Larry McMurtry (’58), 84, an award-winning novelist and screenwriter, died March 25 at his home in Archer City.
One of America’s best-known authors of Western fiction, including contemporary Texas, McMurtry wrote more than 30 novels, as well as essay collections, memoirs, histories and screenplays. In 1961, he published his first book, Horseman Pass By, which became the movie Hud. One of his most famous works, Lonesome Dove, which he wrote in 1985, depicts two retired Texas Rangers cattle-driving a stolen herd from the Rio Grande to Montana in the 1870s. It won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 and the story later was adapted into a TV mini-series.
Other bestsellers include The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment, which also were adapted into Oscar-winning films. He co-wrote the Brokeback Mountain screenplay, for which he shared a Golden Globe and an Oscar in 2006.
In 2014, he received the National Humanities Medal and was honored at the White House. The award recognizes those whose work has deepened the nation's engagement in the humanities.
A native of Archer City, McMurtry entered Rice University and later transferred to North Texas where he earned his degree in English and wrote for Avesta.
"The school attracted young professors who were intellectually stimulating and sparked their students," he said when accepting his Distinguished Alumnus Award on campus in 1986. "Their professional talent opened up the world of literature to me, and they encouraged me to write."
It was also in college that he discovered a huge world of books. He compared the universities’ libraries to the unsettled West in his fourth book, In A Narrow Grave: Essays on Texas. The libraries, he wrote, were “countries as vast, as promising, and, so far as I knew, as trackless as the West must have seemed to the first white men who looked upon it.”
McMurtry owned bookstores in Washington, D.C., Houston, Dallas and Tucson, Arizona. His last remaining store, Booked Up, located in Archer City, is one of the largest bookstores in the country, once six buildings wide and housing around 400,000 volumes. His private library housed 30,000 books contained in three houses.
Through the years, he and the bookstore were associated with UNT’s Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism’s Archer City Writers Workshop – writers he would invite to meet with him at his home or at the store.
"Larry McMurtry believed 'books are the fuel of genius,' and his beautifully crafted novels and screenplays illustrate his creative genius,” UNT President Neal Smatresk says. “We are forever proud of his work as a UNT alumnus."