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Larry L. King Papers

Identifier: SWWC-006

Scope and Contents

The Larry L. King papers span the years from 1929 to 1993 with most of the material dating from the late 1950s.  They are arranged according to the following eleven series:  1. Books; 2. Plays; 3. Articles; 4. Short stories 5. Television; 6. Songs; 7. Speeches; 8. Material about King; 9. Other Writers; 10. Personal Papers; 11. Correspondence. 

Within the archive are manuscripts, galley proofs, magazines, tear sheets, playbooks, flyers, posters, tapes, videos, clippings, correspondence, calendars, cancelled checks, tax receipts, vital records, photographs, T-shirts, a jacket and a typewriter. These materials document King’s life and career and provide a thorough overview of his writing process.  They include correspondence with or about other Texas writers, such as Larry McMurtry, Bud Shrake, Billy Lee Brammer, Dan Jenkins, Peter Gent, Jay Milner and Gary Cartwright along with letters to friends and family such as cousin Lanvil Gilbert and colorful Texas lawyer, Warren Burnett. The materials are most frequently arranged in chronological order.

Contact the The Wittliff Collections for information about additional materials from this writer that have not yet been fully processed.


  • 1929-1993


Conditions Governing Use

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials from the Wittliff Collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user assumes responsibility for determining copyright status, obtaining permission to publish, and abiding by U.S. copyright laws.

Biographical Notes

Lawrence Leo King, the youngest child of Clyde Clayton and Cora Lee Clark King, was born January 1, 1929 in Putnam, Texas. He fixed on a career as a writer early in his childhood, inspired by the Mark Twain his mother read to him. As early as grade school, King pursued publication of his works. He wrote regularly for the student newspaper at high school where he found a mentor in Aubra Nooncaster, football coach, English teacher and poet. From high school, King joined the army where he was a reporter for his base paper. He wrote professionally as a sports and crime reporter for the Hobbs (N. M.) Daily Flare, the Midland Reporter-Telegram and the Odessa American after a brief stint at Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) as a journalism major. In 1954, King moved to Washington, D.C. as the Administrative Assistant to Representative J. T. Rutherford. After Rutherford was defeated in 1962, King joined the staff of another Texas congressman, future House Speaker Jim Wright. In 1964, King quit Capitol Hill to become a free-lance writer.

The novel, The One-Eyed Man, was published in 1966, but King’s chief livelihood as a writer during this time came from his magazine articles. From 1964, King wrote for The Texas Observer, an iconoclastic liberal magazine “then the only voice of dissent (constant) or reason (occasionally) to be found in my native state” (King, Blockhead 20). At the same time, Mississippian Willie Morris, a University of Texas graduate and former editor of the Observer, encouraged King’s writing ambitions. Morris gave King his first national exposure in Harper’s, where Morris was an editor. In 1967, Morris was named editor-in-chief of Harper’s and under his leadership, the magazine became famed for its' exciting and innovative writing. Morris published the brightest literary lights of the day as represented by an impressive list King catalogues in The Old Man and Lesser Mortals: “James Dickey, Jules Feiffer, Robert Penn Warren, Justin Kaplan, Sara Davidson, Jack Richardson, Elizabeth Hardwick, Norman Podhoretz, Arthur Miller, Tony Lucas, George Plimpton, Bud Shrake, Michael Arlen, Joe McGinnis, Alfred Kazin, John Updike, Ralph Ellison, Jeremy Larner, Ward Just, Truman Capote, Herbert Gold, Tom Wicker, Gay Talese, Larry McMurtry, Joan Didion, Philip Roth, John Fowles, Irving Howe . . .” (286). Not to be left out are William Styron, Norman Mailer, Bill Moyers and David Halberstam. King’s best magazine work, as witnessed by the dominance of Harper’s pieces in King’s published collections, was done under Morris’s editing. Examples of their collaboration are “Requiem for a West Texas Town”, “My Hero LBJ”, “The Old Man”, and “The Whole World’s Turned On.”

King went on to write for numerous, well-known publications including Life, Holiday, Cosmopolitan, The Progressive, Playboy and Sports Illustrated. His topics were, in the main, Texas (“Requiem for a West Texas Town,” “The Old Man,” “The Lost Frontier,” “Playing Cowboy”) and politics (“My Hero LBJ,” “God, Man and William F. Buckley,” “The Trial of John Connally”), but he also treated other subjects such as sports, travel, and music.

In 1978, King penned the book for the hit Broadway musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, based on an article he wrote for Playboy. The success of Whorehouse allowed King to get off what he had come to feel was the magazine treadmill and develop his talent in a different form. He has subsequently seen his plays The Night Hank Williams Died, The Kingfish and Golden Shadows Old West Museum produced.

During his career, King’s work has received much praise. He earned a National Book Award Nomination in 1972 for Confessions of a White Racist. He received a Stanley Walker Journalism Award from the Texas Institute of Letters in 1973 for the article “The Lost Frontier.” A television documentary, CBS Reports: The Best Little Statehouse in Texas, earned him an Emmy. He received the Mary Goldwater Award from the Theatre Lobby Trust in 1988 for The Night Hank Williams Died. This same work brought him the Helen Hayes award for best new play in 1989.

Though a college dropout, King’s journalistic talent brought him to Harvard University in the 1969-1970 academic year as a Nieman Fellow. (He chronicled this experience in the October 1970 issue of Harper’s, “Blowing My Mind at Harvard”.) From Fall 1973 through Fall 1974, King taught as a Ferris Professor of Journalism and Political Science at Princeton University. He was a Duke Fellow of Communications from 1975 to 1976.

King has lived the majority of his life away from his home state but he continually returns there in his writing. In his own words, “That time and place of my youth -- which, I had been thoroughly convinced contained no story material, has merely provided me with the stuff of a career.” (King, National Geographic Speech 1988) By chronicling the Texas that formed him, a Texas that is passing if not past, King, who believes “understanding of the past is vital to the lessons of the present” (King, The Old Man 46) has come to see himself as a leaver of “literary signposts. Those signposts say, simply . . . this is how it was, in my time and my place, when I passed this way . . . . Pass it on!” (C.A.S.T. Speech 1993, SWWC).

King married Wilma Jeanne Casey (d. 1991) in 1950. They had three children, Alexandria, Kerri Lee King Grandey, and Bradley Clayton. King, divorced in 1964, married on February 20, 1965 Rosemarie Coumaris Kline, who died of cancer June 8, 1972. Since May 6, 1978, King then married Barbara S. Blaine, who was also his lawyer and agent. They had two children, Lindsay Allison and Blaine Carlton.

King died of emphysema on December 20, 2012.


39 boxes

19 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations

  • The descriptive data created for this finding aid is licensed under the CC0 Creative Commons license and is free for use without restriction.


The Larry L. King papers document his writing career and span the years from 1929 to 1993 with most of the material dating from the late 1950s.

Physical Location

Materials may be stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use:

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts of Larry L. King, Russell Harding and Lanvil Gilbert since 1987.

Guide to the Larry L. King Papers
Gwynedd Cannan
April 1993
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 2004: Finding aid revised as part of the Wittliff's Collection Numbering Project
  • 2021: Revised for ArchivesSpace by Susannah Broyles.

Repository Details

Part of the The Wittliff Collections Repository

601 University Drive
San Marcos Texas 78666 USA