McLeary, Kindred (1901–1949)

By: Truman McMahan

Type: Biography

Published: April 1, 1995

Updated: April 8, 2020

Kindred McLeary, artist, the son of Dr. Samuel and Mamie (Kindred) McLeary, was born in Weimar, Texas, on December 3, 1901. He graduated from Allen Academy in Bryan with the highest grade average ever made by a student at that school. He studied architecture at the University of Texas and graduated in 1927. At different times he also studied at the Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts near Paris and at the American Academy in Rome. While teaching at the University of Texas in 1928, McLeary entered one of his paintings, Cotton, in a national art exhibit sponsored by the late Mrs. Henry Drought in the Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio. The picture showed a black woman reclining in a field of cotton with several men standing around her, one of them strumming a guitar. Some artists and ministers attacked the picture as obscene, but Eleanor R. Onderdonk, art curator of the museum,defended it and kept it hanging throughout the juried exhibit. The controversy dominated the front pages of San Antonio newspapers for several days.

McLeary began teaching architecture at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie-Mellon University) in Pittsburgh in the fall of 1928 and remained there until his death on May 29, 1949, in a fall from the roof of the studio he had built himself near Confluence, Pennsylvania. He had become well known as a muralist in the northeastern United States. America the Mighty (1941), or "Defense of Human Freedoms" as McLeary called it, his best-known mural, is a twelve-by-fifty-foot depiction of war scenes. It is in the Twenty-first Street lobby of the United States Department of State building in Washington and was covered from 1954 to 1977 because its theme was considered inappropriate to the site, which had housed the War Department when the mural was painted. McLeary painted murals in Pittsburgh, in the Madison Avenue Post Office in New York City, in the Somerset County, Pennsylvania, library, and elsewhere. At the time of his death he had dozens of paintings that had not been framed. They were collected by his sister, and many of them were hung in her home.

School and Society, June 18, 1949. Washington Post, March 28, 1971, April 27, 1977.

  • Visual Arts
  • Painting

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Truman McMahan, “McLeary, Kindred,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 17, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995
April 8, 2020