Lewis, Willie Newbury (1891–1985)

By: Lisa C. Maxwell

Type: Biography

Published: March 1, 1995

Updated: November 30, 2019

Willie Newbury Lewis, author, socialite, and rancher, daughter of Henry Lee and Anna (Hearn) Newbury, was born on October 28, 1891, in Dallas. She attended Miss Lora Cowart's Private School for Girls and in 1911 was an Idlewild debutante at the Columbian Club. In 1910 she traveled to Clarendon in the Panhandle to stay with the family of a friend. There she met William Jenks Lewis, a man twenty-one years her senior. He followed her on the train back to Dallas and proposed to her. At first she refused him, but they eventually were married on September 19, 1912, in Dallas. After their marriage they moved to the Panhandle for a year, but Willie disliked the open spaces of the plains, so Will built a house in Dallas for her after their first child was born, and he moved between Dallas and their ranches, which included the Shoe Bar and the RO. Willie remained in Dallas while her four children were born, and when they reached school age she became active in social and civic groups. She was a board member of the Dallas Historical Society and president of the Dallas Shakespeare Club and the Founders' Garden Club. She was a charter member of the Dallas Women's Club and helped found the first Meals on Wheels program in the state. She was also cofounder of the Women's Council of Dallas County.

Willie Lewis's most important contribution was her writing, which gave a glimpse of life in Texas shortly after 1900. In 1938 she published her first book, Between Sun and Sod: An Informal History of the Texas Panhandle; it was republished in 1976. Though her husband did not think married women should write books, he helped Willie publish Between Sun and Sod. Because of his disapproval, however, she did not continue her writing career until after his death in 1961. She published Tapadero: The Making of a Cowboy, a biography of her husband, in 1972. Her autobiography and last book, Willie, a Girl from a Town Called Dallas, was published in 1984. After becoming blind, she dictated this candid book about her personal life. She died in Dallas on May 15, 1985.

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Dallas Morning News, May 16, 1985.

  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen
  • Women
  • Historians
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • Panhandle Region

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

Lisa C. Maxwell, “Lewis, Willie Newbury,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/lewis-willie-newbury.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 1, 1995
November 30, 2019

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: