No state loves its heroes quite like Texas, and nowhere does it love them more than in the Texas State Cemetery, a mile east of the state capitol in Austin. It’s a 22-acre shrine to the greatest Lone Stars of them all.
The cemetery got off to a slow start. After the state set aside the land in 1851, the cemetery mostly languished. Thousands of Confederate veterans and their widows were buried there in the early 20th century, but it’s really in the past generation that the cemetery has become iconic, housing forever 14 state governors, three senators, three Medal of Honor winners, and the author of the Texas A&M fight song. A 1994 rehabilitation pushed through by Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock–now buried there–made the cemetery spectacular, with landscaped hills, a winding pond, and, of course, a towering flagpole waving the Texas flag.
You’ll find the state’s most famous public servants in the southwest corner, on Republic Hill, including Stephen F. Austin, Barbara Jordan, and John Connally. This being Texas, football heroes and military heroes also get pride of place: University of Texas head coach Darrell Royal and his wife are buried here and Tom Landry has a cenotaph. Albert Sidney Johnston, the Confederate general who was the highest ranking officer killed in the Civil War, Alamo survivor Susanna Dickinson, and war hero and American Sniper author Chris Kyle are all here. The cemetery awaits its first president: Former Texas Gov. George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush have reserved a plot.
The cemetery is the most exclusive club in the state. You can only get buried here if you served the state as a legislator, judge, or elected official, or if you’re designated by proclamation or by a committee as a sufficiently distinguished Texan.
The cemetery is an almost joyful place, in that it fizzes with delightful Texan bravado. Many headstones are shaped like Texas. Royal’s gravestone is decorated with a massive championship ring. Inscriptions tend to boisterousness: “Daddy Deano. Lawyer, Legislator, Lobbyist. Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas.” Oh, and the visitor center, naturally, is modeled after the Alamo’s barracks.
Know Before You Go
The grounds are open 8 am to 5 pm daily. There's a small gallery that's open 8-5 Mon.-Fri. As with all cemeteries, it sometimes limits public access during funerals.