HARLINGEN — Family and friends yesterday remembered David Allex as Mr. Harlingen, the beloved family man and Chamber of Commerce legend who helped transform the city’s economy, helping revive the town in the 1960s before turning Valley International Airport into a regional powerhouse.
Allex, 82, died early yesterday morning at Valley Baptist Medical Center about two weeks after suffering a stroke.
“There’s a reason they called him Mr. Harlingen,” Mayor Chris Boswell said. “He was one of the greatest cheerleaders and advocates the city ever had.”
In the 1960s, Allex took over as president of the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce, spearheading a drive to sell 3,000 homes left vacant after the Harlingen Air Base shut down.
“When the Air Base closed, he coordinated the business leaders to get Harlingen back on its feet,” businessman Bill Peacock recalled.
The “Go Harlingen” campaign, which marketed the houses as affordable retirement homes, drew 6,000 new residents to town.
“It was a huge initiative to revitalize the community after the city’s population decreased by 20 to 25 percent,” Boswell said.
In 1975, Allex helped bring Southwest Airlines to Valley International Airport, making Harlingen the fourth spoke in the fledging airline’s hub while transforming the airport.
“His leadership with the chamber for 30 years left a great mark on the city, including bringing projects like Southwest Airlines,” Boswell said. “He was a great friend and we’re sad we don’t have him anymore.”
Mobility Authority chief
For about 10 years, Allex served as chairman of the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority, first appointed by Gov. Rick Perry and later by Gov. Greg Abbott, said Pete Sepulveda, Cameron County’s administrator who formerly served as the RMA’s executive director.
“You’re talking about a gentleman who was a great leader,” Sepulveda said. “He was a man with a vision who was passionate, persistent and relentless in accomplishing his vision. We had a long-term vision and we wanted to get it accomplished. The CCRMA is the RMA poster child for the state of Texas because of David Allex.”
Lessons passed on
After Allex resigned from the chamber in 1996, Peacock turned to Allex’s lessons to lead the chamber as its new president.
“I learned a lot about promoting Harlingen from David Allex,” Peacock said. “In those days, we did economic development and visitor promotion and he did it all. He loved Harlingen and he promoted it the very best he could. He was synonymous with Harlingen. Everywhere he went everyone knew David Allex.”
In recent years, Mike Allex, Allex’s son, led the chamber as president and chief executive officer.
“He taught me hard work is very important — if something’s worth it, it takes time and effort,” Mike Allex, an architect, said. “He was the hardest worker that I’ve ever seen — chamber exec and salesman for Harlingen, Texas.”
When he helped the chamber land new projects, his father let the board of directors take the spotlight.
“There was humility about him. He was the guy in the back of the room. He didn’t want to be front and center. He wanted to give credit to the people around him,” his son said. “As a chamber exec, he let his board take credit for anything positive in economic development because he was paid and they were volunteers doing it out of the goodness of their hearts.”
Throughout his life, Allex turned to God for guidance.
“He was a firm believer in Jesus Christ. He believed some things are in his hands,” his son said. “He taught us as kids that we were to live like Jesus Christ. He taught us to take the word ‘hate’ out of our vocabulary. You never hate anybody.”
During his life, Allex taught his children by example.
“He was an awesome, tremendous father and grandfather who loved God, his wife and family above anything else,” his son Scott Allex, a financial advisor, said. “Persistence was one of his favorite things. ‘You’re an Allex — you can do it. You can do anything. Don’t get down, get up and fight. Don’t give up.’”