Joe Wyatt
Published March 22, 2018

James A. Farren, who will retire this year after serving as Randall County’s criminal district attorney since 1995, has been selected to receive the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award from Amarillo College.

JamesFarrenHe will be introduced as this year’s honoree while serving as guest speaker for the AC Honors Convocation, which is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, April 15 at the Amarillo Civic Center.


Farren also will be recognized April 19 during the AC Foundation’s Spring Fling on the Washington Street Campus.


“I’m flabbergasted,” said Farren, who attended AC in 1976 and 1977. “I’m humbled and so appreciative of this honor. My experiences at Amarillo College were great. It was at AC where I finally learned how to be a successful student.”


A 1966 graduate of Amarillo’s Tascosa High School, Farren was a non-traditional student when he enrolled at AC; he was by then a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War and an officer with the Canyon Police Department.


He ultimately transferred his AC credits to Texas Tech University where he graduated Cum Laude in 1982, then obtained his Tech law degree in 1984. After several successful years as an assistant U.S. attorney and an assistant 47th District attorney, he won the 1994 election to become criminal district attorney for Randall County.


“James Farren is an outstanding selection as our Distinguished Alumnus for 2018,” Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, president of Amarillo College, said. “His remarkable service to our country and our community speaks volumes. He belongs without question on AC’s most prestigious roll call of alumni.”


Farren joins a noteworthy group of past recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award, a roster that includes, among many others, U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson; U.S. Secretary of the Treasury G. William Miller; Texas Rep. John Smithee; and Ben Sargent, editorial cartoonist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize.


“I have to admit that I was more interested in athletics than academics when I was in high school,” Farren said. “I did just enough to get by. But at AC I finally learned how to schedule time to study, and I learned how to think critically.


“I had a terrible grade point average in high school, but by the time I transferred to Texas Tech I had a 3.72 GPA and was able to go on to law school. I attribute a lot of my success to the fundamental groundwork I was able to establish at AC.”

Adding to the challenges of academia early on were the obligatory rotating shifts that young police officers typically were assigned to work. Early morning classes at AC were particularly arduous after a midnight shift, Farren says. But AC faculty were both tolerant and empathetic – “They understood our schedules and worked with us,” he said.

Farren does, however, remember one of his first classes at AC in which he kept a lower profile than in others. It was taught by a professor whose introductory remarks to the class included an impromptu monologue about how he had recently been issued a citation by an unnecessarily rude traffic cop.

“He quickly apologized to the class, thanked us for listening to his rant, and then asked all the students to take turns introducing themselves, sharing a little bit of their backgrounds,” Farren said. “When it was my turn, I just said I worked for the city.”

In one way or another Farren has been working for the city, the county, the state, and even the nation, ever since.

He was instrumental in the creation of The Bridge Child Advocacy Center for child victims of crime, the first of its kind in Texas. He has brought many thousands of criminals to justice. He has served as a Church of Christ minister, and in 2016 he was inducted into the Tascosa High School Rebel Hall of Fame.

 Amarillo College is pleased to list him among its most Distinguished Alumni.