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Thomas Calloway Lea, Jr. (1877-1945), was a prominent American attorney from El Paso, Texas, and mayor of El Paso from 1915 to 1917.
Lea arrived in El Paso with no money. He washed dishes and later he found a job as a bill collector. 1906 he married Zola Utt. The couple had three sons including the noted artist and writer Tom Lea. He was appointed Police Court Judge in 1907 for four years, later he became a trial lawyer. He also volunteered in the Spanish-American War and in World War I. He came back to El Paso and continued his law business. Lea and his law partner, Robert Ewing Thomason, were noted for their use of emotionalism in court.
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. During his term in office, the city council passed an ordinance forbidding the public sale of narcotics and marijuana. As a mayor Lea also made a public declaration, after Pancho Villa (one of the most prominent Mexican Revolutionary generals) raided Columbus, New Mexico, on March 9, 1916, that he would arrest Villa if he dared to enter El Paso. Villa then responded by offering a thousand pesos worth of gold bounty on Lea. Consequently, the Lea children had to have a police escort to and from school.
In 1936 his first wife died of cancer and Lea married Mrs. Rosario Partida Archer in 1939. Thomas Calloway Lea, Jr. died of a heart attack in Southwestern General Hospital on August 2, 1945, and was interred in Evergreen Cemetery on August 4. A city park located below Rim Road in El Paso Texas was named for him. 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.

Uploaded on 11.03.2014 by El Paso Museum of History

Collection: Stout-Feldman Studio Photographs

Accession no: PH074-14G

Central / Downtown, (1910 - 1919), Politics

  • Tom Lea
  • mayor
  • Meet El Pasoans

According to book by Evan Haywood Antone, Tom Lea :His Life and Work, Texas Western Press, 1988,p. 5. Pancho Villa threatened to kidnap the two sons of this El Paso mayor .

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Thomas Calloway Lea, Jr. - El Paso, Texas

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