Walker, Stanley (1898–1962)

By: Sarah L. Greene

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: March 1, 1996

Stanley Walker, newspaperman and author, son of Walter and Cora (Stanley) Walker, was born on October 21, 1898, on a ranch fifteen miles northeast of Lampasas. He attended the Unity Community country school near School Creek and graduated from Lampasas High School. He attended the University of Texas, studying journalism, from 1915 to 1918 and worked as a reporter on the Austin American. In 1918–19 he worked for the Dallas Morning News; he sold several articles about Texas to the New York Herald. This led to a job in New York City in 1920 as a reporter and rewriter for the Herald, which later became the New York Herald Tribune. He became night city editor in 1926, and two years later he was appointed city editor. Walker quickly became one of the best known city editors of that time, a period of speakeasies when celebrities and gangsters alike sought his attention. He established himself as an archetypical city editor, one whose views became required reading in some journalism schools. From those years came his first two books, The Night Club Era (1933) and City Editor (1934). In 1935 he resigned from the staff of the Herald Tribune and took the managing editor's job with William Randolph Hearst's New York Mirror. Six months later he resigned that post and wrote his most widely known book, Mrs. Astor's Horse (1935), a who's who of American celebrities that took a nonchalant, cynical view of life that was characteristic of the newspapers of the 1920s and 1930s. Walker was on the staff of the New Yorker for a time, worked for the Columbia Broadcasting Company's "Home Front" (a daytime newspaper of the air for women listeners), and wrote numerous articles for more than a dozen leading magazines. In the 1940s he wrote promotional books for the Republican presidential candidates, Thomas E. Dewey (Dewey: An American of This Century) and Wendell Willkie (This is Wendell Willkie).

Walker married Mary Louise Sandefer on January 2, 1923; they had a daughter and a son. His wife died on January 29, 1944, and Walker married Ruth Alden Howell of Washington, D.C., on January 19, 1946. Disenchanted by postwar New York, Walker left the city in January 1946 and returned with his second wife to Lampasas, where he stayed for the remainder of his life, working on the ranch, raising livestock, writing, and studying. In a prophetic article, "Farewell to New York," published in the Saturday Evening Post on August 17, 1946, he gave his reasons for leaving-the disadvantages of urban life, which later were recognized as major sociological and environmental problems. In the years that followed he wrote numerous articles on Texas and two books about the state, Home to Texas (1956) and Texas (1962). Walker was drawn to the company of politicians but was skeptical of political parties and had grave doubts as to the wisdom of democracy itself. Though he was generally classified as conservative, even reactionary, he found that most of his friends were from the so-called liberal wing of the Democratic party. He admitted to "harping on the defects" of Texas but insisted he loved the state and found returning home to be good. Those years gave him a chance to close gaps in his education by studying economics, history, and law. During that time he maintained his anticlerical feelings, which dated from his childhood, when he had determined that "the real enemies of human happiness were the preachers." After learning that he had a fatal illness, Walker met with a few of his old friends at the Driskill Hotel in Austin and told them he was dying. He committed suicide at his Lampasas ranch on November 25, 1962. Walker was survived by his widow and two children from his first marriage. The Texas Institute of Letters annually presents the Stanley Walker Memorial Award for literary excellence in Texas daily and weekly newspapers. The Stanley Walker Memorial Award for excellence in reporting is awarded periodically to students in the School of Journalism of the University of Texas at Austin.

Texas Observer, November 30, 1962. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Who Was Who in America (Vol. 4).
  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters

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

Sarah L. Greene, “Walker, Stanley,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/walker-stanley.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 1, 1996