Texas legend Landry joins his peers
Former Cowboys coach is honored with cenotaph in Texas State Cemetery.
By Suzanne Halliburton
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Alicia Landry suffered a disturbing dream one evening while she was planning a memorial service to honor "Tommy," her beloved husband.
In her vision, only 10 people showed up for the ceremony, but reality proved far different Friday afternoon at the Texas State Cemetery.
More than 100 invited guests showed up to celebrate the life of Alicia's Tommy, better known to all football-loving Texans as Tom Landry, the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys who rose to state icon long before he died six years ago of leukemia.
Landry, who was 75 when he died, was celebrated Friday by former coaches and players who helped the Cowboys win two Super Bowl titles during a tenure that stretched from 1960-89.
"This is a tremendous honor to be here," said Rayfield Wright, the former Cowboys offensive tackle who was selected to the NFL Hall of Fame two months ago. "I really loved everything Coach Landry stood for."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said, "He was one of the greatest coaches in the world of any sport, of any era. More important, he was one of the finest human beings that Texas has ever produced."
Landry's life certainly fit the definition of Texas legend. After growing up in Mission, he became a World War II hero, flying raids in a B-17 bomber over Europe. He then captained the University of Texas football team to two bowl victories in the late 1940s.
Landry is buried in a cemetery in central Dallas. Friday's ceremony was to dedicate a cenotaph — a marker erected to honor a person whose remains are buried elsewhere. Shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, Landry was approved for burial at the cemetery, which also is the resting place for many state legends, including 14 signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence, 10 Civil War generals and 12 governors.
Landry's marker, made of glistening blue pearl-colored granite, sits under a sprawling oak tree in the cemetery's old section. Nearby are the burial sites of former Texas Gov. John Connally and Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, along with Edmund J. Davis, a Union general and state governor.
When the sun is rising early in the morning or setting late in the afternoon, it hits the granite in such a way that the marker sparkles silver and blue — Cowboys colors.
The Landry family paid for the marker; the state furnished the spot to place it. Before a change in the rules in 1997, the only people eligible for burial at the 155-year-old cemetery were statewide elected officials and Civil War soldiers.
Willie Wells, a star shortstop in baseball's Negro Leagues from the 1920s through the 1940s, is the only other sports figure buried or memorialized at the cemetery. Darrell Royal, the former football coach who won three national championships at the University of Texas, also has been approved for burial. Royal, a spry 81-year-old, attended the Landry ceremony, as did current Texas football coach Mack Brown.
"I knew him when I was a young coach," Brown said of Landry. "I admired him for what he stood for. He taught coaches how to win championships with class and dignity."
Roger Staubach, one of Landry's quarterbacks and a member of the National Football League Hall of Fame, presented Alicia Landry with a dozen yellow roses. And fellow Hall of Famer Bob Lilly, a former Cowboy who lives in Georgetown, closed the ceremony when he presented a Lone Star flag to Alicia, giving her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Once the ceremony ended, Alicia Landry served lemonade, ice cream custard and dozens of homemade oatmeal cookies baked by Jim Myers, Landry's old offensive line coach.
Staubach joked with a few friends that he half expected to see Landry quietly taking in the ceremony. Others did, too.
"He was back there, coming in from the south," joked Jerry Tubbs, who played and coached for Landry. "Tom Landry was quite a guy. He was about as good of a coach as there could be. And he was an even better man."