AJ Swope Plaza to honor the life and legacy of late Amarillo local

Updated: Jul. 5, 2018 at 6:05 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Five years after he was tragically killed in a crash, friends continue to remember AJ Swope, a local musician and wind energy advocate.

"Everybody that met AJ would walk away feeling like, 'hey I got a new best friend,'" said Wes Reeves, chairman of Friends of AJ Swope.

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Now, those friends are honoring his memory with a plaza planned in downtown Amarillo.

"After he died, we wanted to find a way just to pay some sort of tribute to AJ," said Craig Vaughn, a supporter and friend of Swope. "He's the connecting factor between us all."

Coming together as the "Friends of AJ Swope", those that knew Swope, as well as local leaders, are planning a privately-funded downtown plaza that includes a 300-seat amphitheater, a Panhandle Walk of Fame, and a Panhandle First Responders Memorial. The plaza would be located on city-owned land at Southeast 8th and Lincoln, across from the MPEV location.

"Obviously, we want to see downtown develop and grow but we want to see the street life grow, we want to see people coming down and parking their car and doing a lot of things throughout the day and we can see this plaza as a park, almost," said Reeves.

The Panhandle Walk of Fame, in particular, started as a Facebook hobby for Vaughn, recognizing notable locals. The plans for a plaza became the perfect place to create a physical representation of that hobby.

"A lot of the names are ones everybody knows and the more I got to digging, the more I found some names that everybody should know," said Vaughn. "We thought it would be a great place to add this walk of fame idea into it."

The overall project is expected to cost $2.5 million, funded through private donations.

"That's a lot of money, but when you consider how giving this community has been over the years, we know that there are folks interested in giving back to the community," said Reeves.

For those close to Swope, the project also helps with the grieving process.

"That was the initial impetus, I think, was to try to have a fitting way to remember him and sort of help us focus our emotion and channel it because you feel so loss when you're in grief like that," said Reeves.

As each plan for the plaza comes into motion, those emotions and grief can continue to be channeled into something beautiful for the community to enjoy for years to come.

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