|Birth: ||Jun. 16, 1894|
|Death: ||Apr. 2, 1985|
Squire Omar Barker, sometimes know affectionately as just that "S.O.B.", was born near Beulah, New Mexico on June 16, 1894. He died on April 1, 1985. He attended high school in Las Vegas, NM. He also graduated from New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas. He and Elliott Barker were brothers, but Omar was the last of the 11 in the litter.
In his early manhood he earned his living by teaching high school Spanish, serving as a high school principal, and forest ranger. He served as a sergeant in World War I, as a member of the American Expeditionary Force in France and Germany (1917-19). He was a charter member of the American Legion and attended the 10th anniversary celebration in 1927 in Paris, France.
From 1921-24, he taught English at New Mexico Highlands University. He also played a pretty mean slide trombone in "Doc Patterson's Cowboy Band." He was elected to the New Mexico state legislature in 1924 and served one term in 1925. And in 1926 he started a career as a full-time freelance writer, specializing in poetry, but also writing articles and fiction. And he made his living that way until he retired in 1971, turning out about 1,500 short stories and novelettes, around 1,200 factual articles, and some 2,000 poems.
On July 1, 1927, at the age of 32, he married Elsa McCormick at Hagerman, N.M. And they each became prolific writers of Western-oriented books, short stories and poetry. Each one of them served a term as president of WWA, Omar in 1958-59 and Elsa in 1972-73 (the only husband-wife team to do so). They had joined WWA in 1954.
Barker may be best remembered for his poems, "A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer"(even recorded by Jimmy Dean on a Christmas album) and "Code of the Cow Country". He received a Spur Award in 1955 for his short story, "Bad Company". And in 1966 he received his second Spur, this time for his poem, "Empty Saddles at Christmas."
In 1959, he was made an Honorary Chief of the Kiowa Tribe, in Anadarko, Okla. In 1961, New Mexico Highland University conferred an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree upon him. In 1967, WWA members presented him with their highest award, the Saddleman, for his lifetime contributions to the West. And in 1975 he was named Lifetime Honorary President of the Western Writers of America.
He delighted in being known as the "Sage of Sapello" or the "Poet Lariat of New Mexico". He was the author of five books of poetry ( Rawhide Rhymes,1968; Winds of the Mountains, 1922; Buckaroo Ballads, 1929; Sunlight Through the Trees, 1954; and Songs of the Saddleman, 1954), a collection of short stories (Born to Battle, 1951), and a novel, Little World Apart (selected as one of the ten best novels of 1966 by the American Library Association). He also wrote nine books for boys in the "Brett King of Rimrock Ranch" series for Grosset & Dunlap under the house name of "Dan Scott", between the years 1960 and 1964. And in 1967 he collaborated with Carol Truax to produce, The Cattleman's Steak Book (Grosset & Dunlap).
He also edited and made contributions to such books as Legends and Tales of the Old West (Doubleday, 1962), Frontiers West (Doubleday, 1960), Spurs West (Doubleday, 1961). He liked to sign his letters and books with his brand, "The Lazy SOB".
His writings have appeared in everything from the early Western pulps like Ranch Romance to general interest magazines like Saturday Evening Post, Western Horseman, True West, Old West, Real West, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Arizona Highways, Lion Magazine, Rotarian, Grit, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and Reader's Digest. The August, 1956 issue of The Roundup notes that in response to a request for a brief biographical sketch from a publisher, Omar sent in this poem:
Barker born one Junish morn in 1894. Started ridin' horses at about the age of four. Raised among the cowfolks of New Mexico, and then Started writin' yarns and verse about the horseback men. Forest ranger, solder and one time legislator, Spanish teacher for a while, but mostly a narrator Of cowboy stories in a hundred mags, almost,
Including Ranch Romances and the well known Sat Eve Post.
His wife is Elsa Barker, also in the writin' biz. Their home is in Las Vegas--New Mexico, that is.
On June 29, 1978, during the WWA convention in El Paso, Dean Krakel, Executive Vice President of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center, officially announced that S. Omar Barker was the very first inductee into the newly created Hall of Fame of Great Western Writers. Krakel said, "I am especially honored to present the Trustees' Gold Medal signifying his induction to our friend, Omar. His poetry is authentic because he was a real cowboy. He tells about the West he knew and loved. Anyone can understand Omar's poetry. There isn't any hidden meaning."
Omar's older brother, Elliott, wrote a letter to then WWA President Richard House on April 2, 1985 in which he said, "It is with the deepest sorrow that I must advise you that my brother, S. Omar Barker, passed away this morning at his home in Las Vegas, New Mexico. He had suffered terribly for about three years. The last time I saw him he said, `Why can't I die?'
"God bless him, he passed away peacefully. His wife Elsa, who has been an angel through out his illness, rolled him in a wheelchair out into the living room and went about her house work for a short while and when she returned, he had died peacefully."
Elsa McCormick Barker (1906 - 1996)*
Santa Fe National Cemetery
Santa Fe County
New Mexico, USA
Plot: 6, 1199
Maintained by: Scott Robertson
Originally Created by: Bob Barker
Record added: Mar 04, 2000
Find A Grave Memorial# 3862866