The New Mexico State University Library is participating in the
Tom Lea Month celebration as part of the Tom Lea Trail, along with 24
other institutions in eight other cities. The October celebration is an
annual activity of the Tom Lea Institute in El Paso. Lea, a noted El Paso
artist, is known for his paintings and murals, but is also quite well
known for his work as an author and illustrator. He also served as a war
correspondent for Life Magazine during WWII.
A 17 minute DVD, “Dignity Beyond Borders,” depicting a 1994 conversation
with Lea, is available for checkout at the Zuhl Library service desk. The
film shows Lea in his El Paso studio sharing experiences from his life and
explaining his love of the Southwest. Brochures on the Tom Lea Trail are
also available at Branson and Zuhl libraries. The Library is privileged
to have two 1934 murals by Lea, “Old Mesilla” and “Conquistadores.” These
works, relocated during the recent Branson Library renovation, will be
rehung in the Branson lobby this fall.
Lea made his mark on Texas history and left a trail of artwork for people
to follow. Although the Tom Lea Trail is not officially designated,
following it requires a rambling traverse of the entire state. From El
Paso to Dallas to Austin and south to Kingsville, Lea’s artwork and murals
can be found spread across the state, and beyond into New Mexico. Using
his artist’s brush and writer’s pen, Lea commanded his bit of Texas
history without a bayonet or musket or the title of a military commander.
Born in 1907, Lea expressed an interest for the arts throughout childhood.
When he was 18, Lea left El Paso for the Art Institute of Chicago where
he accomplished two years of formal training, as well as a five-year
apprenticeship with Chicago muralist John Norton. When Lea returned to El
Paso, he was already an accomplished artist. Lea was also a published
author. His best-selling novel titled The Brave Bulls was published in
1948. In 1951 it was made into a movie starring Mel Ferrer and Anthony
For more information on Tom Lea Month and the Tom Lea Trail, visit