Northeast Tarrant

Grapevine jailer’s Christmas cards meld love of work, history and art

Barry Mullins is a civilian jailer. He annually designs the Police Department’s Christmas cards.
Barry Mullins is a civilian jailer. He annually designs the Police Department’s Christmas cards. Courtesy

It started out seven years ago as a nostalgic Christmas card sent out by Grapevine Police, featuring a 1957 Chevy like the one first used by the department.

Recipients enjoyed the personal touch and a tradition was born.

Each year, the department doesn’t have to go far to find the artist for their annual card.

The 73-year-old artist uses oils and specializes in Southwestern art, portraits and landscapes. Over the years, his work has been shown in galleries across the country.

They need only to go as far as their own jail.

Barry Mullins is not only a civilian jailer, he is an artist as well.

The 73-year-old artist uses oils and specializes in Southwestern art, portraits and landscapes. Over the years, his work has been shown in galleries across the country.

But around Grapevine, he is best known for painting the cover of the Grapevine Police Christmas cards each year.

The cards feature a ’57 Chevy like the first squad car used by Grapevine Police. He paints different scenes each time, moving the car into different parts of the city — including the Palace Theatre and the Grapevine Vintage Railroad.

Doing the cards for police is special because we are in the Christmas Capital of Texas.

Barry Mullins, civilian jailer, artist in Grapevine

“Doing the cards for police is special because we are in the Christmas Capital of Texas,” Mullins said.

Police Chief Eddie Salame said he and staff “appreciate all the work he puts into his Christmas cards.”

“He does a wonderful job,” the police chief said.

Mullins’ career always focused on his art — he has been “painting since I can remember” — and over the decades enjoyed jobs such as art-based advertising and children’s books.

But as he and wife Judy got older, Mullins decided he wanted to move to Grapevine, a city they both loved.

He found work as a civilian police dispatcher in 2005. A year later, he heard about and got a job working in the jail.

Many prisoners are good people, they just were in the wrong place at the wrong time and make a mistake.Do we have bad guys? Yes. But not as many as you would think.

Barry Mullins, Grapevine civilian jailer

“It turned out to be a really good job and I get to meet a lot of interesting people on both sides of the fence,” Mullins said.

The jailer said many of the prisoners he meets in jail are “good people, they just were in the wrong place at the wrong time and make a mistake.”

However, he added, “Do we have bad guys? Yes. But not as many as you would think.”

Mullins’ artistic talents came to light in 2008 when he was asked to do a mural for the department’s sally port, a secure controlled entryway at the police station at 307 W. Dallas Road. It features, among other things, a police vehicle, two motorcycle officers and a K-9 officer and his police dog.

He was asked to design a Christmas card for the department and to feature tn 1957 Chevy, which he used a little license to paint black and white.

The tradition has continued. Mullins has used the car in every card except for last year when he featured the town’s famous Night Watchman.

The Night Watchman is an 8-foot-tall statue holding a lantern that sits atop a building at 200 S. Main St. and weighs 640 pounds. The statue honors the men who patrolled and protected the town from the early 1900s into the 1950s.

This year, the Christmas card features the ’57 Chevy again and is a recreation of a photo of a gas station that made its debut in the late 1920s and is now long gone.

“We didn’t use the car that year because it would not have been historically accurate,” Mullins said.

This year, the Christmas card features the ’57 Chevy again and is a recreation of a photo of a gas station that made its debut in the late 1920s and is now long gone.

“My favorite part of the card is the snow in front of the car,” the artist said.

Mullins said he will continue designing the Christmas cards, which feature a greeting from the department and chief, as long as he is asked.

“I heard some people collect them,” the septuagenarian said. “That makes me feel good.”

Marty Sabota: 817-390-7367, @martysabota

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