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Dary, David (1934-   ) | Morse Department of Special Collections

Name: Dary, David (1934-   )

Historical Note:

David Dary is a native of Manhattan, Kansas, where he was born in 1934. A great grandfather, Carl Engel, settled in Manhattan in 1865 and was an early merchant. David’s maternal grandfather was Archie W. Long, one-time mayor of Manhattan, who owned the Long Oil Company. David’s parents are the late Russell and Ruth Long Dary of Manhattan. His mother received her master’s degree from K-State in 1926. David is a graduate of Kansas State University (1956). He later earned a graduate degree from the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

After graduating from K-State he began a career in broadcast journalism at WIBW radio and television in Topeka and later worked in Texas before joining CBS News in Washington, D.C. where he covered the last months of the Eisenhower and then the Kennedy administrations. Dary introduced Kennedy on CBS for the president’s Cuban Missile Crisis speech and later overflew and observed Soviet ships carrying missiles out-bound from Cuba. In 1963 he was recruited by NBC News to be manager of local news in Washington, D.C. Although in management, he was frequently heard anchoring NBC’s Monitor weekend news programs.

In the late 1960s he was offered a promotion if he would move to NBC News in New York. He declined and decided to return to Kansas where he helped to build a new NBC television station in Topeka (channel 27) before joining the faculty of the William Allen White School of Journalism at KU where he earned his graduate degree. As a professor he began to write articles and books on Kansas history. After 20 years at KU, he was recruited to become head of what is now the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. He rebuilt the program and obtained a $22 million gift from the Gaylord family of Oklahoma that elevated the school to college status and provided funds for construction of a new journalism and mass communications building. After eleven years at OU, he retired in 2000 and is now emeritus professor. 

He is the author of more than 20 books. Three deal with journalism and the rest focus on historical aspects of Kansas and the American West. They include The Buffalo Book (1974) selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club, Cowboy Culture (1981) covering 500 years of the cowboy which won a Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center and a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America. It also was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by his publisher Alfred A. Knopf of New York City. Other popular books are True Tales of Old-Time Kansas (1984), Entrepreneurs of the Old West (1986), Seeking Pleasure in the Old West (1995), and Red Blood and Black Ink: Journalism in the Old West (1998).

Since his retirement in 2000, he has continued to research and write. His more recent books include The Santa Fe Trail (2000) and The Oregon Trail (2004) followed by A Texas Cowboy’s Journal: Up the Trail to Kansas in 1868 (2006), edited by Dary. His most recent books are True Tales of the Prairies and Plains (2007) and Frontier Medicine: From the Atlantic to the Pacific, 1492-1941 (2008) which won the Dr. Walter Alvarez Award from the American Medical Writers Association.

In addition to receiving two Wrangler Awards from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, he has received two Spur Awards and the Owen Wister Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western Writers of America. In 2008, the Oklahoma Center for the Book honored him with the Arrell Gibson Award for lifetime achievement. He also has been inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Famer and the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame. In August 2010, he was inducted into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame at Dodge City for his literary contributions to the history of the cowboy.

He is a former member of numerous academic and professional journalism organizations. He served on the board of directors of the Kansas State Historical Society for twenty years, is a past president of the Western Writers of America, a former council member of the Western History Association, and past president and board chairman of Westerners International.

A long-time collector of books, pamphlets and ephemera on Kansas and the West, he became an appraiser of such items in the early 1980s while continuing to add to his extensive library.

Dary and his wife Sue, an artist and former K-State student, live in Norman, Oklahoma. They celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary in June 2010. They have four daughters and seven grandchildren.

Sources: David Dary
Note Author: David Dary

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