Wilson Rawls Biography

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Where the Red Fern Grows Author/Context

Wilson Rawls was born Woodrow Wilson Rawls on Sept. 24, 1913, on a small Oklahoma farm. His parents were Minzy O. Rawls and Winnie Hatfield Rawls. Winnie, Wilson's mother, was part Cherokee. The land where Wilson grew up was old Cherokee land given to his mother by the government because of her ancestry.

Like Billy Colman, Wilson's family was very poor. Thus, his mother home schooled Wilson and his siblings by reading aloud to them. Wilson never enjoyed the stories his mother read because he said they were too "girly." However, he did enjoy one book by Jack London, Call of the Wild. That book inspired Wilson to want to grow up and write an adventure tale about a boy and his dogs.

In 1935, Wilson's family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. A little bit before this time and continuing afterwards, Wilson sought out odd jobs, some of which included writing for little papers. He dreamed of becoming a writer and would start stories wherever he was. Then, he would lock them up in a trunk so no one could find them. Eventually, Wilson traveled to Idaho. He began to work at the Atomic Energy Commission site in the Arco desert. Here he met Sophi Styczinski who would become his wife in 1958.

Meanwhile, Wilson decided to forget about his dreams of becoming a writer because he thought that he had to be responsible. He burned all of the old manuscripts he had ever written. But when he told Sophie what he had done, she did not agree. In fact, she encouraged Wilson to keep on writing. And in 1961, Where the Red Fern Grows came out in a three-part series in the Saturday Evening Post. Wilson went on to write one more book, Summer of the Monkeys.

Wilson and Sophie moved to Cornell, Wisconsin in 1975 and he died there in Dec. of 1984.


Idaho Falls Public Library. 29 January 2001. http://pac.eils.lib.id.us/Rawls/bio.html

Rawls, Wilson. Where the Red Fern Grows. New York: Bantam, 1974.

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