Killeen Celebrates Mural Honoring Killeen’s Diverse History

Published by: Jennifer Hetzel | Published on: 14 Feb, 2020
Killeen Celebrates Mural Honoring Killeen’s Diverse History

The Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce will hold a ribbon cutting for Downtown Killeen’s newest mural, recently completed by artist Joe Perez III. The public is invited to attend the ceremony on Thursday, February 27 at 1:30 pm at 318 A N. Gray St. in Downtown Killeen.
An Army veteran who retired in Killeen, Perez began the mural in the fall of 2019 to honor Killeen’s unique history and local pioneers of integration. The work is a tribute to the city’s origins as a railroad community, depicting a locomotive and the historic railroad station which now houses the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce.
It also pays homage to the city’s first high school, Killeen High School (KHS), and two notable alumni, Don Hardeman and Joseph Searles III. Both played football at KHS and went on to play for the NFL. Searles, credited with helping to integrate Killeen public schools, went on to become the first African American to earn a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1970.
Observers might recognize two other faces on the mural, Jackie Robinson and Elvis Presley. Both were stationed at Camp (now Fort) Hood during World War II. It was here that Robinson famously refused to sit in the back of the bus, which resulted in a general court-martial. He would go on to become one of the most celebrated baseball players of all time, breaking barriers to become the first African American to play in Major League Baseball.
Perez originally approached the owner of the Balfour Men’s Wear to paint a mural on the side of his building and he readily agreed. They worked together to ensure the project would honor the sacrifice of the local heroes who have helped make Killeen what it is today.
“I think this mural helps to bridge the gap between generations by offering a visual reminder of what our community has been through,” Perez explains. “By, with and through the City of Killeen it has been a great pleasure to be part of this amazing opportunity to share a piece of history with other residents of the city.” And, he adds, “art just makes me smile!”
This is not the first public art display in Downtown Killeen. Visitors are likely familiar with the mural on the side of the building to the west of the Gray St. & Ave D intersection. Completed in 2016, this mural pays tribute to Killeen’s military history and ties to Fort Hood. The building adjacent to Balfour’s Men’s Wear, on the side facing Gray St., also features an iconic work of art, the “Levi Hack’s man.” Perez also painted a butterfly wing mural at the Art and More store at 614 N. 10th St.
Perez hopes his newest mural will inspire other local artists to add to this collection and help him ‘Paint Killeen Beautiful.’ Several other artists have approached him and started developing concepts for more murals Downtown with a variety of topics and styles. For those interested in supporting their work, he has started a GofundMe page to help fund future projects at gofundme.com/f/killeen-art-district-project.
Deirdre Kirk, Revitalization Planner-Planning & Development for the City of Killeen, was thrilled when Perez shared his goal to start an arts movement in historic Downtown. Kirk explains, “The Downtown is the heart of the city and is meant to showcase our local businesses, artists, and all the strengths of our community. This mural is a gift that adds to the fortitude of this heart and which we can share in with pride.”
The Mayor of Killeen, Greater Killeen Young Professionals, Killeen Branch NAACP and Downtown Merchant’s Association will join in this community celebration. For more information, contact Jasmine Suino at 254.526.9551 or jasmine@killeenchamber.com