Route 66 association — thanks to the connections Alliance co-founder Rick Freeland has in Washington and the Federation’s previous success in shepherding the Corridor program — also should come with more clout in state and federal governments.

Naturally, this is speculative. But it also is apparent this could very well be a watershed moment in the history of Route 66’s renaissance.

(Image of the 1934 logo of the U.S. 66 Highway Association)

6 thoughts on “Two national Route 66 associations merge into one

  1. I am no Route 66 historian, but I must say your Route 66 News blog is without a doubt one of the best resources for a history of all things 66. I hope you publish a book from your archives. I planned my trip using many of your blogs and suggestions.

  2. Steve above is correct. This blog is a pretty awesome source of information. I have my own Google news alert for anything “Route 66,” but Ron does a fantastic job of bringing to the fore information that does not always show up in that alert I have. That’s why I’m subscribed to get all updates to this blog!

  3. Well, I’m not going to deviate from form… Ron’s site is the best there is when it comes to being current on Route 66.

    As to the story- well, this is going to be interesting. Having met many of the Alliance players, I believe in their enthusiasm and belief in Route 66 and its preservation and promotion. We all know we have needed a national group- one that can speak to policymakers; help guide economic development; work with states, municipalities and counties on modifications and construction projects around Route 66. I am anxious to see progress be made, and to be able to work locally with the Route 66 Highway Association for the betterment of the road here, and for all who use it.

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