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Texas State University
Texas State University

Larry L. King

Playwright, Author
Thursday, October 3, 1991

Larry L. King decided in his seventh year to become a writer after his mother read him Tom Sawyer during a summer bout with whooping cough. "I wanted to tell stories to give people the same pleasure that Mr. Twain's stories gave me," he remembers.

King is the author of a dozen hooks, five stage plays, numerous TV documentaries, two screenplays and hundreds of magazine articles. His The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was an international hit as a musical comedy; it was nominated for seven Broadway Tonys and won two. The Night Hank Williams Died won the Helen Hayes Award and Theatre Lobby's Mary Goldwater Award as Best New Play. The Kingfish, a one-man show about the late Huey Long, has been in production for a dozen years. King's other produced plays are The Golden Shadows Old West Museum and Christmas: 1933.

In 1971 Confessions of a White Racist was nominated for a National Book Award. The next year King's Life magazine piece on life in West Texas, The Last Frontier, was given the Stanley Walker Journalism Award by the Texas Institute of Letters. In 1981 his documentary on Statehouse politics for CBS Reports won a TV Emmy.

Active in politics since boyhood, King was in the 1950s and early '60s the administrative assistant to Texas Congressmen J, T. Rutherford and Jim Wright. He was a preconvention worker for Lyndon Johnson and an advance person for the LBJ (and later Kennedy-Johnson) presidential effort.

On leaving Capitol Hill in 1964, King became a freelance writer, specializing in political pieces and Texas stories for many magazines, including The Texas Observer, Harper's, Atlantic Monthly, The Progressive, The Nation and Texas Monthly. He has been a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, a Fellavv of Communications at Duke and Visiting Ferris Professor of Journalism and Political Science at Princeton.

—Adapted from the original event program distributed at Larry L. King's LBJ Distinguished Lecture

“What a delusion! Camelot, I now know, never was. The shining knight of Camelot, whom I revered in my political youth and who became an instant martyr on the same day I began to sour on politics — and whose shocking, sudden demise was the reason for that — turned out in the long run to himself have tarnished armor.”

“I think historians of the future will clearly see what we see only through a glass, darkly. That Lyndon Johnson — following in the steps of a young, handsome, stylish, martyred president — never had a cut-dog’s chance to be accepted or judged on fair or impartial terms.”

“My expectations were much greater then than now, my hopes high my vision untested and therefore theoretically limitless, my dreams undashed on the rocky shoals of reality. I now know that Shakespeare's work is likely to last longer than mine, and Hemingway’s and Faulkner’s and Eugene O’Neill’s, and that it’s probably too late even to run Norman Mailer and William Styron and Larry McMurtry or Arthur Miller out of town.”