Tolbert, Francis (1912–1984)

By: Evelyn Oppenheimer

Type: Biography

Published: July 1, 1995

Francis (Frank X.) Tolbert, journalist and author, was born on July 27, 1912, in Amarillo, the son of Homer Gist and Frances (Lee) Tolbert. Shortly after his birth the family moved to Wichita Falls, and after his father's death in 1924 they moved to Canyon. After graduating from high school in 1931 Tolbert attended Texas Technological College, Simmons College (now Hardin-Simmons University), McMurry College, and the University of Texas, but he never received a degree. Tolbert began his career in journalism at Texas Tech when he was hired as a sportswriter for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. He went on to similar positions with the Wichita Falls Record-Times and the Amarillo Globe-News. He covered sports for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram from 1935 to 1941. During this period he began publishing short stories on a variety of topics in such magazines as Collier's, Esquire, and the Saturday Evening Post. Tolbert enlisted in the United States Marines in 1942 and began using the name Frank X. Tolbert. He served as combat correspondent in the Pacific for the marines' official publication, Leatherneck, and later as its managing editor in Washington, D.C. He joined the staff of the Dallas Morning News in 1946 and began publishing his "Tolbert's Texas" column. He published two western novels, Bigamy Jones (1954) and The Staked Plain (1956). His nonfiction works include An Informal History of Texas (1951), Neiman-Marcus, Texas (1953), The Days of San Jacinto (1959), and Dick Dowling at Sabine Pass (1962). Tolbert's most popular work, A Bowl of Red (1962), was devoted to chili con carne. Soon after the publication of A Bowl of Red Tolbert founded the Chili Appreciation Society International, which is based in the ghost town of Terlingua, where annual chili-cooking contests are held. He officially retired from his position at the Dallas Morning-News in 1977 but continued to write one column a week until his death. In 1983 a collection of his writings on Texana was published under the title Tolbert's Texas. Tolbert married Kathleen Hoover in December 1943, and they had a son and a daughter. He died of heart failure on January 9, 1984. In accordance with Tolbert's wishes his remains were cremated and placed in the family's home.

Evelyn Oppenheimer, Tolbert of Texas (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1986). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
  • Journalism
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Publications, Journals, and Magazines
  • Journals and Publications
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Dramatists and Novelists
  • Fiction
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

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

Evelyn Oppenheimer, “Tolbert, Francis,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 11, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995

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