LANDRY, THOMAS WADE (1924 ~ 2000). Dallas Cowboys football coach and World War II veteran Thomas Wade Landry was born on September 11, 1924 in Mission, Texas.
He attended Mission High School and received all-region honors as a fullback. He enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin after graduation in 1942, but volunteered for military service during World War II. After flight training in various schools in the United States, Landry flew more than 30 combat missions in the skies over Europe.
Considered by many the most dangerous assignment in the War, Landry flew bombing missions with the 8th Air Force in B-17 Flying Fortresses. He was based out of Ipswich, England. After the War, Landry wrote "War had tested me, but I had survived. And that experience had given me not only a broader perspective on life, but a confidence in myself I had never known before." He was discharged as a first lieutenant.
Landry returned to Austin and the University of Texas after his service in the Army Air Corps in the spring of 1946. Landry played football for the Longhorns as a fullback and a defensive back, earning an All-Southwest Conference Team spot as a junior. He co-captained the team his senior year when Texas beat Georgia in the 1949 Orange Bowl.
In 1947, Landry went on a blind date with Alicia Wiggs. They were married January 28, 1949. In his autobiography, Tom Landry, An Autobiography, he wrote: "...I punted and played fullback on University of Texas Longhorn football teams that won two major bowl games. But the very best thing that happened to me in college was Alicia."
On October 31, 1949 the Landrys had their first child, Thomas Wade Landry Jr. In 1952 their daughter Kitty was born and in 1958, their final child Lisa was born in March.
In 1949, Landry began his career in professional football when he signed a contract with the New York Yankees of the All-American Football Conference. The next year, the AAFC and the National Football League merged and he played for his future National Football Conference East rival, the New York Giants.
In 1954, Landry began his coaching career while still a player. He was named assistant coach of the New York Giants defense at the same time he was playing defensive back and earned All-Pro honors the same year.
According to his book, Tom Landry, An Autobiography, Landry made a personal commitment to Christ in 1959. He wrote: "...the most important lesson I've learned in my life is that God is so gracious that he accepts me, my failures, my personality quirks, my shortcomings and all." Faith was a theme that ran throughout Landry's life.
The same year, Landry was named head coach of the newly christened Dallas Cowboys football team. The Cowboys did not manage a winning record for the first few years of Landry's head coaching career, but Cowboy's ownership showed their loyalty by signing him to a 10-year extension in 1964. In 1965, the Cowboys broke even with a 7-7 record and in 1966, played for a world title against Green Bay. It began a streak of 20 consecutive winning seasons and iconic status within the state of Texas and the world. Landry's tenure with the Cowboys was marked by 13 division championships, five NFC titles and two Super Bowl victories. Landry's first Super Bowl victory came in 1971.
Landry was known for his stoic demeanor on the sidelines and his signature fedora hat.
In an Austin American Statesman article that after Landry's death, former Cowboy's running back Walt Garrison jokingly said: "People ask me, did I ever see Coach Landry smile? And I tell them, 'No, but I only played there nine years.'"
Landry left the Dallas Cowboys in 1988 when the team was bought by new ownership.
Two years later, Landry was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
In the same article that ran in the Statesman, fellow Hall of Famer and Dallas Cowboy Randy White said of Landry "What a wonderful person... who taught you the right way to live your life and the order that your life should be in." Mike Ditka, former Cowboy and head coach in the NFL said, "If he's not remembered as one of the greatest coaches who ever coached in the NFL, someone has made a terrible mistake."
Landry was diagnosed with Leukemia in 1999. He died February 12, 2000 and was buried in Dallas. The Landry family wished to have him honored at the Texas State Cemetery and installed a cenotaph in his honor.
Information taken from Texas State Cemetery file materials.