Landon named these water lilies after people he loved and admired. He named the flowers after some of the most important people in his life, such as Jennifer Jackson and her siblings who met Landon when they were little. According to Jackson, Landon was a father figure who offered love and support to a curious little neighbor who spotted his lilies.
Jackson remembers meeting Landon after accidentally falling into a children’s pool filled with beautiful lilies. At first, she remembers being scared because she thought Landon would be upset if she looked at his flowers, but was surprised to find him knocking on her door with a lily as a gift. From that point on, Landon became a friend and teacher who shared his love and affection with his family.
“I once told a friend that he was my God-given father,” Jackson said. “He was not born to us, but God brought him into our lives.”
In his decades of tending to the park’s swimming pools, Landon has traveled the world collecting new and rare species. Her work with the Nile lily allowed the beautiful flower to be reintroduced into the Egyptian ecosystem after being nearly wiped out.
“He was just an amazing genius of a man,” said Larry Jolley, one of Landon’s closest friends. “Thanks to Ken, there are more water lilies in Sa Angelo than in any other water lily collection in the world.”
His adventures earned him the nickname “Indiana Landon” after the stories of his dangerous excursions became widely known. Landon became famous for crazy acts of bravery, like diving into alligator-infested waters to retrieve a rare water lily that only existed in the most remote parts of the world.
Along with exotic trips to find the rarest water lilies, Landon developed the famous Texas Dawn. The beautiful yellow-toned lily would become the official Texas state water lily in 2011.
Landon created the Texas Dawn in 1985, making it the first water lily to bear the state’s name. The magnificent flower frequently blooms 10 inches above the water’s surface in clusters of 6 or more. In early spring, the base of the petals produces a light orange glow that slowly turns pink in summer.
Texas Dawn is known for its resilient character that can withstand the heat of West Texas. These attributes have earned its place as a premier aquatic plant in the rigorous Texas Superstar program at the Texas Cooperative Extension at Texas A&M University.
“The [Texas Dawn] is a unique creation of Texas, ”said Texas Rep. Drew Darby, who represents District 72 where San Angelo is located. “The flower’s reputation and its typically Texan roots make it worthy of distinction.
Rep. Darby worked closely with Landon and remembered him as someone who will leave a lasting legacy for Sn Angelo, both at home and abroad.
“What a unique individual. You would see him out there in warm weather working in the ponds. You would see him in July trying to create the fireworks display that we all love,” said Darby. “Ken Landon was a genuine, hardworking and caring person. He cared about his community, he cared about his profession and he cared about our country.”
Today, a copy of Simultaneous House Resolution (UNHCR) 24 passed in 2011 designating the Nymphaea Texas Dawn as the official Texas state water lily hangs in Darby’s office on the Texas Capitol. Darby also has a painting of Katherine Pittman of San Angelo. The painting is titled “Texas Dawn” and was created in recognition of the designation.