Utley, Robert M. 1929–
Utley, Robert M. 1929–
(Robert Marshall Utley)
Born October 31, 1929, in Bauxite, AR; son of Don Williams (a chemist) and Valeria Utley; married Lucille Dorsey, May 5, 1956 (divorced, 1977); married Melody Webb, November 12, 1980; children: (first marriage) Donald Warner, Philip Lee. Education: Purdue University, B.S., 1951; Indiana University, M.A., 1952. Politics: Democrat.
Home—Georgetown, TX 78628.
Custer Battlefield National Monument, MT, historian, summers of 1947-52; U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, DC, historian, 1954-57; U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, Santa Fe, NM, historian, 1957-64, Washington, DC, chief historian, 1964-71, director of Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, 1971-73, assistant director for Park Historic Preservation, 1973-77, deputy director of Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, 1977-80. Military service: U.S. Army, 1952-56; became captain.
Western History Association (founding member, member of executive council, 1962-66; vice president, 1966-67, president, 1967-68).
Distinguished service award, U.S. Department of Interior, 1971; Litt.D. from Purdue University, 1974, University of New Mexico, 1976, and Indiana University, 1983; distinguished alumnus award, Indiana University, 1977; Spur Award for Best Western Nonfiction Historical Book, 1993, and Caughey Award, 1994, both for The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull; Owen Wister Award for lifetime achievement, Western Writers of America, 1994; George Melendez Wright Award for Excellence (co-awarded), George Wright Society, 1995; Samuel Eliot Morison Award for lifetime achievement, Society of Military Historians, 1997; annual award established in Utley's name, Western History Association; Frederick W. and Carrie S. Beinecke Senior Research Fellow in Western and Frontier History, Yale University, 2002; Fehrenbach Award, Texas Historical Commission, 2003, for Lone Star Justice.
Custer and the Great Controversy: The Origin and Development of a Legend, Westernlore, 1962, reprinted with an introduction to the Bison edition by Brian W. Dippie, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1998.
(Editor and author of introduction) Richard Henry Pratt, Battlefield and Classroom: Memoirs of General R.H. Pratt, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1964, reprinted as Battlefield and Classroom: Four Decades with the American Indian, 1867-1904, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1987.
(Collaborator) John Stand in Timber and Margot Liberty, Cheyenne Memories, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1968, 2nd edition, 1998.
Custer Battlefield National Monument, Montana, U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Publications, U.S. National Park Service (Washington, DC), 1969, published as Custer Battlefield: A History and Guide to the Battle of Little Bighorn: Custer Battlefield National Monument, Montana, 1988, published as Little Bighorn Battlefield: A History and Guide to the Battle of the Little Bighorn: Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, South Dakota, 1994.
(With Francis A. Ketterson Jr.) Golden Spike, U.S. National Park Service (Washington, DC), 1969.
A Clash of Cultures: Fort Bowie and the Chiricahua Apaches, Office of Publications, U.S. National Park Service (Washington, DC), 1977.
The Contribution of the Frontier to the American Military Tradition, U.S. Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, CO), 1977.
(With Wilcomb E. Washburn) The American Heritage History of the Indian Wars, edited by Anne Moffat and Richard F. Snow, American Heritage (New York, NY), 1977, revised edition published as The Indian Wars, 1985, published with new introduction, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2002.
Indian, Soldier, and Settler: Experiences in the Struggle for the American West, Jefferson National Expansion Historical Association (St. Louis, MO), 1979.
The Indian Frontier of the American West: 1846-1890, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1984, revised edition published as The Indian Frontier, 1846-1890, 2003.
(Author of text) If These Walls Could Speak: Historic Forts of Texas, paintings by Joan Usner Salvant, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1985.
Four Fighters of Lincoln County, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1986.
High Noon in Lincoln: Violence on the Western Frontier, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1987.
(Editor) Life in Custer's Cavalry: Diaries and Letters of Albert and Jennie Barnitz, 1867-1868, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1987.
Cavalier in Buckskin: George Armstrong Custer and the Western Military Frontier, University of Oklahoma Press (Norman, OK), 1988, revised edition, 2001, revised edition published as Custer: Cavalier in Buckskin, 2001.
(With Barry Mackintosh) The Department of Everything Else: Highlights of Interior History, U.S. Department of Interior (Washington, DC), 1988.
Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1989.
(With Edward Tabor Linenthal) Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields, 2nd edition, University of Illinois Press (C9999hampaign, IL), 1993.
The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull, Holt (New York, NY), 1993.
Fort Larned National Historic Site, edited by Ron Foreman, Southwest Parks and Monuments Association (Tucson, AZ), 1993.
Changing Course: The International Boundary, United States and Mexico, 1848-1963, Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, 1996.
(General editor) The Encyclopedia of the American West, Wings (New York, NY), 1996.
A Life Wild and Perilous: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1997.
(Author of foreword) Horace M. Albright and Marian Albright Schenck, Creating the National Park Service: The Missing Years, University of Oklahoma Press (Norman, OK), 1999.
(Author of introduction, with Holle Humphries) Robert Wooster, editor, Recollections of Western Texas, 1852-55, preface by William E. Tydeman, Texas Tech University Press (Lubbock, TX), 2000.
(Author of preface) James P. Ronda, Jefferson's West: A Journey with Lewis and Clark, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, 2002.
(Editor) The Story of the West, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 2003.
The Indian Frontier, 1846-1890, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 2003.
After Lewis and Clark: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific, Bison Books (Lincoln, NE), 2004.
Custer and Me: A Historian's Memoir, University of Oklahoma Press (Norman, OK), 2004.
For more than three decades, western historian Robert M. Utley has published works on the American frontier and some of its remarkable individu- als, including General R.H. Pratt, George Armstrong Custer, Billy the Kid, and Sitting Bull. In addition to biographies, Utley's large body of work involves Native American cultures during frontier days as well as several notable battles and locations of the time period, such as Fort Union and the Santa Fe Trail, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and Fort Larned National Historic Site.
Critics have praised Utley's writings for their scholarship and readability. In a Mississippi Valley Historical Review of The Last Days of the Sioux Nation, Martin Schmitt complimented Utley for his "thorough and at the same time judicious use of official documents … [and his] superior, indeed excellent, writing that conveys the thoughts of the writer to the reader." "Utley is able to write well," claimed L.W. Wetzler in a 1968 Journal of American History review of Frontiersmen in Blue: The United States Army and the Indian, 1848-1865, describing his style as "unobtrusive, entertaining, and objective, to an extent rarely encountered today. It is refreshing to find a history of the Frontier, the army and particularly the Indian without the present-day mawkish sentimentalism." In a Best Sellers' assessment of Frontier Regulars: The United States Army and the Indian, 1866-1891, as an "excellent, soundly written … sensibly balanced product, worthy of any true scholar, and also—significantly—sharp understanding, vivid narration at certain critical moments, and excellent scene setting," Elbridge Colby called Utley "an author with proven authority on his subject."
Appraisals of Utley's A Life Wild and Perilous: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific were similar. Although New York Times Book Review contributor Jay P. Dolan was disappointed that in one instance Utley "fail[ed] to convey the color" he expected, the reviewer concluded: "Utley's richly documented book" was "the definitive study of the decisive role mountain men played in the exploration and expansion to the Western frontier…. Utley has woven a large number of disparate sources into a very readable and impressively detailed narrative." This "comprehensively researched" history, determined Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor, is "a magnificent read for the many fascinated by the history of the West and the facts behind legendary names such as Jediah Smith, Jim Bridger, or Kit Carson." Although Utley "did not integrate the [book's many well-designed] maps into his narrative," wrote Dolan, he "argues persuasively that the mountain men were more than just fur trappers. They were explorers who came to know the Rocky Mountain region as well as the Indians … they helped to fill in the map of this uncharted land … [and] were also expansionists who guided the nation to its westward boundary."
Among Utley's biographies is The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull, in which he details the life of Chief Sitting Bull and the Lakota after the Civil War. A Kirkus Reviews contributor praised "this enormous, groundbreaking biography of the great Lakota Sioux war chief" which dispels old notions of Sitting Bull, creating "the new standard against which all future lives of Sitting Bull will be measured." Similarly, Patricia Nelson Limerick declared in the New York Times Book Review: "Utley … [transforms] Sitting Bull the abstract, romanticized icon and symbol into a flesh-and-blood person with a down-to-earth story." In the biography, Utley "traces the Sioux experience in the latter half of the 19th century in the context of intertribal war, in which fighting the Crows was a considerably greater preoccupation for Sitting Bull's Hunkpapas [one of the tribes that formed the Sioux confederacy] than fighting the whites…. It is to Mr. Utley's credit that fully half of the book is devoted to Sitting Bull's life after [the battle of Little Big Horn]." "This is, however," added Limerick, "more than a retelling of a similar story. As much as he can, Mr. Utley shifts the narrative to a Hunkpapa point of view." Limerick mentioned that The Lance and the Shield is weak on "historical interpretation and analysis"; however, the critic believed that if these qualities were more substantial they might have inhibited Utley's strength: "telling stories in his clear, serviceable prose, [making] his narrative … gripping."
Utley's two volumes on the history of the Texas Rangers drew favorable reviews as engaging and informative works of scholarship. Lone Star Justice: The First Century of the Texas Rangers chronicles the organization's first hundred years from its initial composition as a group of loosely-organized amateurs to a more professional law-enforcement organization. A writer for Kirkus Reviews described the book as a "rip-snortin', six-gunsblazin' saga of good and bad guys who were sometimes one and the same." A Publishers Weekly contributor expressed similar enthusiasm, noting that Utley avoids the pitfalls of revisionist approaches and provides a "clear-eyed view" of the Rangers and their history. Lone Star Lawmen: The Second Century of the Texas Rang-ers, however, met with more qualified praise. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly observed that Utley treads too lightly on controversial issues in this book, including abuses of prisoners and race and gender discrimination in hiring and promotions. As a result, the reviewer concluded, it is "hard to see this as the definitive account it aspires to be." Booklist contributor Jay Freeman, on the other hand, found the book "broadly appealing."
In his memoir, Custer and Me: A Historian's Memoir, Utley describes his fascination, from early boyhood, with the character of General George Armstrong Custer, who led U.S. cavalry troops against Sitting Bull in the most famous engagement of the Indian Wars, the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Utley describes how this early interest led him, in time, to pursue a career as a historian who championed the cause of historic preservation. Readers can learn much on every page of this "candid, highly readable" book, wrote Art Gomez in Oregon Historical Quarterly. Gomez concluded that Custer and Me is a "remarkable contribution to the compendium of western scholarship."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Carroll, John M., and Mike Harrison, editors, The Robert M. Utley Bibliographic Checklist, introduction by Lawrence A. Frost, J.M. Carroll (Mattituck, NY), 1983.
Utley, Robert M., Custer and Me: A Historian's Memoir, University of Oklahoma Press (Norman, OK), 2004.
American Heritage, April, 1990, reviews of Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life and High Noon in Lincoln: Violence on the Western Frontier, p. 14.
American History Illustrated, February, 1988, review of High Noon in Lincoln, p. 9; May, 1989, review of Cavalier in Buckskin: George Armstrong Custer and the Western Military Frontier, p. 8; January 1, 1990, review of Billy the Kid, p. 15.
American Spectator, March, 1989, Wayne Michael Sarf, review of High Noon in Lincoln, p. 44.
Best Sellers, April 1, 1974, Elbridge Colby, review of Frontier Regulars: The United States Army and the Indian, 1866-1891.
Booklist, June 1, 1997, Gilbert Taylor, review of A Life Wild and Perilous: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific," p. 1618; March 1, 2007, Jay Freeman, review of Lone Star Lawmen: The Second Century of the Texas Rangers, p. 58.
California, December, 1989, Greil Marcus, review of Billy the Kid, p. 162.
Choice, December, 2002, S.J. Ramold, review of Lone Star Justice: The First Century of the Texas Rangers, p. 695.
H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, May, 2005, Scott L. Stabler, review of The Indian Frontier, 1846-1890,.
Journal of American History, March, 1968, L.W. Wetzler, review of Frontiersmen in Blue: The United States Army and the Indian, 1848-1865, p. 895.
Journal of the West, fall, 2004, review of Custer and Me.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1993, review of The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull, p. 518. April 1, 2002, review of Lone Star Justice, p. 479.
Kliatt, March, 2005, Patricia Moore, review of After Lewis and Clark: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific, p. 40.
Library Journal, May 15, 1989, review of Custer Battlefield: A History and Guide to the Battle of Little Bighorn: Custer Battlefield National Monument, Montana, p. 44; October 15, 1989, Sue Kamm, review of Billy the Kid, p. 88; March 15, 1991, Sister Avila, review of Billy the Kid, p. 130; May 15, 2002, Stephen H. Peters, review of Lone Star Justice, p. 111.
Mississippi Valley Historical Review, December, 1963, Martin Schmitt, review of The Last Days of the Sioux Nation.
National Parks, April, 1981, review of Indian, Soldier, and Settler: Experiences in the Struggle for the American West, p. 25.
New York Review of Books, March 12, 1987, Robert M. Adams, review of Four Fighters of Lincoln County, p. 31.
New York Times Book Review, July 11, 1993, Patricia Nelson Limerick, review of The Lance and the Shield, p. 29; September 28, 1997, Jay P. Dolan, review of A Life Wild and Perilous, p. 38.
Oregon Historical Quarterly, winter, 2005, Art Gomez, review of Custer and Me.
Pacific Historical Review, November, 2005, Francis Paul Prucha, review of Custer and Me, p. 658.
Publishers Weekly, August 19, 1988, review of Cavalier in Buckskin, p. 64; June 3, 2002, review of Lone Star Justice, p. 83; December 18, 2006, review of Lone Star Lawmen, p. 54.
Roundup Magazine, October, 2001, review of Cavalier in Buckskin, p. 28; October, 2004, Doris R. Meredith, review of Battlefield and Classroom: Four Decades with the American Indian, 1867-1904, p. 26.
Southwestern Historical Quarterly, July, 2004, James A. Wilson, review of Lone Star Justice, p. 106.
Times Educational Supplement, May 25, 1990, Scott Bradfield, review of Billy the Kid, p. 7.
Tribune Books, October 30, 1988, review of Cavalier in Buckskin, p. 6; October 1, 1989, review of Billy the Kid, p. 3; August 31, 2003, review of Lone Star Justice, p. 6.
USA Today, May, 1989, Gerald F. Kreyche, review of Cavalier in Buckskin, p. 96.
Western Historical Quarterly, spring, 2005, Randolph B. Campbell, review of Lone Star Justice; spring, 2006, Gene M. Gressley, review of Custer and Me.
Wild West, October, 2003, Alexander Cook, review of Lone Star Justice, p. 57; February, 2007, review of Billy the Kid, p. 67.
George Wright Society,http://www.georgewright.org/ (October 20, 2003).
Texas State Historical Association,http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/ (October 20, 2003).
Western History Association,http://www.unm.edu/ (October 20, 2003).
Yale Bulletin & Calendar,http://www.yale.edu/opa/v30.n27/story25.html (April 26, 2002), "Texas Rangers Are Subject of Historian's Talk."