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)
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Will the Real Leon Blevins Please Stand Up?

By Ruth E. Vise 

Blevins and wife Shannah
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!! No, it’s mild mannered Leon Blevins dressed as Superman on his way to a political science class where he might be lecturing on surviving in a global economy.

For more than 40 years, Leon Blevins has taught classes at the Valle Verde campus of El Paso Community College, often dressed as historical and classic characters in order to get and keep the attention of his students and to make the concepts of government and history come alive. And yes, perhaps to satisfy a lifelong love of drama.

Image caption:  Leon Blevins and his wife Shannah have appeared as Uncle Sam and Aunt Sammie at community events.  (Photo courtesy of Leon Blevin)

Blevins earned a B.A. degree from Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas, where he and his future wife Shannah were both involved in drama. Receiving his M.A. at UTEP in political science, he also did graduate work at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, becoming an ordained minister. During his college studies, he taught various undergraduate subjects. However, he also taught speech and drama, English, civics and American history at high schools in California and New Mexico, coaching debate and drama in Deming, N.M., his first full-time teaching post.

In the 1970s, Blevins played in Paul Green’s musical drama “Texas,” now in its 50th year, presented in the Pioneer Amphitheater in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Wherever Blevins taught, he had students act out scenes of political events to stimulate critical thinking. Using drama in classes was just part of being the natural performer Blevins is. Appearing as his various characters later on was a natural transition.

His first costume was a sailor suit his father, who was serving in the Navy during World War II, sent him. Later, a neighbor of the family sent Blevins a child-size U. S. Army uniform that he loved to wear. He enjoyed make-believe and any situation became an opportunity for creative application. When his father was a janitor for the Terry County, Texas, Courthouse, the young Blevins played judge as the elder Blevins cleaned the courtrooms. When he cleaned the sheriff’s office, little Leon played the sheriff. If he didn't have a costume, he pretended he did. Blevins says he never was afraid of being different; he was inquisitive and creative since childhood. He built treehouses and fashioned tools and devices to do what he needed.

Like other children in the 1940s and 1950s, Blevins had an extensive comic book collection, his favorites being those about “superheroes.” He would tie a “cape” around his neck and jump out of trees and over fences, pretending to fly and leap over buildings, defeating the bad men of the world. Likewise, he loved to listen to radio dramas about action heroes at his grandparents’ home, portraying Batman, Dick Tracy, and, of course, Superman, during his career.

Blevins as various charactersIn the late 1960s, Blevins and his wife Shannah bought their son Timothy a replica Superman outfit with cape. Then Leon became Superman again in the 1970s when a hearing impaired child living with the Blevins family one day signed that Leon and Superman were the same because of their black hair. The child referred to him as the “bearded Superman.” Shannah bought Leon a tight Superman tee shirt and red “Underoos,” and in 1979, he had his first birthday party with a Superman theme, complete with a cake with a bearded Superman on it.

His Superman tee shirt became his uniform, and then he ordered a Superman costume complete with muscles from a catalog. He wore it to his classes, and a student from Singapore took photos of Blevins and sent them home, “proving” that Superman indeed lived in the United States — and taught his class! Carrying a boom box playing the theme from the 1978 Superman movie, Blevins took this character throughout the community to fitness centers, schools, Ys and day cares.

Image caption:  Photo collage of Blevins as Shakespeare in the Shakespeare on the Rocks festival and as Superman. (Photo courtesy of Leon Blevin)

One of the most controversial characters Blevins has portrayed is Don Juan de Oñate, the Spanish ex­plorer and first New Mexico governor who crossed the Rio Grande in this area in 1598. For many years in the late 1990s to the late 2000s, Blevins participated in and sometimes directed the First Thanksgiving Re-enactment in San Elizario, written by Hector Serrano and celebrating what El Pasoans claim to be the “First Thanksgiving” based on historical accounts, more than 20 years before the Plymouth, Mass.observation. Blevins dressed in narrow legged black pants, a white collarless pleated shirt, black velvet vest and black cape, sporting a silver sword with metal scabbard. Sometimes he appeared as “Don Leon,” a fictitious Spanish nobleman who traveled with Oñate. 

As locals learned more about Oñate and his cruel subjugation of native peoples, Blevins became a subject of animosity. One student who had a Spanish name and spoke Spanish but identified as Native American vehemently expressed his displeasure when his professor appeared in class as Oñate. Blevins listened and pointed out that in our area the food and culture are more Spanish and Mexican than Native American. He said to his students, “We cannot change the past. We need to understand how the past affects our present and consider how it may affect our future,” reminding them of his support of cultural diversity.

Protestors also picketed his character at an event at Cougar Park in Socorro. The highlight of his appearances as Oñate came in 2005 when descendants of the Sumo and Manso tribes appeared at the Thanksgiving Reenactment and “read a touching statement of reconciliation with the people of the present,” according to Blevins.

photo collageIn 2007, he appeared as Oñate for the dedication of the massive, controversial statue created by artist John Houser, originally named for the Spanish explorer. After intense protests over installing the sculpture downtown as originally planned, the city renamed it “The Equestrian,” and moved it to the entrance of the El Paso International Airport. Some of the protesters at the dedication were Native Americans from Acoma, N.M., where Oñate and his men killed hundreds and imprisoned and enslaved hundreds more, cutting off the right foot of men over 25, in revenge after an ambush by natives. Blevins, never afraid of controversy, was interviewed by newspapers and television stations from New York and California.

Image caption: Photo collage of Blevins as Chico, the mariachi player and  Don Juan de Oñate. (Photo courtesy of Leon Blevin)

Another controversial character was simply called the “American racist,” dressed in everyday street clothes and using racial slurs, a figure Blevins began using in 1970. The character infuriated students at first, leading to heated class discussions and helping to teach the importance and power of language, abuses of power, racial discrimination and civil rights. “You don’t have to wear a hood and burn crosses to be a racist,” professor Blevins reminded his students. 

Blevins played Jesus for eight years at Jesus Chapel for pageants directed by his wife. He says it’s his most demanding character. In “How Great Thou Art,” Blevins hung by his wrists on a cross for 17 minutes, his feet supported on a slanted board, balancing his weight. He told student reporter Barbara Gomez in a 1985 article in the EPCC student newspaper El Conquistador that he designed the brackets into which he placed his hands, making it appear that nails pierced his hands as he reenacted the crucifixion of Jesus.

He also played the religious figure for the passion play called “Hosanna! The King Comes” presented by Jesus Chapel at McKelligon Canyon Amphitheater, accompanied by some members of the El Paso Symphony Orchestra. The play, directed by Shannah, moved to the larger venue after it outgrew Jesus Chapel East where hundreds were turned away. Blevins said it was an honor to play Jesus, noting, “We think of our work together as a ministry, a sermon in drama.”

When asked about his controversial characters, Blevins responded, “Well, I am an actor. Sometimes I play good people and sometimes I play bad people. I have played Jesus and I have played Herod and Judas. A good actor should be able to portray all kinds of people.”

Playing Santa for children and adults alike every year is pure pleasure for Blevins, whose appearances span the community. He and wife Shannah will appear as Santa and Mrs. Claus for the last time at the International Museum of Art in December 2015.

Other popular characters that Blevins has portrayed include Rambo, Abraham Lincoln, Davy Crockett, Big Tex (cowboy), Texas Ranger, frontier sheriff, Chopin, William Shakespeare and Chico, the mariachi dancer. 

He has changed costumes and characters as many as seven times in one event. In 45 years, Blevins has portrayed about 100 characters in one form or another. Wife Shannah, who taught hearing impaired students in the El Paso Independent School System as well as speech and drama for Jesus Chapel School, helped Leon collect costumes from such places as thrift stores, flea markets, mail order catalogs and places they visited during their travels.

The most popular and unforgettable character that Blevins portrays is Uncle Sam. His first costume consisted of a flag patterned tie and a cardboard Uncle Sam hat in 1971. He brought this first costume to El Paso Community College to help him teach the topic of nationalism when he began his career there in 1972. The costume evolved over the years to the one he sports today with red pants, a bright blue cutaway coat with tails and brass buttons, white shirt, flag tie and cummerbund, white gloves, a red top hat with red and white striped crown and blue hat band with white stars and granny glasses. While his hair was once jet black, today his snow white hair, beard, sideburns and mustache give Uncle Sam the perfect look. Over the past 40 years, he has appeared as Uncle Sam not only in class and on campus but throughout the community to support military and patriotic events and children’s reading programs.

Blevins as Uncle Sam kneeling at the Vietnam Memorial replicaIn the late 1960s and early 1970s, Blevins spoke out against government policies in Vietnam. He explained, “I support the troops. But I don’t support the public policy on the war.” Leon always supported U.S. troops. When he began to teach at EPCC in 1972, the majority of his students had just returned from the Vietnam War. Many of those students also disagreed with government policies that put them at unnecessary risk on the battlefield.

Image caption:  Blevins as Uncle Sam is shown at the Vietnam War Memorial replica when it came to El Paso in 2002.  (Photo courtesy of Leon Blevin)

Blevins explained to Tere Valenzuela in a 2003 article in the EPCC El Conquistador, “When I dressed up as Uncle Sam at the Vietnam War Memorial replica exhibition in El Paso in November 2002, it was one of the most satisfying events in my life. I got to talk and pray with the war heroes, and that moment was an experience I will never forget.”

He appeared in 1991 as Uncle Sam in a Desert Storm homecoming parade and subsequent VFW parades. He has walked, danced and ridden in the Del Norte Lions Club parade, known as the “People’s Parade,” on the Fourth of July almost every year since the first one in 1979. In 2015, Blevins walked the parade route, alongside his “float,” a decorated walker complete with the Betsy Ross flag with 13 stars.

On January 11, 2002, Uncle Sam Blevins and his wife, dressed in a blue Victorian styled dress and calling herself “Aunt Sammie,” read an original work entitled “America Still Stands” for the El Paso Writers’ League in honor of those lost in the September 11 attack. In 2003, Uncle Sam participated at Cohen Stadium in a tribute to the members of the 507th Maintenance Company, seven of whom became prisoners of war in Iraq, including Spc. Shoshana N. Johnson of El Paso and Spc. Joseph Hudson of Alamogordo. Blevins as Uncle Sam was also present at Fort Bliss when the former POWs arrived home.

Blevins’ Uncle Sam character has also appeared at the Sun Bowl, the Amigo Airsho and Veterans Day parades. He has highlighted many political rallies, including those for George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and in 2008 for 12,000 people who attended a rally for Hillary Clinton. Many of his appearances have attracted the attention of national newspapers, which seem to love his portrayal of Uncle Sam.

According to a 1997 El Paso Times article by Debra Dominguez, Blevins uses the character of Uncle Sam not only to entertain his classes and the public but to educate them about the figure, a “living symbol” of the United States, which gained official recognition by Congress only in 1961.

In 1917, a major public image of Uncle Sam appeared, complete with white hair, goatee, top hat with blue band and white stars and striped pants, drawn by James Montgomery Flagg. Most Americans know the image from World War I and II military recruitment posters, but today the figure is known as a patriotic symbol, representing the country itself. Blevins donated his extensive Uncle Sam memorabilia collection to the El Paso International Museum of Art in 2011 for their annual patriotic exhibit entitled “Happy Birthday, America,” during which he was honored.

The Blevins as old time pioneers.Leon Blevins is also known for his dancing. Many of his best known characters, including Superman, Oñate, Chico and Uncle Sam dance during their appearances. In class, the dancing helped attract and maintain student attention, and as Superman, both professor and students participated in high impact aerobics for a few minutes, while his dancing Santa, Superman, Chico and others entertained his fans, whether in a parade or other event. But it was not always so. Blevins became a dancer only in his late 40s, one of his few regrets.

Taught that dancing was “sinful,” Blevins was introduced to the physical and mental benefits of dancing through the aerobics classes that he first took with Professor Maureen Henry (he was the only man in a women’s aerobics class) and continued to take for 20 years. He developed routines that he used in his appearances, always knowing when to begin the dancing to keep his audience’s interest. Blevins enjoyed watching live or TV dance performances and learned much from movies, professional videos and ballroom dance classes.

Image caption:  Leon and Shannah Blevins pose as the Texas Gambler and Shady Lady.  mage caption:  (Photo courtesy of Leon Blevins

He danced at El Paso’s summer programs Music under the Stars and Alfresco! Fridays, sometimes leading conga lines, with children imitating his every move. A former student taught him the “Mariachi Loco,” which he often danced at Cinco de Mayo or 16 de Septiembre celebrations. The pure joy he  finds in dance is obvious to anyone watching him. “I’m not good, but I’m fun,” he is fond of saying. 

He didn’t dance with his mother Virgie Dobkins until she was a senior citizen during the town’s Early Settlers Days in his native Levelland (Texas), but he had watched her and his stepfather square dance and win awards for their performances as he grew up. He also danced with his granddaughter Dasha Rose, whose own dance group performed many places, including Disneyland. He even danced with her at her high school homecoming dance, everything from polka to swing to rock ‘n roll. He got her to dance with him and Shannah when they were Santa and Mrs. Claus at EPCC Senior Adult Christmas Shows at the Chamizal. In 2014, he was able to dance with her at her wedding. Leon and Shannah also enlisted Dasha’s younger sister, Teah Rose, to perform with them as an elf when they did Christmas programs.

And Leon danced with dozens of women over the years at his many performances, some very beautiful women. What does his wife say about this? Shannah, a beautiful woman herself, says, “Oh, he’s harmless” or “I trust him.” Blevins attributes his popularity with women to the “teddy bear effect.” He says, “Everybody loves a teddy bear, but the one that lives with the teddy bear is usually the one who loves him the most.”

Because of his unique teaching style, Blevins is recognized by former students all over Texas and other places. Besides commenting on his numerous characters, many remember the “funny money” they earned (and lost) for answering quiz questions at the end of each chapter, the points they won added to exam scores. Blevins took the idea from TV game shows in the 1980s and 1990s. Other students recall the “security blankets” (one-inch squares of felt) he gave them to rub to relieve stress while taking exams. Students wore them on coats and sweaters or put them around pens, some asking him to autograph them and others keeping them for years. When anyone asked Blevins if he had a doctorate, he would simply say, “My doctorate is a D.C., a Doctorate in Creativity.”

Having modeled as his various characters for Tony Guerrero’s EPCC photography classes for about 10 years, Blevins composed and printed calendars showing him as a presidential candidate in the early 1990s with his friends, relatives and students, all produced by hand. He also created posters and videos of many of his costumed characters.

Blevins said he developed his sense of humor through his belief in God, dealing with his father’s alcoholism and his parents’ divorce, subjects not discussed in public when he was growing up. He had to learn to be resourceful and streetwise. He failed a couple of grades in elementary school and was put on academic probation at Texas Tech. Seeing Christ as a master teacher, Blevins wanted to produce “a heightened awareness” in his students. That Blevins has reached his students is reflected in the fact that he has been honored with outstanding teaching awards seven times by either students or faculty committees and has received two NISOD Teaching Excellence awards. In 2003, the Texas House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring Blevins for his unique teaching style. 

In 1973, Blevins published the Topical Dictionary of American Government and Politics, designed so that students could understand the language of political science, and in 1987, his textbook Texas Government in National Perspective appeared. Over the years, he also published numerous study guides. Published in Church and State in June 2015, his most recent article was on politics and religion.

Today, Blevins has had to make several adjustments. Still teaching, he has retired from appearing as his favorite characters because of a knee replacement and changes in class technology and in students themselves. Blevins sees students who have grown up with standardized tests and the influence of electronic media, students who are passive and not used to critical thinking. He refuses to simply show videos, films and Power Points and has developed a system of textbook chapter reviews and small groups, teaching students organization and reading skills.

He has had to cut way back on his dancing and often rides in convertibles in parades as Uncle Sam, waving to cheering fans. He still has the energy of a much younger man, attributing his enthusiasm to his mother and to “clean living.” Never smoking or drinking alcohol, Blevins believes in daily exercise and has unconditional acceptance from his wife Shannah and his family, children Timothy, Keith and Shaleah and his grandchildren.

For the past eight years, Blevins has hosted a weekly television show on Sundays at 11:30 a.m. called “Perspectives: El Paso” on EPCC-TV and KCOS, during which he interviews professors, historians and leaders in politics, government and the military. His reduced appearances have allowed him to write his autobiography, Crystal Moments of Leon Blevins, still in progress, on which much of this article is based.

In July 2015, Blevins was invited to participate in an educational symposium sponsored by the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in Washington, D.C., for teachers who want to incorporate the subject of the Korean War into their curriculum. Blevins prepared a paper on the Korean War and showed participants how to conduct oral history.

Blevins plans to retire from teaching at EPCC at the end of the spring semester 2016. The International Museum of Art plans to host a reception on May 22, 2016, for an exhibit of photographs and caricatures entitled “Leon Blevins: A Man of a Thousand Faces; Half a Century on the U.S./Mexico Border.” The exhibit will be from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Call the museum at 915-543-6747 for other days and hours the exhibit will be on display.

Blevins admits he’s still a kid at heart. When accused of being childish during some of his appearances, he corrected his detractors by saying he is “childlike,” always “in wonder of the world and the adventures that it provides, just like an inquisitive and adventurous child.”

Professor, performer, preacher. Actor, dancer, writer. He is all these and more. This warm, charismatic man with the strong voice and piercing blue eyes has taught thousands of El Pasoans about politics and cultural history. It is no wonder that fans have called him “The Spirit of El Paso” for his energy, spontaneity, enthusiasm — in short, the essence of the Sun City. ¡Viva Leon!

Tags: biography

All photos courtesy of Leon Blevins.

 

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