Margaret Weed Talkington was a philanthropist and the founder and owner of the popular women’s retail apparel store, Margaret’s, in Lubbock, Texas. The daughter of Jesse Daniel and Nellie (Pittman) Weed, Talkington was born on November 12, 1915, in Fort Worth, Texas. She attended public schools in Fort Worth and later graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1936. She began her career in the classroom and taught English and Spanish in both Kilgore and Mesquite, Texas.
In 1939 Margaret Weed married John Thomas “J. T.” Talkington, also of Fort Worth. Following J.T.’s service in the United States Navy during World War II, he returned to his work in Texas as an accountant. In 1946 Margaret and her husband relocated from Fort Worth to Lubbock to expand the offices of the accounting firm, Patterson, Leatherwood, and Miller, with whom J. T. was employed. With the assistance of her brother-in-law, Margaret searched for a business endeavor to suit her new life in West Texas. Following World War II, the city of Lubbock was poised for economic growth, and Margaret’s entrepreneurial spirit helped her identify the need for a high-end ladies retailer. Independently, she traveled by train from Lubbock to New York City in order to network, establish an agreement with a buying office, and secure a line of credit for her new business. During her time there, Talkington learned the retail fashion business. The connections she formed with buyers in New York City became the foundation of her new retail location at Lubbock’s Green Acres Shopping Center in 1946.
Margaret’s Ladies Specialty store, known simply as Margaret’s by locals, was the high standard for fashion trends in and around Lubbock and the South Plains. Clients were not limited to the West Texas area, Margaret’s frequently hosted shoppers from Dallas and other major American markets. By offering couture fashions in the middle of cotton country, Margaret’s is remembered by some as the “Neiman’s of west Texas.” The store was relocated in 1954 near downtown Lubbock at the junction of Broadway and Avenue T. Margaret’s provided a connection to high-end and trend-setting fashions for women in the Hub City and surrounding areas. The store’s popularity was so great, women in Lubbock wanted to be identified as a “Margaret’s woman.”
So great was the success of Talkington’s business, that in 1982 she received the Award for Direct Mail Excellence on behalf of the Sales Promotion Division of the National Retail Merchants Association. In addition, she served as the director for the Women’s Division of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce as well as serving as a board member for multiple other local organizations. She was presented the W.H. Tinney Ethics in Business Award in 2000 and in 2010 received the prestigious George Mahon Award from the Lubbock Professional Chapter of the Association for Women in Communications.
Through her work, Margaret Talkington traveled extensively and regularly visited fashion houses and seasonal shows throughout Europe. She not only had an eye for clothing but developed an eye for art as well. Talkington was a dear friend of internationally-acclaimed sculptress, and Lubbock native, Glenna Goodacre. Margaret’s art collection included work by Goodacre, as well as other significant regional artists. Her appreciation for art became evident through her generous support for Lubbock-area programs and gallery exhibits.
Talkinton’s professional career established a firm presence in West Texas and set her on a course for philanthropic endeavors after retirement. After nearly fifty years of business on the South Plains, Margaret’s closed its doors in 1994 upon the retirement of both Margaret and J. T. Although no longer working daily in her retail store, she continued to be an influence in Lubbock through her philanthropic deeds. She and her husband remained committed to local development, education, and the arts in West Texas. Former Lubbock mayor and friend Alan Henry described her local commitment, “She was fond of saying that the money was made in Lubbock, so she’d like to see Lubbock benefit from it.” In 1997 the J. T. and Margaret Talkington Charitable Foundation was established in Lubbock with a mission of providing funding for projects that would develop “arts and culture, community-based education, youth services, and other areas of community improvement.”
In 2010 the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal stated, “It is impossible to measure the long-reaching effects of the philanthropy of Mrs. Talkington and her husband, J.T. Talkington, who died in 2005, because so much of it was done anonymously. It was the custom of the couple to improve the lives of others quietly and behind the scenes.” Following her husband’s death, Talkington continued her life’s work of giving, community progress, and educational support through multiple endowments that included the Early Learning Centers of Lubbock, the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra, the YWCA, the Louise H. Underwood Center for the Arts, and the animal shelter for the city of Lubbock. In addition, she served on the Texas Tech University Foundation Board, the board of directors for Lubbock National Bank, Lubbock Regional Art Center, and the Covenant Foundation as well as local museum, the Science Spectrum.
Talkington’s store is featured in a permanent exhibition at the Science Spectrum Museum as a testimony to her innovation in fashion and business leadership. The exhibit opened in 2010 and highlights Talkington’s application of science, math, and engineering into the creation of a successful fashion business. Texas Tech University was a consistent beneficiary of the Talkingtons. The store regularly put on charitable fashion shows to provide scholarships to young women attending the university. The couple also assisted in the development of the university’s medical school, fine arts department, and notably the Talkington Gallery of Art at the campus’s museum, which features several pieces from Talkington’s own collection, including a painting by famed Taos artist and former Texas educator, Georgia O’Keefe. In 2016 Texas Tech honored the Talkingtons’ generous legacy of nearly $70 million by naming the college of visual and performing arts after the couple. Her generosity earned Talkington an honorary doctorate in the humanities from Texas Tech shortly before her death in 2010. According to former Texas Tech chancellor, Kent Hance, “She set the standard for being an entrepreneur, not just in West Texas, but anywhere. She was a great supporter of Texas Tech.”
Although Talkington never had children of her own, she managed to impact the lives of thousands of students in West Texas through her philanthropic efforts. She established the J. T. and Margaret Talkington Scholarship Endowment to assist students from Lubbock County high schools and transfers from nearby South Plains College who enroll at Texas Tech University. In 2010 Talkington became one of only fifteen Texans to have been honored with the Heroes for Children Award by the Texas Education Agency.
Through the Young Women’s Preparatory Network, Lubbock Independent School District established a public all-girls college preparatory academy in 2008. Initially the school was called the Young Women’s Leaders School, however, local leaders felt Talkington’s life work and dedication to the community merited the campus being renamed in her honor. Talkington first declined the offer, indicative of her desire for anonymity in giving, yet gave approval for the name change in 2009. Today, the Margaret Talkington School for Young Women Leaders is ranked as a National Blue Ribbon School (2016) and was awarded a Gold Medal Rating by U.S. News & World Report. Margaret’s namesake school is reflective of her impact on the past as well as future generations.
Margaret Weed Talkington died on December 15, 2010, at her home in Lubbock, Texas. She was interred at Resthaven Memorial Park in Lubbock.
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J.T. and Margaret Talkington Charitable Foundation (http://talkingtonfoundation.com/history.html), accessed May 19, 2019. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, December 17, 2010. Science Spectrum and Omni Theater: Permanent Exhibits (https://www.sciencespectrum.org/permanent-exhibits/), accessed May 19, 2021. Talkington History, Talkington School for Young Women Leaders (https://www.lubbockisd.org/talkington), accessed May 19, 2021. Kathryn Weed Vittetoe, Interview by Cathrine McMahan, March 25, 2019, Dallas, Texas.
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