Big Honor For McMurtry

Iconic author of best Texas novel ever to receive National Humanities Medal in White House ceremony

Author of best Texas novel ever named National Humanities Medal winner

Robert Duvall in Lonesome Dove riding a horse
Larry McMurtry's novel Lonesome Dove was made into popular TV miniseries. Photo courtesy of AMC
Larry McMurtry
Larry McMurtry will receive the 2014 National Humanities Medal at the White House. Courtesy photo
News_Terms of Endearment
Larry McMurtry's Terms of Endearment was made into an Academy-Award-winning movie. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Larry McMurtry at Rice University in the early 1960s
Larry McMurtry taught at Rice University in the early 1960s. Courtesy of Rice University
Larry McMurtry, from left, with Laura and Rick Jaramillo at the Center for Houston's Future dinner November 2014
Larry McMurtry, left, was the guest of honor at the Center for Houston's Future dinner in November 2014. Photo by © Kim Coffman
Robert Duvall in Lonesome Dove riding a horse
Larry McMurtry
News_Terms of Endearment
Larry McMurtry at Rice University in the early 1960s
Larry McMurtry, from left, with Laura and Rick Jaramillo at the Center for Houston's Future dinner November 2014

Acclaimed novelist Larry McMurtry, whose many works are predominantly set in the old West or in contemporary Texas, will receive a 2014 National Humanities Medal for outstanding achievement at the White House next week.

President Obama will present the award to the 79-year-old author and nine other noted Americans, including food writer and activist Alice Waters and architect/preservationist Everett L. Fly, during a ceremony on September 10. "Mr. McMurtry's work evokes the character and drama of the American West with stories that examine quintessentially American lives," the White House citation announcing his selection stated.

McMurtry is the prolific author of 29 novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove and The Last Picture Show, three memoirs, two collections of essays and more than 30 screenplays, among them the Academy Award-winning adapted screenplay for Brokeback Mountain.

"I don’t remember either of my parents ever reading me a story—perhaps that’s why I’ve made up so many,” he wrote in his first memoir, Books.

The current issue of Entertainment Weekly picks the one work of fiction that best defines each state in the union and for Texas, it's Lonesome Dove. "Everything is bigger in Texas, including this novel's ambition," the writers state, adding the "cattle-drive epic features some of the most beautifully descriptive prose put to paper."

McMurtry, who received a master's degree from Rice University in 1961 and was a lecturer of freshman English and creative writing, set several of his best-selling books, including Terms of Endearment, in Houston. The novel, which was made into an Academy-Award winning movie, was part of a trilogy that includes Moving On and All My Friends Are Going to be Strangers. 

McMurtry also set three other books in modern-day Houston: Somebody's Darling, Some Can Whistle and The Evening Star.

He was one of the country’s most accomplished book collectors, with stores in his hometown of Archer City, Houston and Washington, D.C. at various points in his life, until he sold most of his prized books in 2012.

The award honors an individual or organization whose work has “deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience, broadened citizens’ engagement with history and literature or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to cultural resources,” according to the National Endowment for the Humanities. Previous recipients include authors Joan Didion, Frank Deford, Phillip Roth, Joyce Carol Oats and playwright Anna Deavere Smith.

“No other author has captured the spirit and imagination of his home state and the American West than Larry McMurtry,” Rice President David Leebron said in a statement. “His work speaks to people and their challenges everywhere. We are proud of Larry’s extraordinary body of work and join President Obama in celebrating his remarkable legacy.”