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MISSION—The Tom Landry mural has become a landmark in the city of Mission. The 95-by-18 foot tribute sits at the intersection of Conway Avenue and Tom Landry Boulevard on the north side the building owned by Bill and Gen Long.
Bill Long still recalls when the mural was just a way to keep children from spray-painting graffiti on his white building. Currently, the mural is seeing its fourth touch up in the last 20 years. The Tom Landry mural was dedicated on Sept. 18, 1995.
After being told by friends a mural would turn into a great tourist attraction, Long ran through his options of what to paint. His first thought was to create a mural of a grapefruit, but at the time, there was already dedicated art to citrus on a local building. He said he doesn’t remember how Tom Landry’s name was brought up, but he immediately knew it was the perfect fit.
Born in Mission in 1924, Landry played high school football for the Mission Eagles. After playing for the University of Texas on a football scholarship and serving in the Army Air Corps in World War II, he served as a player-coach in 1954-55, then defensive coach from 1955-59 for the New York Giants.
He was then hired as the first coach for the Dallas Cowboys, where he became a football legend, coaching the Cowboys from 1960-1989. As coach of the Cowboys, Landry achieved a string of 20 consecutive winning seasons, beginning in 1966. The team made 18 playoff appearances and played in five Super Bowls.
Manuel Hinojosa, who grew up in Mission, was the first artist commissioned to develop the concept and paint the mural. The piece has since been updated by artist Angel Hernandez and now Ernesto Macias.
Long said there have been added pieces to the original design. A painting of the home Landry grew up in was added to the bottom left corner of the mural and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes crest was added to the right side of the painting.
“That’s the house where Tom grew up, just catty-corner from the Methodist church here in Mission,” Long said. “We also added the crest from the FCA because Tom Landry was their executive director for 10 years.”
The first time the mural was painted, Hinojosa predicted it would take him two weeks to finish the mural. Long said it took more than eight months to complete due to the high temperatures in the summer time.
“He (Hinojosa) didn’t realize in the summer time when the sun gets north it would be too hot on the wall to paint,” Long said. “He could paint until about maybe 9:30 a.m. or 10 a.m. Then we had some problems with the walls and the paint peeling off because they had bought different brands of paint.”
Hernandez’s focus was solely murals, so Hinojosa recommended him to the Long family after paint began to peel. A few years later, Long said they decided to flatten their wall and remove pillars that had originally been part of the painting.
“We flattened the wall out and made a whole new wall and Angel painted it,” Long said. “Then water came in at the top of the wall and rotted the wood on the inside of the wall and the plaster started coming loose. So we had to redo it all again.”
After fixing the roof and rotted wood, Long said Macias is taking on the fourth renewal of the project. Macias has direction to finish the additions and touch up any peeling or cracks; he plans on completing the mural within the next few days.
Long said the mural is important to the city of Mission because Landry is someone children can look up to as a stand-up citizen.
“The good Christian man is kind of in the back row and he should be held up more,” Long said. “That was really the reason I chose him. This country needs good heroes now.”
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.