Yelvington, Leonard Ramsey (1913–1973)

By: Elton Abernathy

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: February 1, 1996

Leonard Ramsey Yelvington, playwright, son of Jesse Leonard and Sarah Gillespie (Ramsey) Yelvington, was born on February 5, 1913, in West Point, Fayette County, Texas. He attended public schools in Smithville until the mid-1920s, when the family moved to San Antonio. After graduating from Brackenridge High School in San Antonio, Ramsey Yelvington entered Howard Payne College. He transferred to Baylor University the following fall and studied dramatics with Paul Baker. Yelvington left Baylor before graduating (lacking only three credits) and worked in various radio stations around the state. During World War II he served for three years in the United States Army Corps of Engineers at Fort Lewis, Washington, and wrote for the base newspaper. After the war Yelvington worked briefly with a radio station in San Antonio, then moved to Wimberley to write and raise livestock. He began writing stories and published a book of short stories with a Hill Country setting, The Roaring Kleinschmids (1950). Encouraged by Paul Baker, he turned to writing plays. Yelvington's Home to Galveston (his first play), Cocklebur, and The Long Gallery were produced by Baker at Baylor University in the early 1950s. The Long Gallery was also produced off Broadway in 1958. Women and Oxen, A Cloud of Witnesses (published in 1959), and Shadow of an Eagle (produced at Dallas Theater Center) compose Yelvington's A Texian Trilogy.He received Danforth and Rockefeller grants for his writing. In 1961 he received an M.A. from Baylor and joined Southwest Texas State University as playwright-in-residence and professor of speech and drama. Yelvington wrote numerous plays that James Barton directed in the SWTSU, Glade (outdoor theater at San Marcos Academy), and Mission San José theaters. Yelvington was married to Louise Durham on October 16, 1942; they had two daughters. His eighteenth full-length play, The Folklorist,directed by his daughter, Harriet Yelvington Smith, opened in the SWTSU Theatre on July 23, 1973. Yelvington died two days later, July 25, in San Marcos. Ramsey Yelvington was a a member of the Baptist Church, the Texas Folklore Society, the Texas State Historical Association, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the Philosophical Society of Texas. He helped found and served as president of the Texas Playwright's Company.

Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Dramatists and Novelists

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

Elton Abernathy, “Yelvington, Leonard Ramsey,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1996