Skip navigation.
New Mexico State University
NMSU Library News

The Tom Lea Trail Leads to the NMSU Library

The New Mexico State University Library is delighted to participate 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.

Old Mesilla, 1934

Old Mesilla, 1934

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 Quinn.

For more information on Tom Lea Month and the Tom Lea Trail, visit or contact NMSU Library Development Officer April Anaya at (575) 646-3642.



October 16, 2013 Categories: Hold, News The Tom Lea Trail Leads to the NMSU Library