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The Graves of Tom Landry and Lamar Hunt

by Randy Snow

Original to www.theworldoffootball.com, Saturday, January 7, 2017

When I think of Dallas, Texas, a couple of things immediately come to mind. One is the theme song from the TV show Dallas, which kept playing in my head when I was there recently, and the other is the NFL Dallas Cowboys. The history of the Cowboys will forever be associated with that of one man, their legendary head coach, Tom Landry.

Landry was the first head coach of the team when it debuted in 1960 and he remained in that position for 29 years, until 1988. He posted a regular season record of 250 wins, 162 losses and six ties and had a .602 winning percentage. When you add the playoffs, his record was 270-178-6. He also won two Super Bowls.

But many people might not remember that Landry was also a college and NFL player as well.

He played quarterback in high school and led his Mission, Texas team to a 12-0 record in his senior year. The team outscored their opponents 322-0. He then enrolled at the University of Texas, but after just one semester, Landry joined the Army Air Corp prior to World War II. He flew on 30 B-17 bomber missions during the war and was discharged in 1945. He then returned to the University of Texas. On the football field he was a defensive back, punter and kick returner.

Landry was drafted in the 20th round of the 1947 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. However, he started his playing career in 1949 with a rival pro football league, the All American Football Conference. He played for an AAFC team called the New York Yankees. The AAFC and the Yankees folded after the 1949 season and Landry then signed with the team that drafted him, the New York Giants. He played for the Giants from 1950-1955. He then became the Giants defensive coordinator from 1956-1959. The Giants offensive coordinator at that time was another future coaching legend, Vince Lombardi.

Landry is credited with developing the "flex defense" and the "spread offense” as well as bringing back the "shotgun" formation to the modern era. Landry was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. In 1993, he was inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor where his trademark fedora hat is displayed next to his name. He died on February 11, 2000 at the age of 75.

The same season that the Cowboys debuted in the NFL (1960) a rival football league was also formed. The American Football League was the brainchild of Lamar Hunt, the son of Texas oil billionaire H. L. Hunt, Jr.

Lamar Hunt wanted to bring an NFL team to his hometown of Dallas in the late 1950s and tried to buy the Chicago Cardinals. But the owners of the Cardinals wanted the team to stay in Chicago and refused to sell the team to him. (The Cardinals were eventually sold to someone else and moved to St. Louis) Hunt also approached the NFL about acquiring an expansion team for Dallas, but the league said it had no interest in putting a team in Dallas. So Hunt decided to do the next best thing, start his own pro football league. The eight-team AFL would begin play in 1960 and it would include a team in Dallas, the Texans. Once the NFL learned that Hunt was putting a team in Dallas, they announced that they, too, would be adding a team in Dallas. Hunt would be the Dallas Texans owner.

Even though the Cowboys and Texans were in different leagues, they played their home games in the same stadium, the Cotton Bowl. For three seasons, 1960-1962, the two teams competed for fans in Dallas. The town was evenly divided in supporting each team and it became clear that if both teams were to survive, one of them would have to leave town. Hunt made arrangements to move his club to Kansas City in time for the 1963 season where they would be reborn as the Kansas City Chiefs. The last season that they were in Dallas, the Texans won the 1962 AFL championship with a 20-17 double overtime win over the Houston Oilers.

The Chiefs represented the AFL in Super Bowl I, losing to Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers 35-10. Kansas City would go on to win a Super Bowl of its own following the 1969 season. They defeated the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in Super Bowl IV. Chiefs head coach Hank Stram became a legend himself that day when NFL Films put a microphone on him during the Super Bowl game. The footage and audio they captured during the game became an instant classic. 

In 1970, Hunt’s AFL merged with the NFL after 10 years as a separate pro football league. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972. Today, the winner of the AFC championship game is presented with the Lamar Hunt Trophy. Hunt died on December 13, 2006 at the age of 74.

Buried in the Same Cemetery

Not only will Landry and Hunt forever be linked to pro football in Dallas, but their final resting places are just a stone’s throw away from one another.

Both men are buried in the Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park at 7405 W. Northwest Highway in Dallas. When I knew I was going to be in town recently, I called ahead to see if they could tell me what section(s) of the cemetery the two football legends were buried in. I was told, by the gentleman who answered the phone, that it would be best to just stop in at the administration office when I got there as it would be easier than explaining it over the phone. He was right. That cemetery is huge.

I was provided with a map of the cemetery by the woman at the reception desk who was more than happy to mark the location of the two graves for me. It was obvious that they get a lot of visitors and they are well prepared to assist visitors in locating the famous and not so famous buried in the cemetery.

Tom Landry is buried in a section called Monument Garden. His grave is identified by two large marble columns topped with his last name. It was a very nice touch to include a bronze fedora hanging on the corner of the marble arch. He and his wife, Lisa, are buried in front of the columns.

Lamar Hunt is buried nearby in the Evergreen Wisteria section. His headstone is located at the end of a long walkway surrounded by eight-foot tall hedges. His headstone includes a Kansas City Chiefs logo.

Hunt and Landry were both proud Texans who made a name for themselves in pro football. They both achieved Super Bowl victories and were respected for what they accomplished and who they were, on and off the field. It is fitting that these two Hall of Famers are located near each other for all eternity.


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