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 eleven 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 twenty 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-confirmed 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, and also that year he received the Oklahoma Center for the Book, Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award.
BS, Humanities, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas; MS, Journalism, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.
Two Wrangler awards from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, (1982) for Cowboy Culture: A Saga of Five Centuries, (2005) for The Oregon Trail: An American Saga; Two Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America, (1981) in Nonfiction for Cowboy Culture, (1995) in Historical Nonfiction for Seeking Pleasure in the Old West; Western Writers of America, The Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement, 2003; Oklahoma Center for the Book, The Arrell Gibson Award for Lifetime Achievement, 2007; inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, 2007; and inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame, 2008.
Resident of Norman, Oklahoma since the spring of 1989.
Radio News Handbook. Blue Ridge Summit, PA: TAB Books, 1967.
Television News Handbook. Blue Ridge Summit, PA: TAB Books, 1971.
Manual de Noticias Radiofonicas. Mexico City, D.F.: Editorial Diana, 1971. (Spanish translation of Radio News Handbook published by the United States Information Agency for distribution throughout Latin America.)
How to Write News for Broadcast and Print. Blue Ridge Summit, PA: TAB Books, 1973.
The Buffalo Book. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1974.
True Tales of the Old-Time Plains. New York: Crown Publishing, 1979.
Cowboy Culture: A Saga of Five Centuries. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1981.
Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas: An Informal History. Lawrence, KS: Allen Books, 1982.
True Tales of Old-Time Kansas. Revised ed. of True Tales of the Old-time Plains. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1984.
Entrepreneurs of the Old West. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1986.
Kanzana, 1854-1900: A Selected Bibliography of Books, Pamphlets and Ephemeral of Kansas. Lawrence, KS: Allen Books, 1986.
More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1987.
Pictorial History of Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas. Lawrence: Allen Press, 1992.
Seeking Pleasure in the Old West. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1995.
Red Blood and Black Ink: Journalism in the Old West. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1998.
The Santa Fe Trail: Its History, Legends, and Lore. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 2000.
The Oklahoma Publishing Company's First Century: The Gaylord Family Story. Oklahoma City, OK: OPUBCO, 2003.
The Oregon Trail: An American Saga. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 2004.
A Texas Cowboy's Journal: Up the Trail to Kansas in 1868. By Jack Bailey. Edited by David Dary. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006.
True Tales of the Prairies and Plains. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2007.
Frontier Medicine: From the Atlantic to the Pacific, 1492-1941. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 2008. (November)
David Dary has written many introductions, chapters and forewords to other works. He has also authored more than 200 articles published in magazines, newspapers and contributed to the five volume Handbook of Texas published by the Texas Historical Association, and the Encyclopedia of the American West edited by Howard Lamar and published by Yale University Press.
He has contributed numerous book reviews published in the Los Angeles Times, Kansas City Star, Philadelphia Inquirer and carried by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service.
"I research and write about the plains and prairie regions of America where I grew up. The regions have rich histories. The histories of this vast region of middle America should be viewed as important by people living in them. It is my hope that my books not only educate but entertain and have universal appeal."
Available for author visits
Author information; Oklahoma Book Award Program, 2008.