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William Allen White, Kansas Author

William Allen White

William Allen White

A Certain Rich Man

In the Heart of a Fool

The Real Issue

The Court of Boyville

Strategems and Spoils

In Our Town

Henry and Me

Poetry of W A White


Author William Allen White was born in Emporia February 10, 1868. He grew up in El Dorado and lived and worked in several other Kansas communities, including Lawrence, Topeka, and Kansas City. White attended the College of Emporia and the University of Kansas. Though he did not earn a degree from either, he chose coursework in history, literature, and a variety of other subjects that piqued his broad interests. White read incessantly and spent his summers and other school vacation time working in newspaper offices and learning the printing trade. He continued throughout his life to return to the city of his birth where he wrote and published poetry and prose while he also owned and edited a daily newspaper, The Emporia Gazettte.

While White is best remembered as a journalist, biographer E. Jay Jernigan reminds us that ". . . to his generation, and the one following,  . . . he was an author of popular regional short stories, a novelist of promise, and . . . a magazine free-lancer of authoritative political and social commentary . . . ."

White married Sallie Lindsay in 1893. They had two children, William Lindsay, born in 1900, and a daughter Mary, born in 1904. Mary died in a 1921 horse-riding accident, and White wrote a famous eulogy            "Mary White." White never published fiction after Mary's death though he continued writing non-fiction focused mainly on the politics of the time.

William Allen White died January 29 (Kansas Day), 1944, in Emporia. His autobiography was published posthumously, edited by his son, William Lindsay White, in 1946.

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Published Work  


White's first published work, outside of journalism, was Rhymes of Two Friends, poetry written in collaboration with a college friend. Major novels, short stories, and collections of short stories, were published as follows:

  • The Martial Adventures of Henry and Me (MacMillan, 1918)
  • In the Heart of a Fool (MacMillan, 1918)
  • God's Puppets (MacMillan, 1916)
  • A Certain Rich Man (MacMillan, 1909)
  • In Our Town (MacMillan, 1906)
  • Stratagems and Spoils (Scribner's Sons , 1901)
  • The Court of Boyville (McClure Phillips, 1899)
  • The Real Issue and Other Stories (Way and Williams, 1897)


White's most famous works were editorials: "What's the Matter With Kansas," published in 1896; "Mary White," published in 1921; and
"To An Anxious Friend," published in 1923, for which he won a pulitzer prize in the same year.

White's poetry, published in his newspaper and in other publications, has been collected, reprinted, and published in The Poetry of William Allen White by Donald Stuart Pady.

His other non-fiction work could be categorized as Philosophy and Political Opinion and was published as follows:

  • Defense for America, New York: MacMillan, 1940
  • The Changing West, New York: MacMillan, 1939
  • A Puritan in Babylon, New York: MacMillan, 1938
  • What's it all About, New York: MacMillan, 1936
  • Masks in a Pageant (MacMillan, 1928)
  • Same Cycles of Cathay, New York: MacMillan, 1925
  • Calvin Coolidge, the Man Who is President, New York: MacMillan, 1925
  • Woodrow Wilson the Man, the Times and His Task (Houghton Mifflin , 1924)
  • Politics, the Citizens Business, New York: MacMillan, 1924
  • The Old Order Changeth, New York: MacMillan, 1910

A complete list of works may be found at the Kansas Historical Society Site compiled by by Walter Johnson and Alberta Pantle:

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Writing Samples  

An excerpt from The Real Issue, a short story from the book of short stories by the same name:


Wharton yawned, and the silence that followed was broken only by the tinkle of the cow bells in the valley below the town, and the splash of water over the dam across the river that runs around the village. Occasionally the sound of voices singing on the water or the notes of a guitar would come up on the gusts of wind. The piano in the parlor was silent, and the moon was barely visible under the eastern corner of the porch. The men had smoked in silence a few moments when Wharton said:

“Ike, what is the real issue in this campaign?”

“I dunno, old man; sometimes I think it’s the tariff; sometimes I think it’s silver; and then at other times I just give it all up. What’s your idea, Tom?"

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Biographies and Collections

Buller, Beverley Olson, From Emporia: The Story of William Allen White, Kansas City Star Books, 2007, a 2008 Kansas Notable Book, also on the '09/'10 William Allen White Children's Book Award, grades 6-8 master list.

Clough, Frank C., William Allen White of Emporia, Whittlesey House, 1941

Griffith, Sally Foreman, Home Town News: William Allen White and The Emporia Gazette, Oxford University Press, 1989

Hinshaw, David, A Man from Kansas, the Story of William Allen White, Putnam, 1945

Jernigan, Jay, William Allen White, 1983

Johnson, Walter, The Battle Against Isolation,University of Chicago Press, 1944

Johnson, Walter, William Allen White's America, Holt, 1947

Mahin, Helen Ogden, The Editor and His People, Editorials by William Allen White Selected by Helen Ogden Mahin, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1924

McKee, John DeWitt, William Allen White: Maverick on Main Street, Greenwood, 1975

Pady, Donald Stuart, The Poetry of William Allen White, Leawood KS, Leathers, 2002

Rich, Everett, William Allen White, the Man from Emporia, Farrar & Rinehart, 1941

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Averill, Thomas Fox, Never Struck By Lightning, KS Magazine January/February 1986.

Elkins, William R., Moral and Social Dimensions of William Allen White's Fiction: Two Studies, The Emporia State Research Studies, Summer 1987.

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Other Links    

William Allen White on IMDb.

William Allen White on William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications website.

William Allen White on Kansas Historical Society's website.

Read The Real Issue on the Center for Kansas Studies website.

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