In Praise of Bob Utley, historian of the West

Bob Utley AuthorOur friend Robert M. Utley has left his mark on western history in ways unmatched by perhaps any other contemporary author. In 1942 at the age of twelve Bob sat mesmerized in a darkened movie theatre watching Errol Flynn channel George Armstrong Custer in They Died with Their Boots On. Thus began a fascination with the West, its legends, and its preservation that has never wavered.

At seventeen his hard-earned savings from after-school work paid for a trip from Indiana to Crow Agency, Montana. Somehow age restrictions were circumvented and, donning the uniform of the National Park Service, he stood on Custer Hill to regale all who came with the story of the iconic 1876 battle. Following college and military service, he joined and quickly moved up the ranks of the National Park Service, where he became chief historian. His work in Washington helped shape the goals of the organization in ways that still resonate. Since his retirement from the NPS in 1980 he has devoted himself to research, writing, consulting and speaking.

As author of eighteen books, four of which are published by the University of Oklahoma Press, and well over a hundred articles, introductions, and the like, he has tackled a wide range of western history, from the military to the fur trade, Sitting Bull to Billy the Kid, Texas Rangers to his forthcoming biography of Geronimo.

Perhaps most importantly, Bob’s generosity to friends and fellow historians is legendary. His work in building connections between historians and enthusiasts, in mentoring new authors, in contributing to the evaluation and promotion of new writing on the West is inestimable.

We are proud to have shared this historical path with Bob. We hope you, too, have had the opportunity to enjoy his fine contributions. We invite you to visit him at his new website.

–Robert Clark, Publisher, Arthur H. Clark Company