Dobie, Dudley Richard, Sr. (1904–1982)

By: Al Lowman

Type: Biography

Published: September 1, 1995

Updated: July 6, 2019

Dudley Richard Dobie, Sr., antiquarian bookseller, was born on August 6, 1904, at old Lagarto in southern Live Oak County, Texas, to William Neville and Mary E. (Mills) Dobie, prominent South Texas ranchers. Family pioneers had first settled in Harris County in 1828. Dudley's branch moved to Live Oak County in the late 1860s. Dudley's first cousin, J. Frank Dobie, grew up on a nearby ranch, but their sixteen-year age difference inhibited the development of close friendship until Dudley reached maturity. He received his childhood education in the Lagarto school and graduated as valedictorian from Mathis High School in 1923. After a year of unsuccessful job seeking, he entered Southwest Texas State Teachers College, and from that time he considered San Marcos his home. He received his degree in history in May 1927 and that fall was named principal of Westover School on the west side of San Marcos. Two months later he married Deborah Galbreath, who became the mother of his three children. He later looked back on the winter of 1927–28 as the time he began to get serious about book collecting. In the summer of 1928 he embarked upon a graduate degree in history at the University of Texas, where he returned each summer for the next four years. Walter Prescott Webb supervised his thesis, A History of Hays County, Texas. In 1933 Dudley left teaching to become an educational advisor for the Civilian Conservation Corps. He had already begun free-lancing newspaper and magazine articles about historic persons, places, and events for sundry Texas publications.

He became a bookseller in 1935 and further supplemented his uncertain income by scouting artifacts for the Hall of State, which opened in Dallas the following year. Throughout the 1930s he systematically expanded his knowledge of books and his acquaintance among book people. He attended annual meetings of the Texas State Historical Association, the Old Trail Drivers Association, and on occasion the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. He also kept membership in the Texas Folklore Society, where his cousin J. Frank was the secretary-editor. In all of these groups, Dobie quickly identified the authors and collectors. During the winter of 1940–41 he helped the Texas State Historical Association organize its first book auction, now a traditional feature of its annual meeting. Following his debut as a bookseller, and while working for the Texas Centennial Commission, he was also running a mail-order book business out of his home. He would periodically load his car with books and head for San Antonio, Austin, or elsewhere, and collar potential customers in their homes or businesses. In 1941 he began a ten-year career at Southwest Texas State Teachers College as a nontenured, part-time history instructor and part-time museum director. His status was such that he was able to continue his bookselling and, in 1947, issue his first printed catalogue, Spirited Southwest: Roundup No. 1. From 1949 to 1951 he served as a San Marcos city alderman.

Dobie's connection with the college ended in 1951. A year later he opened a bookstore in Austin on the site of what is now Dobie Center, near the University of Texas campus. Not achieving the hoped-for success, he closed his Austin store and later made an unsuccessful race for school superintendent in Hays County. In 1955 he opened a bookshop and gift store in San Marcos, but again the time and place weren't right. At this time he unexpectedly received the opportunity to teach history and direct the Big Bend Memorial Museum (later the Museum of the Big Bend) at Sul Ross State Teachers College in Alpine. Except for the 1958–59 academic year, Dobie remained at Sul Ross until his retirement and return to San Marcos in 1966. For most of that time, however, he was affiliated with the library. From 1966 until his death, he sold books by mail order from his San Marcos home. He served a term as county Democratic chairman and was for ten years a member of the county historical commission. He made notes for the memoirs he always intended to write, but never did. He also regaled many a novice reporter with tales of frontier life that he knew not only from a wealth of reading, but from personal and family experience. Aside from various newspaper and magazine features, his publications include A History of San Marcos and Hays County (1948) and Adventures in the Canyons, Mountains and Desert Country of the Big Bend of Texas and Mexico (1952), both privately printed. He died of colon cancer on April 17, 1982.

Al Lowman, Remembering Dudley Dobie: The First Bookseller to Enrich My Life (and Empty My Pockets) (Austin, Boerne, San Marcos, Texas: Lagarto Press, 1992). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Museums, Libraries, and Archives
  • Museums
  • Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Al Lowman, “Dobie, Dudley Richard, Sr.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995
July 6, 2019