In the heart of the American Southwest, a unique blend of history and art comes alive through technology with the Tom Lea Trail Mobile Tour. Named after the iconic native Texan artist, writer, and war correspondent Tom Lea, this immersive experience is a journey through the life and works of a man who left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of the Southwest.
Tom Lea was born in El Paso in 1907, and his accomplishments make him a giant among his literary and artistic peers. His works have hung in LBJ’s West Wing and George W. Bush’s Oval Office; in the halls of the Pentagon and outside the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; in the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Truman Hall; and , in the chambers of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Lea’s poignant piece That Two Thousand Yard Stare has become the national symbol for PTSD. The Brave Bulls and The Wonderful Country, two of his best-selling novels, were both made into movies. With a natural generosity of spirit, Lea encouraged the careers of immigrant artists José Cisneros, Urbici Soler, Enriqué Alferez and José Aceves.
In 2018, the 85th Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 928, recognizing the Tom Lea Trail. After three years of development, on November 8, 2023, Senator César J. Blanco and Representative Joe Moody joined the Texas Historical Commission and the Tom Lea Institute to announce the launch of the Tom Lea Trail Mobile Tour at the Texas State Capitol.
The mobile tour highlights hidden gems in 12 large cities and small towns, ranging from the Pass of the North mural in El Paso’s historic U.S. Courthouse to the Comanches mural in Seymour’s Post Office. Travelers discover Ranger Escort West of the Pecos at the Texas State Capitol, and the realistically detailed First Recorded Surgical Operation in North America, 1535 at UT Medical Branch’s Moody Medical Library in Galveston. Each work of art reveals characteristics of the place where it is found, and the presentation is designed to engage tourists and educators alike.
The Tom Lea Trail Mobile Tour is the first artist-named trail in Texas. Housed on the Texas Historical Commission’s Time Travel website, its development was aided by grants from the Texas Historical Foundation. The state-of-the-art site is filled with music, narrated slide shows, videos, and linked resources. Visit the Tom Lea Trail Mobile Tour today for a fascinating virtual journey into Lea’s legacy.
Holly Packard Cobb
Tom Lea Institute