Fictional folk hero Paul Bunyan had his big blue ox, Babe. A very real Auburn engineer and artist, James Dean Thomas (who later dropped Thomas from his name), electrical engineering ‘82 and a native of Fort Payne, Ala., has his little blue cat, Pete. Since 1999, Dean, a former engineer at Georgia Power turned artist, has been painting Pete the Cat — a small blue cat who was inspired by his own cat Pete — among watercolors of rural landscapes, classic cars and even vintage Auburn scenes.
While Dean’s cat was black, he decided to paint Pete blue, believing that black cats might be bad luck. Pete the Cat has been featured in Dean’s familiar paintings of Samford Hall, Sani-Freeze and Aubie, as well as vintage—style country landscapes throughout the South. His original artwork hangs in downtown shops on College Street. In 2008, Dean and writer Eric Litwin created a Pete the Cat children’s book series, which has spent time on the New York Times Best Seller List for children’s books, including the latest release, “Pete Saves Christmas.” The next chapter in the Pete the Cat series will be released early next year.