The River Li, 1984 Oil on canvas, 24" x 32" © James D. Lea

The River Li, 1984 Oil on canvas, 24" x 32" © James D. Lea


Chinese Hillside, 1947 Casein tempera, 17" x 20" © James D. Lea

Chinese Hillside, 1947 Casein tempera, 17" x 20" © James D. Lea



We landed in the rain on this drizzly, sorrowful October day in Szechuan Province. And we got a ride on a flat-bed truck in the rain down to Chungking. And the truck driver said, "Where do you want to go?" And I said, "Well, wherever there's a headquarters." I went in and introduced myself to a guy named Rankin, a major at the headquarters, and he turned out to be a great friend and he took me in to Gen. [Joseph W.]Stilwell. Stilwell said, "What the hell are you doing here? We haven't any word that you're supposed to be here." And I handed him this letter from C.R.Smith and Stilwell said, "Well, we'll take you on anyway. Welcome!" And he got me a place in the old press hostel which is the real funny old walled compound, and we had a mess hall there and I guess there were, oh, maybe two dozen correspondents from everywhere, including Russia. And I remember one [day] we spent in Drizzly Chungking, and I wrote about it in that little thing called A Grizzly from the Coral Sea. And I was making drawings. I met Teddy White, Theodore H. White, who became a very famous writer and correspondent. He was a delightful fellow. And he got a telegram from Henry Luce saying, "If Lea is in Chungking, have him do some paintings of China unrelated to war with some of the character and appearance of China." Well, that suited me fine. And I did quite a number of things there.


Tom Lea speaking to Adair Margo, published in Tom Lea, An Oral History, El Paso, Texas: Texas Western Press, p. 80-81