Elmer Kelton

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Elmer Stephen Kelton
Elmer kelton 2007.jpg
Elmer Kelton at the 2007 Texas Book Festival.
Born April 29, 1926[1]
Horse Camp
Five Wells Ranch
Andrews County,
Texas, United States
Died August 22, 2009(2009-08-22) (aged 83)[2]
San Angelo, Texas
Occupation Journalist
Nationality American
Alma mater The University of Texas at Austin (Bachelor of Arts in journalism)
Period 1957-2009
Genre Westerns
Spouse Anna (née Lipp) Kelton
Children Gary, Steve and Kathy Kelton

Elmer Stephen Kelton (April 29, 1926[1] – August 22, 2009[2]) was an American journalist and writer, known particularly for his Western novels.


Kelton was born at a place called Horse Camp on the Five Wells Ranch,[1] owned by the Scharbauer Cattle Company,[4] in Andrews County — just east of the city of Andrews — to Robert William "Buck" Kelton-[5] (30 June 1901 – 15 June 1980)[6] and Neta Beatrice "Bea" (née Parker).[7] 15 May 1904 – 27 April 1993) Kelton.[5][8][9][10]

When Kelton was three years old, the family moved to the McElroy Ranch located in the counties of Crane and Upton, Texas, near the city of Crane, south-southwest of Midland.[10] He spent the rest of his childhood at three different homesteads on the McElroy Ranch, where his father was employed for thirty-six years.[11]

After graduation from Crane High School, Kelton attended The University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas, in 1942-1944 and again from 1946–1948, when he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism. From 1944 to 1946, Kelton had served in the U.S. Army, with combat infantry experience in Europe during World War II.

He and Anni Lipp, a native of Austria, were married and they had three children.[9] One son, Gerhard (also known as "Gary") of Plainview, is Anni's son that was adopted by Kelton. The other son and a daughter are Steve Kelton and Kathy Kelton, both of San Angelo. He also had three brothers, Merle Kelton and his wife, Ann, of May, Texas; Bill Kelton and his wife, Pat, of Atlanta, Texas; and Eugene Kelton and his wife, Peggy, of McCamey, Texas.[12]

From 1948-1963, Kelton was the farm-and-ranch editor for the San Angelo Standard-Times in the Harte-Hanks chain. For five years he was editor of Sheep and Goat Raiser Magazine and another twenty-two years he was editor of Livestock Weekly, from which he retired in 1990.[9]

His memoir, Sandhills Boy, was published in 2007.

Three of his novels have been featured in Reader's Digest Condensed Books.

Eight Kelton novels, Buffalo Wagons, The Day the Cowboys Quit, The Time It Never Rained, Eyes of the Hawk, Slaughter, The Far Canyon, Many a River and The Way of the Coyote, have won Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America. Peers in the WWA also named him as the greatest Western writer of all time.[13][14]

Three others, City: The Time It Never Rained, The Good Old Boys and The Man Who Rode Midnight, have received Western Heritage Awards from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The Good Old Boys was made into the Turner Network Television TV movie named The Good Old Boys (1995) starring Tommy Lee Jones.[9]

In 1977, Kelton received an Owen Wister Award for lifetime achievement (named for Owen Wister, the author of The Virginian). In April 1997, the Texas State Legislature proclaimed "Elmer Kelton Day". In 1998, he received the first Lone Star Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Larry McMurtry Center for Arts and Humanities at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

He has received honorary doctorates from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, and Texas Tech University at Lubbock, Texas. Kelton also received a lifetime achievement award from the National Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock.[9] He is honored with a star in the sidewalk at the Fort Worth Stockyards in Fort Worth, Texas.[15]

Kelton was working on another book but faced multiple health problems in the spring of 2009. The book was not completed before he died on August 22, 2009, of natural causes.[clarification needed][16][17]

His funeral was held on August 27, 2009, at the First United Methodist Church in San Angelo. A life-size statue of Kelton by Raul Ruiz displayed at the Stevens Central Library in San Angelo, Texas.[3]

Beginning in 2014, the Academy of Western Artists, based in Gene Autry, Oklahoma, will award the first of its forthcoming annual Elmer Kelton book awards to successful authors in both the genre of fiction and non-fiction.[18] The runner-up was Kelton's understudy Patrick Dearen of Midland, Texas, for his 2012 novel To Hell or the Pecos.


Year Award Category Work
1957 Spur Award Novel Buffalo Wagons
1971 Spur Award Novel The Day the Cowboys Quit
1973 Spur Award Novel The Time It Never Rained
1974 Western Heritage Award Western Novel The Time It Never Rained
1977 Owen Wister Award Western literature Lifetime achievement
1979 Western Heritage Award Western Novel The Good Old Boys
1981 Spur Award Novel Eyes of the Hawk
1988 Western Heritage Award Western Novel The Man Who Rode Midnight
1992 Spur Award Novel of the West Slaughter
1994 Spur Award Novel of the West The Far Canyon
2002 Spur Award Best Western Novel Way of the Coyote
2009 Spur Award Novel Many A River
2010 (posthumously) American Cowboy Culture Association Fictional works Lifetime achievement


Partial list of works:

  • Barbed Wire (1957)
  • Buffalo Wagons (1957)
  • Shadow of a Star (1958)
  • Texas Rifles (1960)
  • Donovan (1961)
  • The Day the Cowboys Quit (1971)
  • Wagontongue (1972)
  • The Time it Never Rained (1973)
  • The Wolf and the Buffalo (1980)
  • Dark Thicket (1985)
  • Honor at Daybreak (1991)
  • Slaughter (1992)
  • The Far Canyon (1994)
  • The Pumpkin Rollers (1996)
  • Cloudy in the West (1997)
  • Way of the Coyote (2001)
  • Jericho's Road (2004)
  • Six Bits a Day (2005)
  • Ranger's Law: A Lone Star Saga (2006)
  • The Rebels: Sons of Texas (2007)
  • Texas Sunrise (2008)
  • Many A River (2009)

Texas Ranger Novels:

  • The Buckskin Line
  • Badger Boy
  • The Way of the Coyote
  • Ranger's Trail
  • Texas Vendetta
  • Jericho's Road
  • Hard Trail to Follow
  • Other Men's Horses
  • Texas Standoff

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Kelton, Elmer (2007). - Sandhills Boy: The Winding Trail of a Texas Writer. - New York, New York: Forge. - p.26. - ISBN 978-0-7653-1521-2.
  2. ^ a b "UPDATE: Elmer Kelton dies at 83". San Angelo Standard-Times. Retrieved August 22, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "Brandy Ramirez, "Friends Mourn Elmer Kelton"". San Angelo Standard-Times. Retrieved August 28, 2009. 
  4. ^ Kelton. - Sandhills Boy. - p.21.
  5. ^ a b Birth certificate of Elmer Kelton. - Texas Vital Statistics Office. - Austin, Texas: Texas Department of State Health Services. 1926.
  6. ^ Death certificate of Elmer Kelton. - Texas Vital Statistics Office. - Austin, Texas: Texas Department of State Health Services. 1980.
  7. ^ Kelton. Sandhills Boy. - p.84.
  8. ^ Kelton, Neta B. - Social Security Death Index Search.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Elmer Kelton Biography". ElmerKelton.net. Retrieved June 17, 2009. 
  10. ^ a b Kelton. Sandhills Boy. - pp.26,31.
  11. ^ Kelton. Sandhills Boy. pp.233, 241.
  12. ^ "Obituary: Elmer Kelton Dies at 83". gosangelo.com. Retrieved August 28, 2009. 
  13. ^ Legislature honors San Angelo author
  14. ^ The Owen Wister Award
  15. ^ "Elmer Kelton Photos". ElmerKelton.net. Retrieved June 17, 2009. 
  16. ^ Western Novelist Elmer Kelton dies at 83 Chron.com. Retrieved August 23, 2009.
  17. ^ Statement from Tai D. Kriedler, executive director of West Texas Historical Association, Lubbock, Texas.
  18. ^ "Elmer Kelton Book Award". awaawards.org. Retrieved August 31, 2013. 

External links[edit]