Texas Originals

James Frank Dobie, The ‘Storyteller Of The Southwest’

He was a folklorist and teacher who spent most of his life writing about the culture of the west. Many of his writings and books were about life in Texas.


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A folklorist and teacher who spent most of his life writing about the culture of the west. Many of his writings and books were about life in Texas.

James Frank Dobie
September 26, 1888–September 18, 1964


Called the "Storyteller of the Southwest," James Frank Dobie was born in 1888 on his family's cattle ranch in Live Oak County. During his long life, J Frank Dobie would live astride two worlds: a rugged life on a Texas cattle ranch and the state's modern centers of scholarly learning.

Dobie came to Austin in 1914 to teach at The University of Texas. In time he pioneered an influential course on the literature of the Southwest. By the late 1920s, Dobie discovered his mission: to record and publicize the disappearing folklore of Texas and the greater Southwest. Dobie became secretary of the Texas Folklore Society, a position he held for 21 years.

James Frank Dobie
James Frank Dobie

Dobie was a new kind of folklorist — a progressive activist. He called for UT to admit African-American students in the 1940s — long before the administration favored integration. Dobie's vocal politics led to his leaving the University in 1947, but he continued writing until his death in 1964, publishing over twenty books and countless articles.

The inscription on Dobie's headstone in the Texas State Cemetery reads: "I have come to value liberated minds as the supreme good of life on earth." J Frank Dobie was not content to simply preserve Southwestern heritage within libraries and museums. He gave life to that heritage and informed generations of Texans about their rich history.


Selected Bibliography

Abernethy, Francis E. "Dobie, James Frank." Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/DD/fdo2.html.
Davis, Steven. J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009..
“Desegregation in Austin.” Austin History Center. http://www.austinlibrary.com/library/ahc/desegregation/index.cfm?action=decade&dc=1950s.
Dobie, J. Frank. Guide to Life and Literature of the Southwest. Austin: UT Press, 1943.
Dobie, J. Frank. On the Open Range. Dallas: The Southwest Press, 1931.
Dobie, J. Frank. The Longhorns. Boston: Little, Brown and Co. 1941.
Dobie, J. Frank. Some Part of Myself. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1967.
Graham, Don. "Pen Pals," in Giant Country: Essays on Texas, (TCU Press, 1998), pp. 103–116. .
McMurtry, Larry. In a Narrow Grave: Essays on Texas. Austin: The Encino Press, 1968..
Texas State Cemetery. http://www.cemetery.state.tx.us/pub/user_form.asp?step=1&pers_id=2358

See video http://www.texasarchive.org/library/index.php?title=Cactus_Pryor_Interviews_J._Frank_Dobie_%281963%29

Listen to Frank Dobie's This I Believe Essay: What Makes Me Feel Big here


This episode originally aired on August 18, 2012.