Arrell Morgan Gibson
The award is named after Arrell Gibson who was born December 1, 1921, in Pleasanton, Kansas. He earned a B.A. from Missouri Southern State College, an M.A. (1948) and Ph.D. (1954) from the University of Oklahoma. He was professor of history and government at Phillips University in Enid and at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.
His works include: Oklahoma: A History of Five Centuries (University of Oklahoma Press 1965, 1981), The Oklahoma Story (University of Oklahoma Press 1978), and other histories of the state. Gibson served as the Oklahoma Center for the Book’s first president, and the Center named its highest award in honor of the Norman historian. Seven of the 21 authors on the official Literary Map of Oklahoma are recipients of the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award. It is given annually to an Oklahoman for a body of literary work. Gibson died in Norman November 30, 1987.
Arrell Gibson Lifetime
Achievement Award Winners
Jim Stovall is the embodiment of achievement. Although he lost his sight in his twenties, he has been a national Olympic weightlifting champion, a successful investment broker, the president of the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network, and a highly sought-after author and platform speaker. Stovall is the bestselling author of more than fifty books including The Ultimate Gift, which was the basis of a 2006 motion picture starring James Garner and Abigail Breslin. His other books include The Millionaire Map; One Season of Hope; The Ultimate Journey; The Ultimate Financial Plan; The Lamp; The Sound of Honor; The Financial Crossroads; 100 Worst Bosses; Keeper of the Flame; Ultimate Productivity; Today’s The Day; The Ultimate Life; Wisdom of the Ages; Success Secrets of Super Achievers; You Don’t Have to Be Blind to See; and The Way I See The World. In addition to The Ultimate Gift, five of his other novels have also been made into movies with two more in production, including Will to Win, a novel featuring the life, wit, and wisdom of Will Rogers. For his work in making television accessible to our nation’s 13 million blind and visually-impaired people, The President’s Committee on Equal Opportunity selected Stovall as the 1997 Entrepreneur of the Year. He has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine, USA Today, and has been seen on Good Morning America, CNN, and CBS Evening News. Moreover, Stovall was also chosen as the 2000 International Humanitarian of the Year, joining Jimmy Carter, Nancy Reagan, and Mother Teresa as recipients of this honor. In November 2021, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
Hannibal B. Johnson has written extensively about Tulsa’s Greenwood District—known as America’s Black Wall Street in the early 20th Century—its virtual destruction in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and its resilience and renaissance in subsequent years. His current work, Black Wall Street 100: An American City Grapples with its Historical Racial Trauma, is a window into the Tulsa that was and the Tulsa that is now, providing updates since the 1998 publication of his Black Wall Street: From Riot to Renaissance in Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District.
Other books by Johnson include The Sawners of Chandler: A Pioneering Power Couple in Pre-Civil Rights Oklahoma, Apartheid in Indian Country? Seeing Red Over Black Disenfranchisement, Acres of Asperation: The All-Black Towns of Oklahoma, Mama Used to Say: Wit and Wisdom from the Heart and Soul, IncogNegro: Poetic Reflections on Race and Diversity in America, and Up from the Ashes, which tells the story of Greenwood from a child’s perspective.
Johnson serves on the federal 400 Years of African-American History Commission, a body charged with planning, developing, and implementing activities appropriate to the 400th anniversary of the arrival, in 1619, of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia. He chairs the Education Committee for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission.
Award-winning author William Bernhardt is one of Oklahoma’s most notable and prolific writers, having sold more than 10 million copies of his books. He is the author of 46 works, including the bestselling Ben Kincaid mystery/thriller series, the historical novels Challengers of the Dust and Nemesis, two books of poetry (The White Bird and The Ocean’s Edge), and a series of books on fiction writing.
Bernhardt has received the Southern Writers Guild’s Gold Medal Award, the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award (University of Pennsylvania) and the H. Louise Cobb Distinguished Author Award (Oklahoma State University), which is given “in recognition of an outstanding body of work that has profoundly influenced the way in which we understand ourselves and American society at large.”
He has been nominated for the Oklahoma Book Award eighteen times in three different categories, and has won the award in fiction twice for Perfect Justice (1995) and Dark Justice (2000). Library Journal called him “the master of the courtroom drama.” The Vancouver Sun called him “the American equivalent of P.G. Wodehouse and John Mortimer.”
In addition, Bernhardt founded the Red Sneaker Writing Center, hosting an annual writers conference and small-group seminars to mentor aspiring writers. He is now considered one of the most in-demand writing instructors in the nation. More than three dozen of Bernhardt’s students have published with major houses. He is also the owner of the Balkan Press, which publishes poetry and fiction as well as the literary journal Conclave. He has published many new authors as well as prominent authors like Pulitzer-Prize-winner N. Scott Momaday, and Grammy-Award-winner Janis Ian.
In addition to his novels and poetry, he has written plays, a musical (book and score), humor, children‘s stories, biography, and puzzles. He has edited two anthologies (Legal Briefs: Stories by Today’s Best Thriller Writers and Natural Suspect: A Collaborative Novel of Suspense) as fundraisers for The Nature Conservancy and the Children’s Legal Defense Fund.
OSU named him “Oklahoma’s Renaissance Man.” In 2017, when Bernhardt delivered the keynote address at the San Francisco Writers Conference, chairman Michael Larsen noted that in addition to penning novels, attorney/author Bernhardt can “write a sonnet, play a sonata, plant a garden, try a lawsuit, teach a class, cook a gourmet meal, beat you at Scrabble, and work the New York Times crossword in under five minutes.”
Thousands of people across the state and nation have had the pleasure of seeing a presentation by award-winning American Indian author, storyteller, and performer Tim Tingle, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
Tingle, whose great-great grandfather, John Carnes, walked the Trail of Tears in 1835, also had a paternal grandmother who attended a series of rigorous Indian boarding schools in the early 1900s. In 1993, Tingle retraced the Trail of Tears to Choctaw homelands in Mississippi and began recording stories of tribal elders.
He was a featured author and speaker at the 2014 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., based on critical acclaim forHow I Became a Ghost, which won the 2014 American Indian Youth Literature Award. His first children’s book, Crossing Bok Chitto, garnered over twenty state and national awards including the 2007 Oklahoma Book Award, and was an Editor’s Choice in the New York Times Book Review.
Tingle, who lives in Canyon Lake, Texas, received his master’s degree in English Literature at the University of Oklahoma in 2003, with a focus on American Indian studies.
While teaching writing courses and completing his thesis, “Choctaw Oral Literature,” Tingle wrote his first book, Walking the Choctaw Road. It was the selected book for the Centennial Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma program in 2005 and was also selected for Alaska’s One Book–One State program.
As a visiting author and performer, Tingle reaches audiences numbering more than 200,000 annually. He has completed eight speaking tours for the U.S. Department of Defense, performing stories to children of military personnel stationed in Germany.
In February 2016, his novel House of Purple Cedarwon the American Indian Youth Literature Award, was a finalist for the 2015 Oklahoma Book Award in fiction, and was nominated by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries for the International Dublin Literary Award.
Tingle’s other books include Salty Pie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness into Light, named a finalist in the 2011 Oklahoma Book Awards for children/young adult; Danny Blackgoat, Navajo Prisoner, named a 2014 American Indian Youth Literature Awards Honor Book; Danny Blackgoat, Rugged Road To Freedom; No Name, winner of the 2015 Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers Award; and No More No Name, released in June 2017.
Since he joined the University of Oklahoma faculty as a young professor of education and sociology in 1967, George Henderson’s name has become synonymous with efforts to promote ethnic diversity and interracial understanding on the OU campus and throughout the country.
Henderson and his wife, Barbara, were the first African-American couple to purchase a home in Norman. Their continued dignity and courage in the face of racially motivated hostility during that time won them the admiration of the community and the university.
Soon after joining the university, Henderson founded OU’s Human Relations Program. He eventually served as the Dean of the College of Liberal Studies, and later returned to the Department of Human Relations as director of the advanced studies program.
In 1969, only two years after arriving at OU, he received the Sylvan N. Goldman Professorship. He holds three additional distinguished professorships at OU. In 2001, the Henderson Scholars Program was initiated at the university in honor of Dr. Henderson.
A trailblazer among African-American university educators, Henderson is celebrated throughout the country for his research and writings. One of his more than thirty books is Race and the University: A Memoir (2010), an Oklahoma Book Award finalist that covers his early years in Norman, Oklahoma and the struggles of young students during the University of Oklahoma’s own civil rights movement. In the preface of the book, Henderson writes:
“I was only going to stay in Oklahoma for two or three years. Then I would move to a better place. More than 40 years later, I am still here. I came for a job and it turned into a career. But that is not why I stayed. I could have had a career in one of the dozen or so other universities that tried to recruit me. I stayed because of some very special people whom I would not have found elsewhere. Together, we made the University of Oklahoma a better place. So, as you will find out in this book, I found my destiny. Or better yet, I found my dignity.”
Among Henderson’s other scholarly works are Cultural Diversity in the Workplace (1994); Migrants, Immigrants and Slaves (1995); Our Souls to Keep: Black/White Relations in America (1999); Psychosocial Aspects of Disability (2004); and Introduction to Human Relations Studies (2016).
The recipient of numerous accolades over the years, Henderson was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2003. He retired from the University of Oklahoma in 2006. At the request of President David Boren, he continues to teach courses as an adjunct professor.
Few Arrell Gibson Award recipients have been as prolific in so many genres as Diane Glancy. She has excelled in poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, essays, playwriting, and screenwriting—winning awards and critical acclaim along the way.
Born of Cherokee and German/English descent, Glancy’s work often weaves Native and Christian traditions together, and the similarities and contrasts of these traditions have provided a wellspring for her creativity. This multi-cultural experience finds resonance in much of her poetry (where she experiments with “a broken text to carry a broken heritage”) and in the novels Flutie (1998), Designs of the Night Sky (2002), and her Oklahoma Book Award-winning The Mask Maker (2002).
Glancy grew up in Kansas City and attended the University of Missouri, planning to study journalism. After attending a writing workshop that introduced her to poetry, she knew what she wanted to do.
After she received her bachelor’s degree in English in 1964, she moved to Tulsa. She spent the next 20 years in Oklahoma, raising a family, earning a master’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma, and researching her Cherokee heritage. She was Artist-in-Residence with the State Arts Council of Oklahoma from 1980 to 1988, when she began publishing her work. She joined the faculty of Macalester College in Minnesota in 1989 teaching Native American Literature and creative writing. Today, she is professor emerita at the college.
Glancy’s other novels include Stone Heart, about Sacajawea and the Lewis and Clark expedition; The Man Who Heard the Land; Pushing the Bear, about the 1838–39 Cherokee Trail of Tears; and Pushing the Bear: After the Trail of Tears. She has published two books of plays, American Gypsy and War Cries. Her latest works are the novels Uprising of Goats, One of Us, and Ironic Witness.
In 2010, Glancy adapted her novel Flutie to make the independent film, The Dome of Heaven, a title she took from the western Oklahoma sky. The film, made in and around Vici, Oklahoma, was an official selection of twenty independent film festivals and won several awards. In 2013, she made a second film, Four Quartets; and the script is finished for a third film, When Everett Was Still Dancing.
Whether Glancy’s art emerges on the page, in a poetry reading, on the screen, or in the classroom, the land of Oklahoma remains an influence on her work.
Rennard Strickland began writing because he hated law school. That’s one of the revelations the honoree shared in a 2009 interview conducted for the University of Oklahoma’s Sooner Magazine:
“At the end of my senior year, my absolutely favorite professor told me, ‘What you need to do is go into legal education, and you can change the way it is taught.
“Legal education has changed since then,” [Strickland] says. When he began teaching law, “women and minorities were told to write about ‘mainstream law,’ not about minorities or women or even social and cultural issues. That non-traditional scholarship, we were told, was for ‘after tenure.’ I decided I didn’t care to have my academic menu selected by others.”
No one could accuse Dr. Strickland of following an established menu. Instead, he has followed his bliss in a variety of directions and has blazed new trails. He is a pioneer of Native American legal scholarship, and has written or edited more than thirty-five books on Indian law, history, and culture. He served as editor-in-chief of Felix S. Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law, considered the “Bible of Indian Law.” He has also pursued his interest in art and film, writing articles, essays, books, and museum/conference presentations about these subjects, as well.
Of Osage and Cherokee heritage, Strickland was born in 1940 in Muskogee. After graduating from Northeastern State College in Tahlequah, he earned a M.A. from the University of Arkansas, and a J.D. and a S.J.D. from the University of Virginia. As the Sooner Magazine article notes, after law school, “He had a nomadic career, teaching or serving as dean at nearly twenty universities. But he has always come back to Oklahoma.” He has taught at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma City University, and the University of Oklahoma, where he was founding director of the American Indian Law and Policy Center in the 1990s. Today, he is OU Visiting Professor and Scholar in Residence at the renamed Center for the Study of American Indian Law and Policy.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Strickland served on the Editorial Board for the Newcomers to a New Land series of books, part of the Oklahoma Image project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in preparation for the state’s Seventy-fifth Anniversary Diamond Jubilee. The series was a 10–volume set that explored the different ethnic groups that played a major role in the development of the state.
Strickland’s own The Indians in Oklahoma remains one of the most popular titles of this series, and it is the author’s most recognizable work to the general public. Of his forty-plus books, it may also be the most telling of the author’s approach to history. The book does not follow mainstream historiography. Instead, Strickland looks outside of the box, integrating the arts to tell a more complete, poetic story. Just what we would expect from a man who has carved his own path.
Educator, historian, author, and poet—Alvin O. Turner is the ultimate storyteller. It has been said that Turner’s research and writing is based upon a holistic vision of the world. For him, it is not enough just to relay the facts regarding a period or incident in history. He searches for and provides the reader with a deeper understanding of the people, places, and events that have shaped our society.
Born in Guthrie, Oklahoma, on July 28, 1943, Turner earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Central State University (UCO), a master’s degree in history from Central Missouri State University, and his PhD in history from Oklahoma State University. He held a variety of teaching and university administrative positions during his career, including dean for the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and professor of history at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, from 1997 until his retirement in 2006.
The author of six history books and numerous articles, Turner’s scholarship has focused primarily on regional history. His work has proved to be a valuable asset to researchers, historians, and general audiences who want a better insight into Oklahoma’s story. Turner has focused much of his research on what he calls “non-elite memoirs.” These are stories of ordinary Oklahomans who have published their autobiographies or memoirs. His current work involves the annotations of more than 250 of these memoirs.
Turner’s poetry also focuses on regional themes. In Waiting for the Rain, the poems achieve his original intent of “preserving memories of people’s responses to hard times.” Those hard times included the dust bowl and depression. Re-Membering Journeys is also a reflection of hard times. For Turner, however, the “journeys they represent … are the products of an increasingly conscious process of re-membering, taking old memories apart and putting them back together again.” In Hanging Men, he provides a poetic approach to the history of Ada, Oklahoma, from the town’s birth to the modern day. Particular emphasis is placed on the events surrounding the hanging of four men in 1909.
Turner served as co-author with Bob Blackburn on First Family: A Centennial History of the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. His compilation of writer Caroline Henderson’s work for Letters from the Dust Bowl was a finalist for the non-fiction award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book, and for the Centennial Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma Initiative. His latest book L.W. Marks: A Baptist Progressive in Missouri & Oklahoma, 1862–1943 was published in 2009 by Mongrel Empire Press. Turner and his wife, Carmelita, make their home in Norman, Oklahoma.
“I suppose I’d categorize my books as ‘slice of life’ novels. What happens to my characters seems to me to be the result of living in the chaos of the real world.” From “Interview with Billie Letts,” ReadersRead.com—July 2004
The protagonists in the novels of Billie Letts begin their journeys alone in the world: a pregnant teenage girl abandoned in a WalMart parking lot (Where the Heart Is); a wounded Vietnam War veteran who never leaves the small Oklahoma café he owns (The Honk and Holler Opening Soon); an unloved California plastic surgeon who travels to Oklahoma to find his biological mother (Shoot the Moon); two children, who must choose between becoming wards of the state or taking to the road to find their absent father (Made in the U.S.A.).
How these characters grow, what they endure along the way, and where they end up by the time the reader has closed the book, relate a strong central theme of Billie’s work—that home, love, family, and a place to belong is possible “in the chaos of the real world.”
The two-time Oklahoma Book Award winner was born Billie Gibson in Tulsa in 1938 (a “child of children” she has said). When she shocked her fourth grade teacher with a book review on Erskin Caldwell’s God’s Little Acre, she realized the power of writing. “If I had the power to agitate a language-arts teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by simply writing about someone else’s writing, how much power might I have in telling my own stories?” At the age of nine, the idea of becoming a writer took hold.
Before she would find success as an author, she found success as a teacher, wife, and mother. She met Dennis Letts at Northeastern State University, and married him in 1958. The couple moved to Durant, home of Southeastern Oklahoma State University, after Dennis finished graduate school at the University of Illinois. “We planned to be there a year, maybe two. We stayed almost 30,” she said.
Billie continued her own education while raising a family, earning a Master’s degree from Oklahoma State University in 1974. She eventually joined the faculty at Southeastern along with her husband. When the time to contemplate retirement arrived, Billie began to focus more attention on her writing. Like one of her characters, she began a new journey that would take her to a place she could never have imagined.
Her books are international bestsellers. Where the Heart Is, the Walker Percy Award winner and Oprah Book Club selection, has alone been translated into more than a dozen languages. It’s a good bet that if someone on the other side of the world is reading a book about a place called Oklahoma, if it’s not The Grapes of Wrath, it’s probably a Billie Letts novel.
Award-winning young adult author Anna Myers loves to tell stories, so it is only fitting that we should give her the first words:
“I was born in the west Texas town of White Face. My father was an oil field worker who had been transferred to Texas from Oklahoma. I had five older brothers and sisters, and when I was seven years old, my little brother was born. I was only a few months old when the family moved back to Oklahoma, but being born in Texas had a big impact on my life. Because I was the only one in the family born outside of Oklahoma, one of my uncles always called me ‘Tex.’ My oldest brother used to tell me that the family found me in a tumbleweed. I was fairly certain he was only teasing, but when I heard the song, ‘Tumbling Tumbleweed,’ I felt a little thrill.
“Stories were always important in our family. My grandmother, my mother, my father, and my aunts, and my uncles were all storytellers. I never tired of hearing the stories about what went on in the Oklahoma hills where my parents grew up as neighbors. My older brothers and sisters loved books. Going to the library on Saturdays was a big event at our house, and my older siblings frequently read aloud to me. It was that love of stories, I believe, that made me decide early on that I wanted to be a writer. “
Anna Myers is one of Oklahoma’s most beloved writers of youth literature. She has written nineteen books, is a perennial finalist in the Oklahoma Book Awards, and has received four Oklahoma Book Award medals during her writing career, for Red Dirt Jessie, Graveyard Girl, Assassin, and Spy. She has received many more awards and honors from across the country.
Myers brings her stories into schools, and even hosts writing workshops for young people. She also serves as a mentor for aspiring authors in the state by serving as the regional advisor to Oklahoma’s Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Let’s give Anna the final words, as well:
“All but two of my nineteen books are historical fiction. I had a Sunday school teacher when I was a girl who used to say, ‘If you don’t know where you have been, you can’t know where you are going.’ I like to think my books help kids know where we have been.”
“Oklahoma isn’t what I write about; it’s the place I write from—my spiritual and emotional and geographical center. It’s where the voices reside. As a writer I always think of America as my subject, and Oklahoma as the landscape where the stories unfold.” —From “A Writer’s Source” by Rilla Askew, Tulsa World, December 20, 2090
All of Rilla Askew’s books to date have been set in Oklahoma. She was born in the Sans Bois Mountains in the southeastern corner, a fifth generation descendant of southerners who settled in the Choctaw Nation in the late 1800s. Her maternal grandfather was a sharecropper who stayed on the land when the hard times came during the Great Depression, and her paternal grandfather was a coal miner, a carpenter, merchant, and one-time deputy sheriff. The daughter of a coon-hunting Southern Baptist deacon and an independent-minded mom, Askew is the middle of three sisters. She grew up in the oil company town of Bartlesville, where she first encountered the complex forces of race and class that she continues to explore in her fiction. She lived for several years in the Cherokee capital of Tahlequah before relocating to Tulsa, where she graduated from the University of Tulsa with a degree in theatre performance. In 1980 she moved to New York to pursue an acting career, but she soon turned to writing fiction and went on to study creative writing at Brooklyn College, where she received her MFA in 1989.
Her collection of stories Strange Business received the Oklahoma Book Award in 1993. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of journals and has been selected for Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. Her first novel The Mercy Seat was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and received the Western Heritage Award and the Oklahoma Book Award in 1998. Her novel about the Tulsa Race Riot, Fire in Beulah, received the American Book Award, the Myers Book Award, and was the Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma selection for 2007. Askew’s most recent novel Harpsong was nominated for the Dublin IMPAC Prize and received the Oklahoma Book Award, the Western Heritage Award, the Willa Cather Award from Women Writing the West, and the Violet Crown Award from the Writers League of Texas. She was the recipient of a 2009 Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Askew is married to actor Paul Austin, and they divide their time between Oklahoma, where she currently serves as Artist in Residence at the University of Central Oklahoma, and their home in upstate New York.
The spectacular photography of lifelong Oklahoma resident David G. Fitzgerald has thrilled booklovers for more than three decades. Fitzgerald’s published work began receiving national attention immediately when the coffee-table book Oklahoma arrived in bookstores in 1979. This would be the first of many books featuring his stunning photographic work. Books that followed include Ozarks, Israel: Land of Promise, Mansion Fare, Oklahoma II, Portrait of the Ozarks, Oklahoma Crossroads,Bison: Monarch of the Plains, Cherokee, Chickasaw: Unconquered and Unconquerable, Oklahoma 3, and Cherokee Trail of Tears.
Fitzgerald began his career as an artist and illustrator, and this background continues to influence his photography, prompting one critic to note, “the painter’s eye remains much in evidence.”
In addition to his books, his work has been showcased in both state and national exhibits. His photographic documentary of the Benedictine Monks at St. Gregory’s Monastery in Shawnee, Oklahoma, is displayed there. “Oklahoma II” is a permanent exhibit in the Donna Nigh Gallery at the University of Central Oklahoma. His “Cherokee Nation: A Portrait of a People” exhibit has appeared at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Natives of North America Museum in Zurich, Switzerland, and the Oklahoma Historical Society. The “Cherokee Trail of Tears” exhibit includes fifty photographs from his book Cherokee Trail of Tears. Fitzgerald’s work also appears in the State Arts Collection and the University of Oklahoma Museum of Art.
In 1999 Fitzgerald received the Oklahoma Book Award in the Design/Illustration category for Bison: Monarch of the Plains. In 2003 his book Cherokee won the Benjamin Franklin Award and was a finalist for the Oklahoma Books Awards. In 2007 he won a gold and bronze IPPY award at the Independent Publishers Book Awards for Chickasaw: Unconquered and Unconquerable. Fitzgerald was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 2005, and has been named Oklahoma Photographer of the Year three times. He is a lifetime member of the International Photography Hall of Fame.
Lovers of his work can rest assured there is more to come. Fitzgerald has two new books available in May 2010: Chickasaw Renaissance and Building One Fire. He is currently working on a book entitled Courthouse Legends that features all seventy-seven county courthouses and four federal courthouses in Oklahoma.
Robert J. Conley, one of Oklahoma’s most prolific authors, was born in Cushing in 1940. His first novel, Back to Malachi, was published in 1986. Since that time he has had more than seventy books published, both fiction and non-fiction. His poems and short stories have been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies over the years, including some in Germany, France, Belgium, New Zealand and Yugoslavia. His poems have been published in English, Cherokee, and Macedonian.
Conley is known for his accurate depiction of the old West, focusing on the history, tradition, and folklore of the Cherokee people. A member of the Western Writers of America, he has won Spur Awards for two of his novels, Nickajack and The Dark Island, and for his short story “Yellow Bird: An Imaginary Autobiography”. The Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers named him Wordcrafter of the Year in 1997. That same year, he was also inducted into the Oklahoma Professional Writers Hall of Fame. Also in 2007, his book Cherokee Medicine Man was part of the annual literary six-pack for the Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma statewide centennial literary celebration.
He is an enrolled member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma. Conley has been assistant programs manager for the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, director of Indian Studies at Bacone College, associate professor of English at Morningside College, coordinator of Indian Culture at Eastern Montana College, and instructor of English at Southwest Missouri State University and at Northern Illinois University. He is the new Sequoyah Distinguished Professor in Cherokee Studies at Western Carolina University.
David Dary is a respected journalist and educator, and a prize-winning historian of the Old West. He has written 15 books and more than 200 articles for newspapers and magazines. He is emeritus professor of journalism at the University of Oklahoma. He retired in 2000, after 11 years as head of what is now the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.
Dary was born in Manhattan, Kansas, in 1934. After graduating from Kansas State University, in 1956, and completing a stint in the Army Reserve, a newly-wed Dary went to work in the radio business in Texas. In the 1960s Dary worked in production and administration for CBS and NBC News in Texas and Washington D.C. In 1967, while at NBC, Dary wrote his first book, Radio News Handbook.
In the late 60s, after returning to Kansas for family reasons, Dary helped plan and build a new NBC television station in Topeka. In 1969, he joined the faculty of the journalism school at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. He earned his master’s degree in journalism during his first year of teaching. Over the next 20 years at KU, Dary rose to the rank of full professor.
His university teaching schedule allowed him time to write, and in 1974, Dary completed The Buffalo Book. It became a Book-of-the-Month selection. During this time he also began writing stories for the Kansas City Star’s Sunday supplement—collected in True Tales of the Old-Time Plains (1979). In 1981, Dary wrote Cowboy Culture: A Saga of Five Centuries. Published by Alfred A. Knopf of New York, Cowboy Culture won several awards and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. The books that followed—including Seeking Pleasure in the Old West, Entrepreneurs of the Old West, The Santa Fe Trail: Its History, Legends and Lore, and The Oregon Trail: An American Saga—confirm his place as a leading authority on the American West. Dary has received the Cowboy Hall of Fame’s Wrangler Award, two Western Writers of America Spur Awards, the Westerners International Best Nonfiction Book Award, and the Owen Wister Award for lifetime achievement from the Western Writers of America.
In 1989, the University of Oklahoma recruited Dary to head the School of Journalism, where he hired new faculty, rebuilt the program, and elevated the journalism school to a freestanding college. In 2007, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.
Clifton Taulbert is probably best known for his memoir Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored, about his experience of growing up in the racially charged Mississippi Delta during the civil rights movement. In his picture of tiny Glen Allen, Mississippi, Taulbert focuses more on the bonds of family and community—“the front porch people”—rather than the growing conflict between black and white. The work is also a love song to the family that nourished him and protected him from a world of hatred and segregation. Publishers Weekly described the book as a “funny, sweet, touching memoir.” Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored was made into a popular motion picture.
A second memoir, The Last Train North, continues his experiences after high school, when he left Mississippi and traveled to St. Louis for “the good life.” This book was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Rounding out the trilogy is Watching our Crops Come In, which covers Taulbert’s time in the United States Air Force, and a revealing return trip to his Mississippi home town.
Other non-fiction books include, Eight Habits of the Heart, The Journey Home: A Father’s Gift to His Son, and Eight Habits of the Heart for Educators.
Taulbert has also written three children’s books: Little Cliff and the Porch People, Little Cliff’s First Day of School, and Little Cliff and the Cold Place.
He also is the founder and director of the Building Community Institute located in Tulsa. A popular lecturer and motivator, he speaks throughout the world on the need to create an environment branded by respect, affirmation, and inclusion.
Bob Burke, an Oklahoma City attorney and historian, is tonight’s recipient of the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award. He has written or co-written sixty-five books about Oklahoma including Roscoe Dunjee: Champion of Civil Rights, Kate Bernard: Oklahoma’s Good Angel, Oklahoma Government Today: How We Got There, and A History of the Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion.
A native of Broken Bow, Oklahoma, Burke received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a Juris Doctor degree from Oklahoma City University. He served as a journalist and sportscaster for local radio and television stations in Oklahoma before joining the American Broadcasting Company in New York. He has held numerous positions in state government including director of a large state agency during Governor David Boren’s administration.
Burke has written on such diverse topics as aviation, baseball, and religion in Oklahoma. He received the Oklahoma Book Award for non-fiction in 1999 for From Here to Eternity: The Life of Wiley Post and the Winnie Mae. His biography on Bryce Harlow was a Pulitzer Prize nominee and won the Oklahoma History Book of the Year Award from the Oklahoma Historical Society. Burke currently serves on the governing boards of the Jim Thorpe Association, Oklahoma Arts Council, Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, and the Oklahoma Heritage Association.
C.J. Cherryh is one of the most prolific and highly respected authors in America. She has more than sixty books to her credit and is the winner of numerous honors, including three prestigious Hugo Awards, given by the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS).
Cherryh’s first book, Gate of Ivrel, was published in 1976. Since then she has become a leading writer of science fiction and fantasy, known for extraordinary originality, versatility, and superb writing. She received the John W. Campbell Award in 1977 for the Best New Writer, voted by the WSFS. Cherryh received the coveted Hugo Award for short story in 1979 for Cassandra, for novel in 1982 for Downbelow Station, and in 1989 for Cyteen. Cyteen also won the Locus Award, presented to winners of Locus magazine’s annual readers’ poll, for the best science fiction novel of 1988.
A person of varied talents, Cherryh’s personal interests lie in human genetics, astronomy, space science, aeronautics, astrophysicis, botany, geology, climatology, archaeology, cosmology, anthropology, and technology in general with practical and anthropological consideration. In her official biography she states, “I write full time. I travel. I try out things. The list includes, present and past tense; fencing, riding, archery, firearms, ancient weapons, donkeys, elephants, camels, butterflies, frogs, wasps, turtles, bees, ants, falconry, exotic swamp plants and tropicals, lizards, wilderness survival, fishing, sailing, street and ice skating, mechanics, carpentry, wiring, painting (canvas), painting (house), painting (interior), sculpture, aquariums (both fresh and salt), needlepoint, bird breeding, furniture refinishing, video games, archaeology, Roman, Greek civ, Crete, Celts, and caves.” At 61 she took up figure skating.
Cherryh has a BA in Latin from the University of Oklahoma and a MA in Classics from John Hopkins University in Maryland. She taught Latin and ancient history in Oklahoma City Public Schools. Today she lives in Spokane, Washington.
Carolyn Hart is an acknowledged master of mystery and suspense. Hailed as America’s Agatha Christie, she is the author of 35 novels with more than 2.5 million copies of her books in print. Hart is the first author to win all three major mystery awards for her novels—the Agatha, the Anthony, and the Macavity awards. She has won each award twice, and is the only author to be nominated seven times for the coveted Agatha Award. She was one of ten authors appearing in the Mystery and Thriller Pavilion at the 2003 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.
Born in Oklahoma City, Hart began her love affair with mystery by reading Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Beverly Gray. She received a BA in journalism with honors from the University of Oklahoma in 1958. She was a newspaper reporter and worked in public relations before her first book, a children’s mystery, was published in 1964. She wrote four more young adult novels before moving into the mainstream.
Hart is renowned for her two bestselling mystery series—the Henrie O mysteries and the Death on Demand series. She was the recipient of the Oklahoma Book Award for Fiction in 2001 for Sugarplum Dead. Hart’s novel Letter From Home—a finalist for 2004’s fiction award—was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Hart lives in Oklahoma City with her husband Phil.
Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa and is an enrolled member of the Muscogee Nation; she is also recognized as one of America’s foremost poets. She received the Oklahoma Book Award in 1995 in the poetry category for The Woman Who Fell From the Sky.
She is a high school graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico where she studied painting and theater, not poetry and music. She received a BA degree from the University of New Mexico followed by an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. She began writing poetry when the national Indian political climate demanded singers and speakers, and was taken by the intensity in the craft.
She has published seven books of poetry. They include: The Last Song, She Had Some Horses, In Mad Love and War, The Woman Who Fell from the Sky, A Map to the Next World, and What Moon Drove Me to This? Her most recent book, How We Became Human, New and Selected Poems won the 2003 Oklahoma Book Award for poetry.
Awards for her writing include the 2002 Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center, the 2001 American Indian Festival of Words Author Award from the Tulsa City County Library, the 2000 Western Literature Association Distinguished Achievement Award, the 1988 Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She is also a member of theNational Council on the Arts.
Harjo was the narrator for the Native American series on Turner Network and the narrator for the Emmy award-winning show, Navajo Codetalkers for National Geographic.
Currently living in Honolulu, Hawaii, Harjo travels nationally and internationally playing saxophone with her band.
For the first time, the Oklahoma Center for the Book presented the annual Arrell Gibson Award not to an individual, but to an institution—World Literature Today, the world’s oldest international literary quarterly in English. This year marks the 75th anniversary of this Oklahoma-born, world-renowned journal and its affiliated programs.
Scholar Roy Temple House founded the journal under the name Books Abroad in 1927. Dr. House directed the department of modern languages at The University of Oklahoma. A proponent of internationalism, he believed a non-ideological commentary on foreign literature could help counter America’s trend toward isolationism, and promote international understanding.
From a modest seedling of thirty-two pages (January 1927), Books Abroad grew to 256 pages by the end of its 50th year (the Autumn 1976 issue). In January 1977, under the direction of Ivar Ivask, the journal became World Literature Today,reflecting the truly international range that its coverage and reputation had acquired.
Dr. Ivask, the journal’s fifth director, was also responsible for initiating the journal’s international award for literature in 1969. Today, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, supported by an endowment from the Neustadt family of Ardmore and Dallas, remains one of the few international prizes for which poets, novelists, and playwrights are equally eligible.
Another journal-sponsored event, the Puterbaugh Conferences on World Literature, brings a prominent author to The University of Oklahoma each spring for free lectures. In conjunction with the lectures, World Literature Today sponsors a symposium featuring world-renowned scholars and specialists in the author’s work. The conference series began in 1968 and was endowed in perpetuity in 1978 by the Puterbaugh Foundation of McAlester.
After 75 years, WLT continues to promote international understanding through the celebration of literature. A new award honoring children’s literature will debut in 2003. In addition, the journal has begun a new venture: WLT Magazine, designed for both the general public and the scholar. In his introduction to the inaugural issue, current director Robert Con Davis-Undiano writes, “In creating a magazine that may reach a wider public, we are attempting to enlarge that circle of understanding, as has always been the goal at both Books Abroad and WLT.”
Joyce Carol Thomas was born in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Although she moved to California at the age of ten, she never forgot her Oklahoma background. Known for her poetry, playwriting, and novels—especially for children and young adults—her books resonate with the language, and rhythms of Oklahoma. Her work evokes a childhood when she made up songs, stories, and poems and shared them with her family and playmates.
Presently living in California, Thomas has returned to her birthplace through much of her writing. Oklahoma is the setting for her novels Marked By Fire (Avon Books), Bright Shadow, and The Golden Pasture. Her poetry books, I Have Heard Of A Land(Harpercollins Juvenile Books), Brown Honey In Broomwheat Tea (HarperTrophy), and Gingerbread Days, are infused with prairie sensibility.
Joyce Carol Thomas received the National Book Award for her first book, Marked by Fire. That book was also voted the best book for young adults by the New York Times in 1983. Her first illustrated book, Brown Honey and Broomwheat Tea won theCoretta Scott King Award in 1994.
Joyce Carol Thomas also won the 2001 Oklahoma Book Award in the Children and Young Adult catagory with her collection African American lullabies, Hush Songs (Hyperion Books for Children). This is the first time that a Lifetime Achievement winner has also won an award for a book entered that year. Thomas’ books Gingerbread Days and I Have Heard of A Land were both finalists for earlier Oklahoma Book Awards.
The 2000 recipient was Bill Wallace of Chickasha, Oklahoma. Born in Chickasha in 1947, he started out his working life as a teacher. In 1971, after graduating with a degree in elementary education, Wallace began teaching school in his hometown. He taught kindergarten and fourth grade classes. After earning a Masters degree in Elementary Administration, Wallace served as an assistant principal, and eventually as principal of West Elementary in Chickasha. Along the way, Wallace studied professional writing with William Foster-Harris and Dwight Swain at the University of Oklahoma.
A prolific writer, Bill Wallace has written or co-written 25 novels for young people. With titles like The Biggest Klutz in Fifth Grade, The Great Escape (Upchuck and the Rotten Willy), and Snot Stew, his books have been popular from the beginning.
In 1983, Wallace received the Oklahoma Sequoyah Children’s Book Award for his book A Dog Called Kitty. The novel written for young people went on to win the Texas Bluebonnet Award in 1983, and the Nebraska Golden Sower Award in 1985. Over the years, Wallace has received writing awards from seventeen different states, including a second Sequoyah award in 1991 for Beauty. Watchdog and the Coyotes was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award in 1996, and Aloha Summer was a finalist in 1998.
Michael Wallis, renowned for his writing about Oklahoma, has written a number of books about our state’s history, its rich heritage, and its people, including Route 66: The Mother Road, Mankiller: A Chief and Her People, Way Down Yonder in the Indian Nation, and Oil Man: The Story of Frank Phillips and The Birth of Phillips Petroleum.
A resident of Tulsa, Wallis has presented Oklahoma history in a popular format that appeals to readers from all backgrounds. His works have been nominated for the National Book Award and on three occasions for the Pulitzer Prize. In 1981, he was selected as the number one feature writer by the Florida Magazine Association. He has won other prestigious awards and honors, including the 1994 Lynn Riggs Award from Rogers State University in Claremore. In 1996, Wallis was inducted into the Oklahoma Professional Writers Hall of Fame, and in 1994 he was named the first inductee into the Oklahoma Route 66 Hall of Fame. Wallis was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame in 1999.
Jack Bickham, a member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame, was a nationally known Norman, Oklahoma, author of 75 published novels and 6 instructional books about writing fiction.
Two of his novels, The Apple Dumpling Gang and Baker’s Hawk, were recreated for film. Two of his books were reprinted by Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, and two were selected as Detective Book selections.
In addition to writing books, Bickham had a 15-year carrer in newspapers. Yet, Bickham’s greatest influence may have been as a writing and journalism teacher. Writers all across the United States proclaim their success is due in part to Jack Bickham.
At the University of Oklahoma for 21 years, Bickham began as an assistant professor and finally attained the university’s highest honor for teaching excellance. Jack Bickham died on July 25, 1997.
S.E. (Susan Eloise) Hinton was born in “either 1948 or 1950” in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she has lived since. She earned a B.S. degree at the University of Tulsa in 1970.
Hinton began writing before she finished high school, having her first book, The Outsiders, published when she was only 16 years old.
In 1971, her book That Was Then, This Is Now was named an American Library Association Notable Book. Other works include: Rumble Fish , Tex , and Taming The Star Runner. Several of Hinton’s books have been made into well-received movies, including Tex (1982), The Outsiders (1983), Rumble Fish (1983), and That Was Then, This Is Now (1985).
John Hope Franklin was born on January 2, 1915, in Rentiesville, Oklahoma. He earned an A.B. at Fisk University in 1935, an A.M. from Harvard in 1939, and a PH.D. Franklin has been the recipient of many honors. He received Guggenheim Fellowships in 1950 and 1973. In 1978, Who’s Who in America selected him as one of eight Americans who has made significant contributions to society. In the same year, Franklin was elected to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. In addition to his many awards, he has honorary degrees from more than 100 colleges and universities.
Franklin has served on many national commissions and delegations, including chairing the advisory board for One America: The President’s Initiative on Race (a national resource tool that offers information on conducting dialogues in neighborhoods, schools, communities, etc.).
Perhaps his best known book, From Slavery To Freedom: A History Of Negro Americans, first published in 1947, has sold more than 2 million copies and is translated to French, German, Portuguese and Japanese. Recently, Franklin was the subject of the film First Person Singular: John Hope Franklin, featured on PBS in June 1997.
His other works include: The Emancipation Proclamation, The Militant South 1800-1860, The Color Line: Legacy for the 21st Century, and Racial Equality In America.
Franklin is the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History, and from 1985 to 1992 he was Professor of Legal History in the Law School at Duke University.
Raphael Aloysius Lafferty was born November 7, 1914, in Neola, Iowa. He has lived in Tulsa since he was 4 years old.
Primarily a science fiction novelist with a devoted following, Lafferty won the Hugo Award in 1973 for his short story “Eurema’s Dam” (contained in New Dimensions II: Eleven original science fiction stories). Novelist Arthur C. Clarke says of Lafferty, “He is one of the few writers who has made me laugh aloud!”
Other works include: Past Master, The Fall of Rome, Okla Hannali—a historical novel about the Choctaws coming to Oklahoma, The Devil is Dead, Fourth Mansions, Serpent’s Egg, East of Laughter—nominated for 1989 Arthur C. Clarke Award, The Elliptical Grave, and Iron Tears. Lafferty’s short stories have been included in numerous and notable science fiction collections.
Navarre Scott Momaday, the son of Kiowa artist Alfred Morris Momaday and writer Natachee Scott, was born in Lawton, Oklahoma, February 27, 1934. Momaday grew up on Navajo, Apache and Pueblo Indian reservations in the American Southwest.
A novelist, poet, dramatist and illustrator. Momaday earned an A.B. from the University of New Mexico in 1958, an M.A. from Stanford University in 1960 and a Ph.D., also from Stanford, in 1963. He holds honorary doctorates from eleven universities, including Yale.
He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1966, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for his first novel House Made of Dawn. Momaday was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1987.
Other works include: The Way to Rainy Mountain, Angle of Geese and Other Poems, The Gourd Dancer, The Names: A Memoir, The Ancient Child, and a children’s book written and illustrated by Momaday, Circle of Wonder. He is professor of English at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
Harold Verne Keith, children’s author and sports journalist, was born April 8, 1903, in Lambert, Oklahoma Territory. He spent most of his life in Norman, Oklahoma, where from 1930 to 1969 he was sports publicity director for the University of Oklahoma. Keith earned a B.A., in 1929 and an M.A., in 1938, both from the University of Oklahoma.
He won the Newbery Medal in 1958 for Rifles for Watie, a book he researched by interviewing Civil War veterans who lived in Oklahoma. He won two Western Heritage Wrangler awards: one in 1975 for Susy’s Scoundrel, and another in 1979 for The Obstinate Land.
Other works include: Komantcia, The Sound of Strings, and Sports and Games.
Keith was a distance runner who broke the U.S. Masters Association three-mile record for men over 70. He died on February 24, 1998.
Savoie Lottinville born November 17, 1906, in Hagerman, Idaho, was a publisher, editor and writer. He earned a B.A. at the University of Oklahoma in 1929, was a Rhodes Scholar in 1932, and earned an M.A. in 1939 also at Oxford.
Lottinville took over the OU Press in 1938, succeeding its founder, Joseph Brandt. Lottinville is said to have built a nationwide reputation for publishing important scholarly works. Time magazine said Lottinville built the press “into the nation’s standout example of a successful regional publisher.” He remained director until his retirement in 1967.
He was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1952, and into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 1980. He was also recipient of the University of Oklahoma Distinguished Alumna Award, the Governors Arts Award, and the Curtis Benjamin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Publishing.
He wrote and edited many works, among the most famous of which is The Rhetoric of History. Lottinville died on January 20, 1997, at the age of 90.
Tony Hillerman, novelist and journalist, was born May 27, 1925, and grew up at St. Mary’s Academy, a boarding school for Native American girls at Sacred Heart—a Catholic mission formerly located in Pottawatomie County near Asher, Oklahoma. Hillerman once said of the nuns at Sacred Heart, “They eventually forgave my brother (photographer Barney Hillerman) and I for not being Indian, but they never forgave us for not being girls.”
Hillerman earned a B.A. at the University of Oklahoma in 1946, and an M.A. from the University of New Mexico in 1966. He worked as a newspaper editor in Lawton and as a political reporter for United Press International in Oklahoma City.
As a novelist, he won the Edgar Allen Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1974 for Dance Hall of the Dead (Harper 1973). Hillerman was also inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 1993.
His novels, which focus predominantly on Navajo themes, include The Blessing Way, The Boy Who Made Dragonfly, Listening Woman, A Thief ofTime, Talking God, Sacred Clowns, The Fallen Man, and The First Eagle. Hillerman is professor of journalism at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
Daniel Joseph Boorstin was born October 1, 1914, in Atlanta, Georgia, and grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A historian, Boorstin earned a B.A. at Harvard (summa cum laude) in 1934. He was a Rhodes Scholar in 1936 and earned a J.S.D. from Yale University in 1940.
He was visiting professor at the University of Rome, the University of Geneva, the University of Kyoto and the University of Puerto Rico. In Paris he was the first incumbent of a chair in American History at the Sorbonne, and at Cambridge University, England, he was Pitt Professor and Fellow of Trinity College.
He won a National Book Award in 1959 for The Americans: The Colonial Experience and another in 1974 for The Americans: The Democratic Experience, for which he also won the Pulitzer Prize. He received numerous honorary degrees and has been decorated by the governments of France, Belgium, Portugal and Japan.
He directed the Library of Congress from 1975 to 1987. During his tenure, he started the Center for the Book program. Boorstin had previously been Director of the National Museum of American History, and Senior Historian of the Smithsonian Institution of Washington, D.C. Before that he taught history at the University of Chicago for twenty-five years.
Boorstin won the Oklahoma Book Award for The Creators in 1992. His other works include: The Discoverers, and The Seekers.