Oldwest requested that I post my article on Gladwell Richardson, a prolific writer of western novels and articles with roots in Oklahoma. I wrote this article for the new Coal County History Book that was recently published and got much of the information from an article by Dr. Philip Reed Rulon of the Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff Arizona which he researched in the early 1980's. If anyone else if familiar with Richardson I would be interested in any information you might have about him.
GLADWELL (TONEY) RICHARDSON
One of Coal County Oklahoma’s most prominent citizens was author Gladwell Richardson of Clarita. Richardson was born September 4, 1903 in Alverado Texas to Susan Meador Richardson and her husband S.I. Richardson. Gladwell, or “Tony” as he was known to his friends had two siblings, a brother named Cecil, who also became an author and served as sheriff of Coconino County Arizona for a number of years, and a younger sister, Irbymae who was born in 1910. In 1910, the family moved to Kitty Oklahoma, a town a couple of miles north-west of present day Clarita which is now abandoned. With the exception of a short time spent in Winslow Arizona, he and his family lived in Kitty and Clarita Oklahoma for the next eight years. Much of the material later found in Richardson’s writing came from his experiences during this important time of his life.
Encouraged by his father to wear western attire and learn to rope and ride, Gladwell got to know both the cowboys who worked the numerous cattle operations in the area and many of the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribal members that resided around Clarita and Olney. He made many life-long friends with whom he communicated until his death in 1980. Among the long-time residents of the area who knew him and with whom he exchanged correspondence or tried to stay in touch, were Mrs. Winston P. (Billie) Rice, George MacMillan, Ernest Riley, Lee Gentry Elliston and George Allen.
In 1914, S.I. Richardson bought a six-room hotel in Clarita and moved his family there. It was at this time that young Gladwell joined the “Lone Scouts,” an organization similar to today’s Boy Scouts which emphasized and rewarded the gathering of scientific information which was then distributed to other “Lone Scout” chapters throughout the nation. Gladwell specialized in collecting fossils which he displayed in an empty upstairs room of his father’s hotel. This “self-education” was supplemented by attendance at the Clarita public school where he remembered passing notes to Beatrice O’Neal while in high school. In September of 1919, he enrolled at Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (OSU) where he did well (B+ average) but he chose not to return after the first year.
His formal education over, Gladwell spent time in Arizona working in Navajo trading posts before joining the military sometime in 1920. His first chose the Marines, but when it was discovered that he was underage, the chaplain (at his father’s request) got him discharged. He immediately re-enlisted in the Navy, where he served for over fifty years as an active-duty seaman or in the reserves. While on active duty he traveled extensively, visiting Guam, Japan and Russia before his discharge from active service in 1924. He was recalled after Pearl Harbor and served in the South Pacific. It was here that he ran in to some of his old friends from his trading post days, the famous Navajo Code Talkers. After World War II, he continued in the reserves until he was once again recalled to active duty for the Korean War where he served as chief journalist until he was finally discharged once again from the regular navy. He continued to serve in the reserves until a 1973 stroke finally ended his military career.
Richardson’s career as a writer began in 1924 as soon as he was discharged from his first tour of active duty. He briefly returned to Arizona where he supported himself by working in an Indian curio store owned by relatives before moving to Modesto California to help nurse his ill brother Cecil. It was here that he met his future wife, Millicent Margaret Green. They were Married in June of 1925 and lived together fifty-five years. The couple produced two daughters, Cecile, born March 1, 1926 and Toni born January 9, 1939. The young couple supported themselves first by working at a cannery in Modesto and then driving to Arizona where they helped out working in family owned trading posts on the Navajo reservation.
The fall of 1928 found them at Inscription House Trading Post which had been recently established by Gladwell’s father. They worked during the day waiting on customers and improving the trading post’s meager facilities, but in the evening and on weekends, Gladwell and Millie worked as a writing team. “Toney” composed while Millie edited and typed. Gladwell also began establishing the network of contacts necessary for success as a professional writer. Besides getting to know other writers, he obtained the services of Robert Hardy as his agent. Hardy succeeded in selling many of Toney’s magazine articles, but was unable to sell his full-length novels to American publishing houses. He was, however, able to get the attention of the English publisher Curtiss Brown Limited and later another English firm, Ward Locke. Gladwell and Millie churned out hundreds of novels which Hardy sold for from $250.00 to $350.00 per book. Although all of them were published in England, he also succeeded in selling the American rights to magazines such as Complete Western who published his books in serial form. Another big break came in 1932 when a Hollywood movie company purchased the film rights to his novel, Gun Puncher for $150.00.
Working at various trading posts, writing and finally directing the Flagstaff Pow-Wow got Gladwell and Millie through the 1920’s and the Great Depression. The Flagstaff Pow-Wow became one of the United States most famous western celebrations under his stewardship. By 1936, over seven thousand Native Americans attended. Tribes from throughout North America were represented, including the Kiowa, Cherokee and Choctaw tribes of Oklahoma. In 1937, Richardson convinced a major New York radio station to give play-by-play coverage to the event. At Inscription House Trading Post, Gladwell served as a guide for tourists interested in seeing the Anasazi ruins located nearby. This job allowed him to make several important contacts in the literary world, including Randall Henderson, the editor and publisher of The Desert Magazine, who soon became a major buyer of his stories.
The interruption of World War II and the Korean Conflict broke up the writing team of Gladwell and Millie, and they did not get back on track until the late 1950’s. Western Novels were not selling like they once were, so it was at this point that Gladwell began the last phase of his literary career when he started to concentrate almost exclusively on magazine articles. By the late 1960’s and early 1970’s most of Richardson’s articles appeared in western and treasure magazine’s like True West, Frontier Times, Old West and Zane Gray Western Magazine. My grandfather, Ernest Riley, introduced me to Richardson’s work in 1971 when he showed me an article in True West Magazine that described events around Clarita. The author of the article was listed as Maurice Kildare, one of several pen names employed by Richardson over the course of his career. Besides Maurice Kildare, Richardson’s pen names included John R. Winslowe, Calico Jones, Warren O’Riley, Robert Hart Davis, Carey James, George Blacksnake Ormond Clarkson, Cary James, Frank Warner, Grant Maxwell, Buck Coleman and Robert Hart. One reason Gladwell used pen names was because it allowed him to publish more than one story in a single edition of a magazine. A single issue of Zane Gray Western Magazine from 1971 to 1975 might have as many as five Gladwell Richardson stories; all under different pen names.
As Gladwell Richardson’s literary career neared its end his thoughts turned more and more to the formative days of his youth. He had a burning desire to revisit the haunts of his high school days and visit with his childhood friends. In the early 1970’s he heard that a Clarita reunion was planned and expressed a desire to attend. He contacted Billie Rice to obtain information on the event and they soon became frequent correspondents. In 1973, however, as he was making final plans for the trip back to Oklahoma, he suffered a debilitating stroke that forced its cancellation. He recovered partially, but was soon hobbled further by diabetes. Finally, in 1981, Gladwell Richardson contracted cancer and died.
The career of Gladwell “Toney” Richardson was an amazing one. He is estimated to have published more than three hundred novels and perhaps as many as five thousand magazine articles and short stories. His novels, all published in England, were translated from English into Polish, Czechoslovakian, Spanish, Dutch, and Scandinavian. It is further estimated that, in all, he published about sixty million words in his lifetime. Although he has been dead for over twenty-five years, there is still a strong demand for his work. A check on abebooks.com will show that some of his novels now sell for over $175.00 per single copy. Gladwell Richardson is someone every citizen of Coal County can be proud to call a native son.
Excellent Biographical Sketch on an extremely colorful and interesting character . . . "Thank You" very, very much for posting it!!!
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