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Harvey Dean with wife Mattie

A local legend and longtime business owner is to be honored in Vernon, TX. A mural celebrating Harvey Dean “The Tamale King” and his signature, hand-painted push-cart is set to be unveiled June 19 in downtown Vernon. The mural will be installed at the corner of Main and Wilbarger Streets, where Mr. Dean was an ever-present fixture for more than 4 decades. 

Born in 1902 in Corsicana, TX, Dean sold thousands of tamales to Vernon residents from 1927 to 1972. His success as an entrepreneur enabled him to put three children through college. Dean retired to Arizona in 1972 and lived there for four years. In 1977, Dean and his wife Mattie moved to Gallup, New Mexico where they resided until his death at the age of 81.

Margie Reese, Executive Director of the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture says, “Our organization is proud to partner with the City of Vernon to commemorate another Vernon favorite son. This mural continues our commitment to making the arts a part of our everyday lives. The arts teach us about our history and carries into the future stories of personal determination. Mr. Dean’s strength of character is a story worth remembering.” 

Michael Dean, son of Harvey Dean says, “We are extremely proud and pleased that the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture and the City of Vernon have come together to commemorate our father’s legacy. Harvey Dean had very little formal education but he was taught that if you listen, you can learn. His sister, Roberta Allen, who was also a business owner in Vernon, taught him how to make tamales and he made it his life’s work. We can’t begin to express how wonderful this is and we thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts. God Bless. Our father is probably smiling from heaven and saying, ‘I’ll be doggone.'”

Lead Artist Ferdine LeBlanc has designed the mural celebrating Mr. Dean’s decades-long contributions to the City of Vernon. LeBlanc is a Project Coordinator at The Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture and a graduate of the Lamar D. Fain College of Fine Arts at MSU Texas. Alliance Teaching Artist Sierra Archer is assisting with the mural installation, and Selena Mize, lead artist for the Roy Orbison mural in Vernon, will serve as an advisor on the project.

An unveiling is planned for 10:00 a.m. to kick off a day of Juneteenth celebrations on June 19, 2021, in Downtown Vernon.

Vernon Mayor Pam Gosline says, “We are extremely excited to have a mural of Harvey Dean in our downtown area. He is part of Vernon’s history. I remember as a little girl, my grandmother driving me downtown to get some of Mr. Dean’s tamales. They were the best! If he was not on the main street corner, you could drive around downtown and find him. He is a legacy in Vernon and is still an inspiration to us all!”  

This mural is the second Art in Public Places project sponsored by the Alliance and follows the popular October 2020 installation of the mural honoring Grammy Award winner Roy Orbison.

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