THE STORYTELLERS

and their passion for the American West

By Lindel Hutson, 2008 inductee

They were great storytellers with a passion for the American West. All famous writers, their works can be found on bookshelves around the globe.

These members of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame include Tony Hillerman, David Dary, Eric Allen, Dr. Stan Hoig, Stanley Vestal, Bill Burchardt, and Fred H. Grove.

Hillerman is best known for his detective novels and non-fiction works involving the Navajo Tribe of New Mexico. Some of his works became television movies. He wrote 18 books in his Navajo series and more than 30 books in total, and was nominated several times for the prestigious Edgar Award for crime writing, winning it in 1974. He won three Anthony Awards presented by the nation’s mystery writers. Hillerman was born in 1925 in the unincorporated Pottawatomie County community of Sacred Heart. Originally named for a Catholic mission, it evolved into St. Gregory’s University and moved to Shawnee.

Dary, Grove, and Hoig were journalism educators who wrote non- fiction books that taught new generations of Americans the colorful characters and way of life of the American frontier.

Allen wrote more than 25 novels that were set in eastern Oklahoma and the Fort Smith area of western Arkansas. Among his novels are Hangtree Country and Ride to Revenge.

Kansas native Dary arrived in Norman in 1988 to head the H.H. Herbert School of Journalism at the University of Oklahoma. He helped the school become the Gaylord College of Journalism & Mass Communication, using a 22-million-dollar gift from the Gaylord family. He retired from OU in 2000 to write full-time. The affable Dary, who once worked for CBS Radio, won two Wrangler Awards from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, two Spur Awards, and the Wister Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western Writers of America. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame, and in 2010 he was inducted into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame for his literary contributions to the history of the cowboy.

Grove spent 40 years as an editor, OU Press relations writer, journalism instructor, and a staff writer at OETA, Oklahoma’s educational television system. A native of Hominy, he graduated from OU and worked for the Cushing Daily Citizen, the Shawnee Evening Star, the Oklahoma City Times and The Daily Oklahoman before turning to writing books. He wrote more than 20 books, including The Buffalo Runners, which received the National Cowboy Hall of Fame award.

Hoig’s contributions to western literature included many books involving the indians of Oklahoma and the Southwest. His titles include Tribal Wars of the Southern Plains, Sequoyah, and Cowtown Wichita and the Wild, Wicked West. He also wrote The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889. Many of his books, including his first, The Humor of the American Cowboy, are still in print. Hoig was born in Duncan and grew up in Gage. After service in World War ii, he returned to Oklahoma and completed a master’s degree. In 1964 he accepted a position at the University of Central Oklahoma. He received his PhD in 1971. At UCO, he sponsored publications and taught journalism until his retirement in 1986.

Stanley Vestal was a pen name used by Walter S. Campbell. He was a poet, biographer, and historian. His books include Sitting Bull, Champion of the Sioux. Vestal was born Walter Stanley Vestal in Kansas in 1887. His father died when he was young, his mother remarried, and vestal took the legal surname Campbell from his stepfather. Hence the name Walter S. Campbell. The Campbell family moved to Guthrie in the newly established Oklahoma Territory, where he learned Native American customs from his boyhood playmates. This knowledge would later be used in his writing career. He was an English professor at OU, where he was known for his creative writing courses. He wrote more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on the Old West. One of his books was Dodge City, Queen of Cowtowns: The wickedest little city in America. He died in 1957 and was interred as Walter S. Campbell. He is buried at the Custer National Cemetery in Montana.

Allen, a former president of the Western Writers of America, lived in the Liberty Community of Sequoyah County and was considered an authority on Judge Isaac Parker, the notorious hanging judge of Fort Smith, Arkansas, Allen’s hometown.

“I sold my first story 30 years ago to Ranch Romances and I became a big contributor in those days to pulp westerns,” Allen said in 1985. “My first novel, Hangtree Country, was published in paperback and sold for 35 cents.” According to a newspaper report, Allen, who died in 1986, looked like a cowboy, talked like one, and after a few minutes of conversation, “there’s no question about his knowledge of western lore or the years he has spent in researching the history of the wild west.”

Burchardt turned Oklahoma Today into the top magazine of its kind in the nation and also wrote western novels. He served as president of the Western Writers of America. Two of his books won Teepee Awards from the Oklahoma Writers Federation as the best novels of the year.