From the Editors 29 (2011)Engineer and Editor Juan Hart Moved El Paso Forward 29 (2011)Elizabeth Garrett: Songbird of the Southwest 29 (2011)A Passionate Life: Josephine Clardy Fox 29 (2011)Forgotten No More: Korean War POW Tells Story of Survival 29 (2011)Janice Woods Windle Treasures Family History 29 (2011)Andy and Syd Cohen: The Men Behind the Name 29 (2011)Leona Ford Washington Preserved Black History 29(2011)Ingeborg Heuser Brought Professional Ballet to City 29 (2011)Lee and Beulah Moor Left Legacy of Love 29 (2011)
From the Editors 28 (2010)Chasin’ Away the Blues: Texas Sunday Legislation 28 (2010)Simeon Hart Pioneered Local Industry 28 (2010)Felix Martinez: Southwestern Renaissance Man 28 (2010)Teresa Urrea: La Santa de Cabora Inspired Mexican Revolution 28 (2010)Utopia in Mesilla: The Shalam Colony 28 (2010)Stahmann Farms Produce Pecans on Two Hemispheres 28 (2010)Betty Mary Goetting Brought Birth Control to El Paso 28 (2010)Maud Sullivan Made El Paso Public Library a Cultural Center 28 (2010)Lucy Acosta’s Legacy Continues in LULAC 28 (2010)Belen Robles: Voice for the Latino Community 28 (2010)Toltec Club: Of Ghosts and Guests 28 (2010)
Strong Women Building a Strong City -- From the Editors 27(2008)Notable Women of El Paso 27(2009)The Chew Legacy: The Story of Herlinda Wong Chew 27(2009)Desert Nightingale: Louise Dietrich 27(2009)1909-2009: YWCA Celebrates 100 Years in El Paso 27(2009)Mabel Welch: El Paso’s First Female Architect 27(2009)Myrna Deckert Remains Modest About Achievements 27(2009)Suzie Azar Still Reaches for the Sky 27 (2009)The Moocher: Callie Fairley, First Woman Vice Detective in El Paso 27(2009)Alicia R. Chacón Came to Politics Naturally 27 (2009)Rosa Guerrero: Cultural Dynamo 27 (2009)
From the Past to the Present -- From the Editor 26 (2007/08)Yandell Boulevard Named for Prominent El Paso Physician 26 (2007/08)Japanese Immigrants Came Slowly to Borderland 26 (2007/08)World War II Affected Japanese Immigrants 26 (2007/08)Living, Breathing New Mexico Ghost Town: Hillsboro 26 (2007/08)Canutillo Developed from Land Grant 26 (2007/08)Rómulo Escobar Zerman: Juárez Agronomist and Teacher 26 (2007/08)El Paso Mayor: Tom Lea Jr. 26 (2007/08)Ted Karam: Lebanese Immigrant Lived American Dream 26 (2007/08)Publication Credits 26 (2007/08)
From the Director 25 (2006)First El Paso Protestant Church: St. Clement's 25 (2006)Bowie High School: Always a Bear 25 (2006)Golden Gloves Grew Out of El Paso's Love of Boxing 25 (2006)LULAC Fought Hard to Guarantee Rights 25 (2006)El Paso Women Gained Power in LULAC 25 (2006)McKelligon Canyon: From Cattle to Culture 25 (2006)Tortugas Celebrates Virgen de Guadalupe, San Juan 25 (2006)Bataan Death March and POW Camps 25 (2006)Bataan Survivors Recall Horrors 25 (2006)Anthony Family Had Five Sons in World War II 25 (2006)Sober on the Border 25 (2006)Clyde W. Tombaugh: Farm Boy Reached for the Stars 25 (2006)A Taste of Southwest Wine 25 (2006)
From the Director 24 (2005)From the Editors 24 (2005)Gypsie Davenport and May Palmer Ran Infamous Brothels 24 (2005)Pioneer Attorney William Burges Tackled Unpopular Issues 24 (2005)Richard Fenner Burges: Renaissance Man 24 (2005)Charles Kelly Wielded Power with Political 'Ring' 24 (2005)Tom Charles Wanted World to Know White Sands 24 (2005)Dripping Springs has Rich History 24 (2005)Thomas B. White Directed Innovative La Tuna for 19 Years 24 (2005)Cowboys on the Range --- Missile Range, That Is 24 (2005)Ranchers vs. the Feds: The McNew Saga 24 (2005)Mexican Repatriation in 1930s 24 (2005)White House Department Store 24 (2005)Thomason Hospital Celebrates 90 Years 24 (2005)R.E. Thomason Shaped City, State, Nation 24 (2005)
Postcards from the Past Editor's Column 23 (2004)From the Editors 23 (2004)Solomon C. Schutz Helped Bring Law and Order to El Paso 23 (2004)James Gillett Showed Courage in El Paso 23 (2004)Jim White Explored Carlsbad Caverns for Years 23 (2004)Ben Lilly: Mountain Man of the Southwest 23 (2004)Aldo Leopold Proposed Land Ethics 23 (2004)Escontrias Ranch: A Link to Hueco Tanks Park 23 (2004)Hueco Tanks is Site of Controversy 23 (2004)Marcelino Serna Became World War I Hero 23 (2004)Sam Dreben Soldiered All Over the World 23 (2004)Kern Place Neighborhood: The Man Behind the Name 23 (2004)Farah Manufacturing Now Just a Memory 23 (2004)Texas Knights of Columbus Began in El Paso 23 (2004)
Look for Us on the Web - Editor's Column 22 (2003)From the Editors 22 (2003)Victorio Fought to the Death for Homeland 22 (2003)O. T. Bassett and Charles R. Morehead 22 (2003)S. H. Newman: Pioneer Newspaperman Fought Vice 22 (2003)Elfego Baca Lived More Than Nine Lives 22 (2003)Woman's Club Has Long Served City 22 (2003)Cathedral's Beauty Pleases 22 (2003)Albert J. Fountain's Achievements Eclipsed by Mysterious Death 22 (2003)Albert B. Fall's Career Ended in Disgrace 22 (2003)Cloudcroft Baby Sanatorium Saved Many 22 (2003)Dale Resler Worked Hard for El Paso 22 (2003)Price's Dairy Still Family Owned 22 (2003)Woodlawn Bottling Brought Pepsi to Town 22 (2003)Union Depot Witnessed Growth of El Paso 22 (2003)
We're Now on the Web --From the Editor 21(2002)From the Editors 21(2002)Downtown Opium Dens Attracted Many 21(2002)Juneteenth Celebrates Freedom for Texas Slaves 21(2002)Black Cowboys Rode the Trails, Too 21(2002)Ku Klux Klan Had Short Life in El Paso 21(2002)Mining Became Big Business in Southwest 21(2002)Smeltertown Still Exists in Memories 21 (2002)El Paso Played Important Role in the Mexican Revolution 21 (2002)Pancho Villa Led Northern Forces in Revolution 21 (2002)Soldaderas Played Important Roles in Revolution 21 (2002)Pershing, Villa Forever Linked to Columbus 21 (2002)Cristeros Became Mexican Martyrs 1926-1929 -- 21 (2002)Houchen Settlement House Helped New Arrivals 21 (2002)Otis A. Aultman Captured Border History in Pictures 21 (2002)
Hot Springs Have Long HistoryThe Building of a City -- From the Editor 20 (2001)From the Staff (Volume 20)Pat Garrett Enjoyed Controversy 20 (2001)Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire Terrorized Town 20 (2001)History Reveals Rivalry of Madams Etta Clark and Alice Abbott 20 (2001)Kohlberg, Krupp, Zielonka Became Business and Civic Leaders 20 (2001)Olga Kohlberg Pioneered Many Local Organizations 20 (2001)Henry Trost's Architectural Legacy Lives On 20 (2001)Sunset Heights Preserves History 20 (2001)Adolph Schwartz Built Local Retail Dynasty 20 (2001)Zach T. White Brought Progress to El Paso 20 (2001)Masons Became Leaders in Texas, El Paso 20 (2001)Smallpox Epidemic Showed Need for Hospitals20 (2001)El Paso High School Remains Classic 20 (2001)Bhutanese Architecture Distinguishes UTEP Campus 20 (2001)Elephant Butte Dam Solved Early Water Problems 20 (2001)
Pioneer Ranch became Concordia Cemetery 19 (2000)El Paso Grows Up 19 (2000)From the Staff 19 (2000)Chinese Immigrants Helped Build Railroad in El Paso 19 (2000)Volunteer Fire Department Grew into Professional Company 19 (2000)1880s Brought First Theaters to Town 19 (2000)Sisters of Charity Began Hotel Dieu Hospital 19 (2000)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso Into a Health Center 19 (2000)First Public School Built in 1884 19 (2000)Enigmatic Olivas Aoy Began School for Mexican Children 19 (2000)El Paso Public Library Began Modestly 19 (2000)Jesuits Continue to Influence Area 19 (2000)Sisters of Loretto Have Long Tradition in Southwest 19 (2000)Mormons Found Sanctuary in Mexico in 1880s 19 (2000)Mennonite Colonies in Mexico Accept Change Slowly 19 (2000)Flu Epidemic of 1918 Hit El Paso Hard 19 (2000)Early City Planners Saw Future in Scenic Drive 19 (2000)Prohibition Stimulated Economies of El Paso, Juárez 19 (2000)
The Editor's Column : The Building of a City 18 (1999)From the Editors 18 (1999)Magoffinsville Had Lasting Influence on El Paso 18 (1999)Town of El Paso Grew from Pioneer Settlements 18 (1999)Downtown El Paso Is Monument to Anson Mills 18 (1999)1848 War With Mexico Created Southwest 18 (1999)Colonel Doniphan and Volunteers Won Battle of Brazito 18 (1999)Gadsden Purchase Clarified U.S. Boundaries 18 (1999)Early Fort Bliss Occupied Pioneer Sites 18 (1999)Henry O. Flipper Paved Way for Integration of Military 18 (1999)Buffalo Soldiers Defended Western Frontier 18 (1999)El Paso Was Midpoint of Overland Mail Service 18 (1999)Salt War of 1877 Divided Southwest Residents 18 (1999)Geronimo Led Final Fight 18 (1999)Apache Indians Defended Homelands in Southwest 18 (1999)Texas Rangers Helped Keep Order on Frontier 18 (1999)Sarah Bowman and Tillie Howard: Madams of the 1800s 18 (1999)El Paso Grew Up with Arrival of Railroad 18 (1999)
Aztecs Ruled Complex, Rich Society 17 (1998)From the Editor 17 (1998)Aztec Beliefs Helped Conquer Mexico 17 (1998)Cortés Created New Order in Mexico 17 (1998)La Malinche Remains Controversial 17 (1998)Cabeza de Vaca: Travels in Texas 17 (1998)Estebán Furthered Legend of Cíbola 17 (1998)Coronado Searched for Cities of Gold 17 (1998)Oñate Conquered Desert to Explore Southwest 17 (1998)Festival Celebrates Oñate's Historic Arrival 17 (1998)Fray Garcia Left Great Legacy 17 (1998)Franciscans Brought Catholicism to Area 17 (1998)America's First Highway: El Camino Real 17 (1998)Pueblo Revolt Brought Tiguas South 17 (1998)Tigua Indians Survive 300 Years of Ordeals 17 (1998)Area Missions are Part of Living History 17 (1998)San Elizario Presidio Protected Settlers 17 (1998)Ethnic Terms Can Cause Confusion 17 (1998)
Oasis Restaurants Symbolized ‘50s Teen Scene 13 (1995)‘50s Cars Changed American Lifestyle And Image 13 (1995)Chevy Bel Air Charmed 1950 Car Buyers 13 (1995)San Jacinto Plaza Remains Heart Of Downtown El Paso 13 (1995)Smokey Bear: A Legend Is Made 13 (1995)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assaults 13 (1995)Company E Survivor Recalls Days As Prisoner Of War 13 (1995)El Paso Red Cross Essential to War Effort 13 (1995)World War II Took its Toll On The Home Front 13 (1995)Civil Air Patrol Protected Border During World War II -- 13 (1995)Quickie Divorces Granted in Juárez 13 (1995)Atomic Bomb Developed In Southwest 13 (1995)Former Crew Members On B-17s Remember Tough Times 13 (1995)Vintage Warplanes Keep Past Alive 13 (1995)The Cavalry Bugler: Essential To Horse and Man 13 (1995)Sun Carnival 1936 Style 13 (1995)H. Arthur Brown: El Paso Symphony Guru Of The ‘30s -- 13 (1995)Swing Music Helped Dispel The Blues Of The ‘30s and ‘40s -- 13 (1995)The General Store: A Hidden Treasure Of The Past 13 (1995)
Change on the Border 15 (1997)From the Editor 15 (1997)Latinos Work To Change Stereotypes In Hollywood 15 (1997)Cesar Chávez: Simple Man, People’s Hero 15 (1997)Shelter For Farm Workers Becomes Reality 15 (1997)Women’s Shelter Helps To Heal The Pain 15 (1997)Home Schools Become Popular Alternative 15 (1997)Renovation May Revive Downtown El Paso 15 (1997)Title IX Changed Women's Sports 15 (1997)Special Olympics Shine In El Paso 15 (1997)La Fe Clinic Serves South El Paso 15 (1997)ASARCO Works To Clean Up Its Act 15 (1997)A Growing Phenomenon: Single Fathers 15 (1997)Stepfamilies Become More Numerous 15 (1997)Teens Rebel Against Authority 15 (1997)Comics Retain Popularity 15 (1997)Tom Moore And Archie Have Timeless Appeal 15 (1997)
Life on the Border: 1950s & 1960s --14 (1996)From The Editors 14 (1996)A Baseball Team By Any Other Name 14 (1996)Drive-In Theaters Appealed to all Ages 14 (1996)El Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations 14 (1996)Barbie Doll Revolutionized Toy Industry 14 (1996)Rabies Took Bite of Sun City 14 (1996)Rabies: A Deadly Virus 14 (1996)Border Patrol Used Variety of Methods to Control Immigration 14 (1996)L. A. Nixon Fought Texas Voting Law 14 (1996)Douglass School Served Black Community Well 14 (1996)Thelma White Case Forced College Integration 14 (1996)Steve Crosno: An El Paso Original 14 (1996)Rock 'N' Roll Defined Teen Culture 14 (1996)A Shopping Mall by the People for the People 14 (1996)Chamizal Dispute Settled Peacefully 14 (1996)Turney Mansion Becomes Work of Art 14 (1996)First Hispanic Mayor Elected in 1957 -- 14 (1996)Flower Children Chose Alternative Lifestyle 14 (1996)
Three Decades of History 12 (1994)From the Editors 12 (1994)The Plaza Theater…Here to Stay!? 12 (1994)El Paso Broadcasting: The Stories Behind the Call Letters 12 (1994)Alphabet Agencies: FDR's Brainstorm 12 (1994)Chihuahuita in the 1930s: Tough Times in the Barrio 12 (1994)Hobo Sign Language Targeted El Paso 12 (1994)Self- Sufficiency Key to Farmers' Survival During Depression 12 (1994)Hanna's Story A Holocaust Survivor Remembers 12 (1994)Former Members Recall Life in Hitler Youth 12 (1994)German Prisoners of War Interned at Fort Bliss During World War II -- 12 (1994)German POWs Remembered at Fort Bliss 12 (1994)One German POW's Story 12 (1994)Ration Books and Victory Gardens: Coping with Shortages 12 (1994)Women Changed Wartime Work Patterns 12 (1994)Bracero Program Hurt Domestic Farm Workers 12 (1994)San Pedro Pharmacy Retains Look of the Past 12 (1994)Teenage Fashions of the Nifty Fifties 12 (1994)Rebel Image of Motorcyclists Set in 1950s -- 12 (1994)
Border Customs and Crafts From the Editor 10 (1992)From the Editors 10 (1992)King on the Mountain 10 (1992)Piñatas! 10 (1992)How to Play the Piñata Game 10 (1992)Out of a Cotton Boll Bloom Beautiful Crafts 10 (1992)Cotton Boll Entertains Too 10 (1992)Hands That Create Art and Soul 10 (1992)La Charreada - Mexican Horsemanship 10 (1992)Boots - A Family Tradition 10 (1992)Some Boys Still Grow Up to be Cowboys 10 (1992)Boot Capital of the World 10 (1992)The Magic of Mariachis 10 (1992)Ballet Folklorico - High School Style 10 (1992)New Generation of Mariachis 10 (1992)The Lady is a Bullfighter 10 (1992)The Midwife: Choices for Border Women 10 (1992)Retablos: Echoes of Faith 10 (1992)Tigua Indians: Dancing for St. Anthony 10 (1992)The Aztec and the Miracle 10 (1992)A Hispanic Girl's Coming of Age 10 (1992)Art - Low and Slow 10 (1992)Wedding Traditions on the Border 10 (1992)
Border Food Folkways From the Editor 9 (1991)From the Staff 9 (1991)Tortillas: Border Staff of Life 9 (1991)The Booming Tortilla Industry in Mexico 9 (1991)Where's The Beef? In El Paso! 9 (1991)How Do I Love Thee, Piggy? Let Me Count the Ways! 9 (1991)Tamales By Any Other Name Remain The Same 9 (1991)Rio Grande Thanksgiving 9 (1991)The Tigua Indians: Food for Thought 9 (1991)Corn: The Golden Gift from Our Ancestors 9 (1991)Border Pottery - Function and Beauty 9 (1991)Holy Hot Mole! 9 (1991)Looking Back at the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Men Behind the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Hot Peppers : They're Not Just for Eating 9 (1991)Food, Spices Double as Folk Cures 9 (1991)Weeds or Edible Desert Plants? 9 (1991)Cactus: It's Good for You! 9 (1991)Day of the Dead Celebrates Spiritual Tradition 9 (1991)Nutricious, Delicious Beans 9 (1991)Menudo Makes The Big Time 9 (1991)Mediterranean Cuisine: Old Tradition, Fresh Idea 9 (1991)Lenten Foods: From Fasting to Fabulous 9 (1991)Tarahumaras Rely on Nature for Food 9 (1991)Tempting Sweet Breads : Pan de Dulce 9 (1991)
Border Customs and Crafts II From the Editor -- 11 (1993)From the Editors 11 (1993)The Best Little Asaderos in Texas 11 (1993)Glass Work Disappearing on Border 11 (1993)Cockfights Legal in Surrounding Areas 11 (1993)Local Craftsmen Keep Art of Saddlery Alive 11 (1993)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers 11 (1993)Chile Ristras Brighten Border Homes 11 (1993)Magoffin Home Preserves El Paso's Past 11 (1993)Bavarian Custom Celebrated in El Paso: Oktoberfest 11 (1993)Munich on the Border 11 (1993)Santo Niño de Atocha Called Miracle Worker 11 (1993)Lenten Customs Vary 11 (1993)To Ask is to Receive 11 (1993)Border Maintains Tradition of Posadas 11 (1993)A Visit from Three Kings 11 (1993)Matachines: Soldiers of the Virgin 11 (1993)Dichos Are an Intricate Part of Mexican Culture 11 (1993)Cultural Superstitions Affect Behavior 11 (1993)Que Onda Homeboy! Why Do We Talk Like This? 11 (1993)Traditional Hispanic Children's Games Disappear 11 (1993)
El Paso Women to ResearchEl Paso Women to Research (by name)El Paso Men to ResearchEl Paso Men to Research (by name)
From the Editors 30 (2012)From the Editor, Credits and Contents 30 (2012)Jessie Hawkins and Jenna Welch: Love, Loss and Laughter 30 (2012)Woodrow Wilson Bean: One in a Million 30 (2012)David L. Carrasco Gave Back to Hometown 30 (2012)Cleofas Calleros Made Local History Important 30 (2012)Robert E. McKee: From Rags to Riches to Philanthropy 30 (2012)Kate Moore Brown: A Woman of Many Firsts 30 (2012)Fun in the 1890s: The McGinty Club 30 (2012)
Borderlands Web Issue From the Editor 31(2013/14)Acknowledgements 31(2013/14)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 31(2013/14)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 31 (2013/14)Harvey Girls Changed the West 31(2013/14)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 31(2013/14)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 31(2013/14)
Borderlands 32 Tolerance. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 32(2014/15)Henry Kellen Created El Paso Holocaust Museum 32(2014/15)Bicycle Padre Still Working 32(2014/15)El Paso Connections: Ambrose Bierce: writer 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Bobby Fuller, Rock Icon 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Tom Ogle, Inventor 32(2014/15)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 32(2014)Harvey Girls Changed the West 32(2014)
Borderlands 33 Service. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 33(2015)Nothing Is Impossible: Major General Heidi V. Brown 33 (2015)Local Latino Soldiers Receive Medal of Honor Decades after Heroism 33 (2015)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 33 (2015)Will the Real Leon Blevins Please stand up? 33 (2015)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 33 (2015)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 33 (2015)
Borderlands 34 Inspiration. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 34(2016/17)Building Bridges Instead of Walls: Temple Mount Sinai 34 (2016/17)Ruben Salazar: A Bridge Between Two Societies 34 (2016/17)Luis Jimenez: Art Creates Dialogue 34 (2016/17)Richard "Tuff" Hedeman: The Michael Jordan of Professional Bull Riding 34 (2016/17)Rescue Mission of El Paso Provides Food and Opportunity 34 (2016/17)
35 From the EditorsArea Missions Are Part of Living History (with 2017 update)Downtown El Paso is Monument to Anson Mills (with 2017 update)Chihuahuita in the 1930s: Tough Times in the Barrio (with 2017 update)The Magic of Mariachis (with 2017 update)New Generation of Mariachis (with 2017 update)Looking Back at the Chile PepperMen Behind the Chile Pepper (with 2017 update)Hot Peppers: They're Not Just for EatingEl Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations (with 2017 update)Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe Serves El Paso County (with 2017 update)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso into a Health Center (with 2017 update)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assault (with 2017 update)Company E Survivor Recalls Days as Prisoner of War (with 2017 update)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers (with 2017 update)
This is the "El Paso Mayor: Tom Lea Jr. 26 (2007/08)" page of the "Borderlands" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

Articles on the history and culture of the El Paso, Juárez, and Southern New Mexico regions, comprising the states of Texas, New Mexico, and Chihuahua, MX. A unique resource of faculty edited college student articles on the US-Mexico border.
Last Updated: Nov 10, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

El Paso Mayor: Tom Lea Jr. 26 (2007/08) Print Page

Border Studies at EPCC

  • Borderlands Home
  • Citing Borderlands
  • Borderlands Detective
    Guide for users doing research on border history in the El Paso/Las Cruces/Chihuahua, MX area.
  • Potential Topics
    Includes starting research on women, men, topics, places, and organizations/businesses.
  • Along the Rio Grande  
    Selected videos and full index of EPCC-TV series which highlighted local individuals and institutions involved in historical and cultural projects in the greater El Paso area.
  • Historical Markers Project  
    Survey of thirty-three historic sites in the El Paso area, with research materials, interviews, and summary materials.
  • Video Histories
    Notable El Pasoans (or those with ties to the region) speak to EPCC interviewers on their life and work in El Paso, Texas

Other Local Libraries


We do NOT have the resources to assist with genealogical research.

please contact:

*El Paso Genealogical Society

*UTEP Special Collections Dept

* El Paso County Historical Society

*El Paso Public Library Border Heritage Center

For GENERAL RESEARCH assistance contact Rachel Murphree at

For REPRINTS of Borderlands issues please contact Ruth Vise at


El Paso Mayor: Tom Lea Jr.

Article first published in Vol. 26, 2007/08.

By Nora Orozco

Tom Lea Jr. El Paso mayorDuring the summer of 2007, El Paso celebrated the centennial anniversary of the birth of artist and author Tom Lea. But El Pasoans in the early twentieth century knew another Tom Lea: the lawyer, the mayor, the reformer. And the father of the artist.

The eldest of three children, Thomas Calloway Lea Jr. was born on October 29, 1877, in Independence, Missouri, to Amanda Rose and Thomas Calloway Lea. He earned his law degree in 1898 from the Kansas City Law School in Missouri. In his 1995 biography Tom Lea: An Oral History, Tom Lea III tells how his father landed in El Paso. In 1901, he came to the Southwest to visit cousins who lived on a ranch in Carrizozo, N.M.

Image caption: Tom Lea served El Paso as mayor from 1915 to 1917.  Photo courtesy of  El Paso County Historical Society

Passing through Alamogordo on his way home in a stagecoach, Lea discovered he had left his wallet at one of the rest stops. He rented a horse to retrace his route but failed to find his wallet. He then hitched a ride on a freight train on its way to El Paso where with his last silver dollar he bought several meal tickets at a restaurant simply called “Eats.” Offering to wash dishes when his tickets ran out, Lea found how kind and generous El Pasoans could be. Restaurant owner Oscar Uhling refused his help but staked him until Lea found a job – as a bill collector.

Lea first saw his wife-to-be on Kansas Street. Zola Utt was a high school freshman at Central School, and Lea was told that the best way to meet her was to go to church. He chased away other potential suitors while courting Utt, and the two became engaged. In between his arrival and his marriage, Lea traveled in Mexico, seeking gold with friends and hoping to strike it rich. Three years of adventuring later – but no gold – Lea married Utt in June 1906.

Appointed Police Court Judge in 1907, Lea served four years in this role and the El Paso Herald reported that he established a reputation as fair and compassionate with the downtrodden, but harsh and relentless with the expert criminal. In an April 1911 article, the Herald noted: “When Lea first took office, he set a rule that a man who assaulted a woman, no matter what her character or color, he should be fined not less than $25, and to that rule he stuck to the last.”

go to top

Lea became a trial lawyer in partnership with Robert Ewing Thomason who would later serve as mayor, U.S. congressman and federal judge. In his autobiography, Thomason said of Lea, “He ... was the most colorful and successful trial lawyer in the Southwest.” Of Lea’s courtroom power, Thomason had this to say in a eulogy printed in the El Paso Herald:  “Tears were his chief weapon and he could bring them forth from judge, jury, and himself in behalf of the innocent horse-thief as well as the ‘dear little lady’ who had been forced to dispose of her ‘brute of a husband.’ ”

Tom Lea is remembered as a charismatic political reformer, and his oratorical style and success in the courtroom helped him to become an effective leader in the cause. Nationally, the Progressive Movement (1901-1917) was an effort to stamp out political corruption, promote democracy and close the gap between the classes. Reform usually began at the city level, and a major focus was cleaning up the corruption of political machines.

In El Paso’s case, it was a group called the “Ring,” a group of professional men and politicians who had controlled city government since 1899. Revenue from local brothels often funded schools, road improvements and the acquisition of private utilities. The “Ring” controlled political opposition often by brute force, and buying votes was common, especially paying Juarenses to vote in city elections, according to Thomason.

Reformers had tried since 1905 to effect a change in local politics with little success. Mayor Sweeney, a prominent “Ring” leader in 1907, “ordered gambling to cease but took no positive steps to stop it. He closed the front doors of the saloons on Sunday, but the back doors opened for business as usual. It was a help, of course, to get the ungodly off the sidewalks when the righteous were on their way to church,” wrote C. L. Sonnichsen in his book Pass of the North. This farce of an attempt at cleaning up the town failed to satisfy the reformers.

During the 1913 mayoral election, reformers worked hard to reveal the corruption under “Ring” city officials. The Herald sent undercover reporters to look for evidence of corruption and found alcohol laws were not being enforced, and on Utah Street (today’s Mesa Street) alone, 367 prostitutes were found living and operating with no shortage of demand, according to Sonnichsen. Although reformers lost another election, it was a different story two years later.

Sonnichsen wrote that the incumbent Charles Kelly, so sure of victory, boasted he could be mayor of El Paso for the rest of his natural life if he wanted to. Kelly’s arrogance caused him to misjudge his campaign efforts until the last month before elections when he realized that his opponent, the young lawyer Tom Lea, had gained significant ground with the people. The “Ring” rented every meeting hall in the city the night before the election to make it impossible for Lea to hold a rally. He surprised them by holding his rally at the local skating rink, speaking to an enthusiastic crowd for an hour. He not only promised the same city improvements that Kelly did, but equalization of taxes and an efficient administration as well.

On February 16, 1915, Tom Lea became the youngest mayor ever elected to that date, carrying four out of seven precincts, with a vote of 4,218 to 3,149. The “Ring” had been defeated and never recovered political power. One of Lea’s first orders of business was to discontinue the collection of “fines” from prostitutes. The Herald reported, “The mayor announced that he did not want to conduct his administration ‘with the blood money of these unfortunate women.’ ” Each woman had been paying $10 a month, a practice that had produced thousands of dollars for the city, which used the money to pay police and fire fighters. Although he lost a battle to shut down the red-light district, Lea had police routinely conduct raids, and the women underwent health exams on a regular basis. During his administration, the city council also passed an ordinance forbidding the public sale of narcotics and marijuana.

True to his promise, Lea began keeping a tight rein on the expenses claimed by city employees. He issued an order to suspend the practice of operating city automobiles for non-related business, especially on the weekends when taking long Sunday drives were a custom.  Lea’s adherence to the law admitted no exception. In El Paso Chronicles, Leon Metz noted that on September 14, 1915, when city police sympathized with streetcar strikers and declined to arrest the rioters who were burning street cars and littering the town, Lea threatened to fire the officers.

During Lea’s administration, events precipitated by the Mexican Revolution came to a head when President Woodrow Wilson gave Pancho Villa’s enemy Venustiano Carranza his support, and Villa withdrew any kind of protection Americans had while traveling in Mexico. On January 11, 1916, a train carrying 20 mining engineers invited by the Mexican government to reopen the Cusihuiriachic Mines outside of Chihuahua City was stopped by Villista troops in Santa Ysabel, Chihuahua. The men were taken off the train and ordered to disrobe; 18 of them were shot to death. Their bodies arrived in El Paso two days later.

Police received word that an El Paso mob was planning to lynch any Villistas they could find. Lea had 50 pro-Villistas arrested and ordered them to leave town, an act that El Paso historian David Dorado Romo equates with racism in his recent book Ringside Seat to a Revolution. Romo neglects to point out that Lea could have let them meet their fate with the mob, but instead afforded them protection. Meanwhile, the U. S. Congress wanted the president to intervene militarily.

With feelings running high on both sides of the border, a fight began two days later when two soldiers knocked two Mexicans from a sidewalk at Broadway and San Antonio Streets. The brawl accelerated into a near-riot in a crowd that grew to almost 1,000. As more fights broke out, General John J. Pershing called out companies of the 16th Infantry. Before order was restored, at least 25 Mexicans were beaten, with two taken to the hospital. Nineteen men were arrested, including 11 Anglos and eight Mexicans.

By late 1915, a typhus epidemic was wreaking havoc in Mexico City, Puebla and other cities. Known to infect war-torn areas where poverty and unsanitary practices abound, typhus, spread by body lice, resulted in 20,000 to 30,000 cases in Mexico City alone, according to the New York Times, as the revolution raged throughout the country. In January 1916, the Mexican Superior Board of Health acknowledged 2,001 deaths during December 1915, according to Claudia Agostoni of the Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

In an attempt to stave off the disease, health officials in El Paso wanted to set up a quarantine station for immigrants coming from Mexico. The disease, which has an incubation period of 10 to 14 days before high fever sets in, had been diagnosed in three men who had recently arrived from Aguascalientes, Mexico. Lea requested immediate quarantine, but disinfecting stations were set up instead. Immigrants crossing the El Paso border were bathed in kerosene and vinegar, inspected for lice and had their head and body hair shaved if lice were found.

go to top

Romo criticizes Lea and says his “atavistic fear of being contaminated by Mexicans  –  both bacteriologically and socially – seemed to have been an underlying motif of many of his administration’s policies.” Romo further attacks Lea for wearing silk underwear because he was told by Dr. W. C. Kluttz, city health officer, that typhus lice did not stick to silk. Kluttz also would die of typhus, contracted during his official duties.

Typhus had been and remained a scourge for many countries of the world, not just Mexico, and leaders everywhere were concerned with its spread and prevention. Not until it was discovered that DDT worked in prevention and that a vaccine came into widespread use in 1943 did the fear of typhus lessen.

Romo might be justified in his accusation that Lea was a xenophobe, but it is also the case that the assessment of the condition of the Mexican people because of the revolution was undeniably accurate. Living conditions had become dire. Thousands of hungry and jobless who witnessed their country ravaged by war sought refuge in El Paso. Agostoni contends that “the military and health authorities, the press and the public asked if the bullets or the microbes were causing the largest number of casualties.” In order to combat the typhus epidemic, Mexican health authorities also performed delousing procedures on their own citizens. Ironically, Howard Ricketts, the scientist who discovered the tiny bacteria causing typhus died in Mexico of typhus.

Tragedy did strike the Lea administration on March 5, 1916, when a group of prisoners who were ordered to take a gasoline bath was burned to death in a fire ignited by a cigarette. Twenty-seven men were killed, including 19 Mexicans. The mayor’s son Tom remembered this disaster and its aftermath. In Tom Lea: An Oral History, he said: “It really devastated my father and he thought about it an awful lot. Somehow or other he took the blame for it, you know, as he would. I remember that vividly.”

A year later what would become known as the “Bath Riots” occurred in connection with the required fumigations of immigrants. When a 17-year-old maid named Carmelita Torres refused to submit to the gasoline bath, others on the international trolley joined her. Romo says that within an hour, 200 women had joined in the protest, effectively stopping traffic into El Paso. Neither American nor Mexican troops could subjugate the women. However, the disinfections, which had begun about 1910, would continue for decades.

Besides these events, Mayor Tom Lea also became a personal enemy of Pancho Villa. Lea refused to tolerate the man who had caused so many Mexican refugees to live in tents at Fort Bliss with nothing to call their own except the clothes on their backs and government rations. Although Villa was often in El Paso, Lea told the El Paso Herald, “If that bandit comes here again, the police have orders to throw him in jail.” When Lea had Villa’s wife Luz Corral Villa and his brother Hipólito arrested for smuggling arms and ammunition in El Paso, Villa offered 1,000 pesos in gold for the mayor, dead or alive.

Furthermore, the mayor received obscene notes in Spanish threatening to kidnap and harm his two sons, nine-year-old Tom and five-year-old Joe. In his book A Picture Gallery, Tom Lea III wrote, “For quite a while in 1916 a special policeman was detailed to guard our house at night. My father was always armed. Joe and I were taken to and from Lamar School daily by a special policeman wearing a long-barreled .44 plain on his hip.”

When Tom Lea’s term as mayor was up in 1917, he stepped aside as he had resolved to do. He had served as a volunteer in the Spanish-American War and again in World War I, but by the time he had completed officer’s training school, that war was over. Lea’s wife Zola died in 1936, and three years later, he married Mrs. Rosario Partida Archer. After his military service, he resumed his law practice and was a member of the Texas Bar for 40 years. He died from a heart attack on August 2, 1945. The Texas Supreme Court honored him in a November 1945 resolution, and El Paso named a city park below Rim Road for him.

Tom Lea was not perfect. What he and others did in their own age is still being debated by historians. But he took his job as mayor seriously, determined to help make El Paso a better city in which to live, not an opportunity to enrich his own pockets, as so many other politicians had and would.

go to top

Tags: biography


Loading  Loading...