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News Release — November 12, 2009

J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind

Wittliff Collections Assistant Curator Steve Davis publishes new biography, J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind

SAN MARCOS, Texas—Steve Davis, assistant curator at the Wittliff Collections, has written the first new biography of Dobie in 30 years, a vibrant reassessment of Dobie’s life and times published by the University of Texas Press. At 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 19, the Wittliff Collections will present a reading and book signing with Davis on the seventh floor of the Alkek Library at Texas State University-San Marcos. Admission is free and books will be for sale at the event.

J. Frank Dobie (1888-1964) was the first Texas-based writer to gain national attention, and he captured the Southwest’s folk history in best-selling books such as Tales of Old-Time Texas, Coronado's Children, and The Longhorns. Dobie brought scholarship out of the ivory tower and down to earth, where it could be shared among the people. He forswore getting his doctoral degree, famously observing, “The average PhD thesis is nothing but a transference of bones from one graveyard to another.”

Davis takes a fresh look at Dobie, whose “liberated mind” set him on a journey that culminated in the folklorist fighting for free speech and civil rights. “Dobie didn’t start out as a great progressive hero,” said Davis. “He grew up in a time of great prejudice, and those attitudes are clearly expressed in his early work. But gradually, his devotion to the open range became a belief in an open mind. Dobie singlehandedly integrated the Texas Folklore Society in the 1920s and by the 1940s he was calling for the complete integration of UT-Austin, a courageous stand that alienated much of his readership. During the McCarthy era he became Texas’s leading dissenter, taking on politicians and censors—anyone he saw as the enemy of human liberty or freedom of thought.”

Inspiring countless others to realize that authentic writing can spring from one’s native soil, Dobie became known as “Mr. Texas” and his influence on the state’s culture is far-reaching. The Southwestern Writers Collection was founded with a gift of Dobie papers from Bill and Sally Wittliff. Information about the J. Frank Dobie Archive is online

Steven L. Davis is assistant curator of the Wittliff’s Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State University-San Marcos. His first book, Texas Literary Outlaws: Six Writers in the Sixties and Beyond, was published in 2004 and praised by reviewers for its blend of solid scholarship and engaging readability. Davis has also produced two books in the Southwestern Writers Collection Book Series with the University of Texas Press, for which he serves as series editor: Lone Star Sleuths: Mystery/Detective Fiction from Texas, published in 2007 and co-edited with Bill Cunningham and Rollo Newsom, and Land of the Permanent Wave: An Edwin “Bud” Shrake Reader, published in 2008.

Reading & Book Signing with STEVEN L. DAVIS
Thursday, November 19, 4:00 pm
Alkek Library, Seventh Floor | Texas State University-San Marcos | 512.245.2313
Admission is free and open to the public.

J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind by Steven L. Davis
Charles N. Prothro Texana Series
Austin: University of Texas Press, October, 2009
[$24.95, hardcover with dust jacket, 6 x 9 in., 264 pp., 38 b&w photos, ISBN: 978-0-292-72114-2]