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HOUSE, BOYCE B.

HOUSE, BOYCE B. (1896–1961). Boyce House, author, humorist, and radio personality, son of Noah E. and Margaret (O'Brien) House, was born on November 29, 1896, in Piggott, Arkansas. He was a well-traveled boy before his mother settled in Memphis, Tennessee, after the death of his father. He went to Texas alone and attended school in Brownwood, Uvalde, Taylor, and Alpine and also lived in San Antonio and Del Rio. House was an honor graduate of Memphis Central High School and was a respected member of the debate team. Despite his sharp mind and his writing and academic abilities, his family's financial circumstances apparently prevented his pursuing a college education. Instead he entered the newspaper field, one of his father's numerous occupations, and worked for several years on the staffs of the two Memphis newspapers.

In 1920, while he was editing the Piggott Banner, his health failed, and he moved to Texas, where he decided to stay. He held newspaper positions in Eastland, Ranger, Cisco, Olney, and Fort Worth. He developed a local reputation for hard work, integrity, and carrying on the fight for honesty and decency in the rough-and-tumble oil towns of Eastland and Ranger. He gained a national reputation as the reporter of such curiosities as "Old Rip," the famous horned toad that apparently survived a thirty-year entombment in the Eastland County Courthouse, and the Santa Claus bank robbery in Cisco on December 23, 1927.

House wrote several books and a number of articles on Texas oil and the history of boomtowns and a scholarly paper on the Spindletop oilfield, which was presented to the Texas State Historical Association in 1939. His knowledge of Texas oil towns led him to Hollywood as technical advisor to the production Boomtown (1940), starring Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Claudette Colbert, and Hedy Lamarr. Hollywood provided a major turning point in House's life. He apparently contemplated a longer stay in California, but returned to Texas and began to write humorous columns and books. His weekly column eventually appeared in 130 newspapers, and his weekly radio show brought him celebrity status in Texas and an established national reputation.

House was twice a losing candidate for lieutenant governor of Texas in the Democratic primary, and he was strong in his support of the Democratic party and the political system. He was a great admirer of William Jennings Bryan and held fond memories of communications with Bryan he had while he was editor of the Piggott Banner. In the years immediately preceding House's death he wrote a number of articles about Bryan that were published in several scholarly journals. Analysis and interpretation are lacking in House's scholarly efforts, and he relied heavily on secondary sources; nevertheless, he was a powerful writer and could capture dramatic, spectacular, and moving events on paper. J. Frank Dobie called him "a poet as well as historian and wordwielder." While he was working on Boomtown, House wrote several hundred letters to persons living in Wichita Falls and Burkburnett, attempting to learn every possible detail about the Burkburnett oilfieldqv. As a result he left a large amount of correspondence for future researchers, and his papers are now housed at the Fort Belknap Archives.

During the last years of his life he worked for the Texas Credit Association; many of his personal appearances were as a representative of that group. House was a member of the Texas Folklore Society, the Poetry Society of Texas, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the Texas Editorial Association. He was married to Golda Fay Jamison on April 8, 1927; they had no children. House died on December 30, 1961, in Fort Worth.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Boyce B. House Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Harry P. Hewitt

Citation

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

Harry P. Hewitt, "HOUSE, BOYCE B.," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fho65), accessed April 20, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on February 4, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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