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SWWC dedicates Oliphant Statue “The Writer John Graves”

Date released: 09/30/04

SAN MARCOS—On Friday, October 8 at 7:00 pm, the Southwestern Writers Collection (SWWC) will dedicate “The Writer John Graves,” a statue honoring one of Texas’ most revered authors. The bronze will stand at the entrance to the SWWC, in the Saltillo-tiled foyer of the Alkek Library Special Collections Department at Texas State University-San Marcos.

One of only a handful of statues in Texas to celebrate an author, “The Writer John Graves” was commissioned by SWWC founding donors Bill and Sally Wittliff. Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist and acclaimed sculptor Patrick Oliphant fashioned it from pictures of Graves taken by Bill Wittliff at Hard Scrabble, the Graves ranch in Glen Rose. At six feet, eleven inches, the piece is ten percent larger than life size, and presents a casual Graves in glasses and cap, hands in his back pockets.

The October 8 reception, scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm, will include brief remarks at 8:00 pm followed by the ceremonial unveiling. The event is free and open to the public.

Texas State President Dr. Denise Trauth, Assistant Vice President, University Library, Joan Heath, Vice President of Information Technology Dr. Van Wyatt, and Special Collections Curator Connie Todd will welcome special guests Graves, Oliphant, and the Wittliffs.

A man of the Southwest, John Graves came back home to Texas after traveling the world—to his literary destiny as one of a handful of great American voices. Universal in theme, Graves’ words echo the cadences and wisdom of the all-time classics of literature from the Greeks to the Lost Generation of American expatriates. He is perhaps best known for his first book, Goodbye to a River. Published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1960, it is a complicated classic that draws from a canoe trip down the Brazos a personal narrative, a popular history, and an elegant environmental statement written in shimmering, elegiac prose that flows with the living rhythm of the river.

Earlier this year, with appropriate symmetry, Knopf also published Graves’ most recent book, the journal-based memoir entitled Myself and Strangers, in which “Old John” takes a bemused, questioning look back at “Young John,” thereby generously and honestly revealing to his readers a part of the personal process by which he found his path as a writer.

In addition to publishing five major books, his contributions to journalism and literature are extensive. Three of his early short stories were collected in the O. Henry Awards series. Graves has written introductions and narratives for a number of books on Western topics, such as Cowboy Life on the Western Plains, Digging into South Texas Prehistory, Of Birds and Texas, and the recent Wittliff photography monograph, Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy. He has also contributed to magazines and literary collections for over four decades, including a distinguished series of articles for Texas Monthly.

Celebrated throughout his career, Graves has most recently been honored with the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) 2004 International Award of Excellence in Conservation, the 2003 Texas Medal of Arts, and the 2000 Texas Bookend Award—all for lifetime achievement.

Texas State’s Southwestern Writers Collection is the major repository of Graves’ archives—including most of his literary papers, working drafts and correspondence with editors, scrapbook material and personal artifacts—the bulk of which the Collection acquired in 1991 and to which Graves continues to add. A John Graves Reader, published by UT Press in 1996, was the first title in the SWWC’s Book Series, and John Graves and the Making of Goodbye to a River: Selected Letters, 1957 – 1960, published in a keepsake edition by TaylorWilson in 2000, was created in part from the Graves archives at the SWWC.

The most widely syndicated political cartoonist in the world, Australian-born Patrick Oliphant is an accomplished artist in a variety of media, including etching, lithography, monotype, and sculpture. In addition to the Pulitzer, he has received numerous honors, including two Reuben Awards and a Best Editorial Cartoonist Award from the National Cartoonists Society; in 1998, the Library of Congress commemorated the acquisition of 60 of his works with a special exhibition at the Library’s Great Hall. His bronzes have been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Portrait Gallery, and his statue commemorating historic innkeeper Angelina Eberly and her role in the “Archives Wars” was just unveiled on Congress Avenue in Austin.

Bill Wittliff, of Austin, Texas, is a distinguished filmmaker, photographer, and writer. Co-founder, with his wife, Sally, of the Southwestern Writers Collection and Wittliff Gallery of Southwestern & Mexican Photography at Texas State, he is also a past president and Fellow of the Texas Institute of Letters and a recent recipient of the Texas Book Festival Bookend Award. As a screenwriter and producer, his credits include The Perfect Storm, The Black Stallion, Legends of the Fall, Lonesome Dove, and others. The Wittliffs also founded the highly regarded Encino Press, which, among other things, recreated in fine-print editions two of Graves’ most famous short pieces, “The Last Running” and “Blue & Some Other Dogs.”

John Graves Statue Dedication
Friday, October 8, 2004
7:00 pm Reception / 8:00 pm Remarks & Unveiling
Southwestern Writers Collection
Alkek Library 7th Floor
Texas State University-San Marcos
Admission is FREE
512-245-2313 (directions & parking)


The Southwestern Writers Collection, in the Albert B. Alkek Library at Texas State University-San Marcos, was founded in 1986 and has since become a distinguished and steadily growing archive charged with preserving, exhibiting, and providing access to the papers and artifacts of principal writers, filmmakers, songwriters and musicians of the Southwest. Its resources attest to the tremendous diversity of creative expression among southwestern artists and contribute to an inspiring research environment within which students and others may discover how the unique conditions and character of the region have shaped its people and their cultural arts. Curator, Connie Todd. Assistant Curator, Steve