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 Manly Wade Wellman

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Manly Wade Wellman

  • Birth 21 May 1903 Angola
  • Death 5 Apr 1986 Orange County, North Carolina, USA
  • Burial Cremated, Ashes scattered, Specifically: Scattered on the lawn of his home in Chapel Hill, NC.
  • Memorial ID 9337058

Author. Manly Wade Hampton Wellman was a well-rounded writer with a variety of genres, including historical fiction, detective fiction, western fiction, juvenile fiction, and non-fiction. He once estimated his output of stories, novels, poems and articles at about 500, of which about 80 were in the fantasy and science fiction genres. His father, Dr Frederick Creighton Wellman, was a physician of tropical medicine at a British medical outpost in Portuguese West Africa, now Angola, when he was born. Living in that part of the world, he was exposed at an early age to old African tales full of magic and the spirit world; this would be a fascination that would stay with him for life. Later his family came to the United States where he attended grade school in Washington DC, prep school in Salt Lake City, and college at Wichita, Kansas where he received a BA in English in 1926. The next year he published his first story, "The Lion Roared”, which was based on the old tales told to him as a child living in Africa. He continued his education receiving a Bachelor of Laws degree from Columbia Law School. He became friends with Vance Randolph, an acclaimed folklorist and expert on Ozark mountain magic and traditions. It was through Randolph that Wellman met folk music legend Obray Ramsey, whose music would have a profound effect on Wellman’s writings. In the late 1920s, he was a movie critic for a newspaper, the Wichita Beacon, where he would interview celebrities whose trains passed through Wichita. Later, he was a crime reporter for the Wichita Eagle, where he got a first-hand look at the Mexican cocaine trade market. He married Frances Obrist, who became a horror writer with the penname Frances Garfield. During this time, he sold many stories to “Ozark Stories” and “Thrilling Tales”. The Great Depression caused most newspapers to fail. To get employment, he relocated from Kansas to New York where he became Assistant Director of the WPA's New York Folklore Project. Then later in the 1930's and 1940's, he wrote for the bigger publications: Weird Tales, Wonder Stories and Astounding Stories. In his stories, he had three main heroes, who were timeless and had colorful personalities: Judge Keith Hilary Persuivant, a psychic detective; John Thunstone, a New York playboy; and his most famous, Silver John the Balladeer, a wandering backwoods minstrel with a silver-stringed guitar. Using Superman as a model at the encouragement of his publisher, he wrote the first issue of Captain Marvel Adventures for Fawcett Publishers. For his Native American detective tale "A Star for a Warrior", he received the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Award in 1946 over an upset William Faulkner, who thought his work held first place that year. After serving as a lieutenant in WW II, he relocated his family in 1951 to rural Pine Bluff, North Carolina. His neighbor was his old friend Obray Ramsey. He became absorbed in the American southern mountain folklore and history, becoming an expert on the Civil War and the historic regions and peoples of the Old South. In 1980 Wellman received the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. At age 82, he had a serious fall on June 15, 1985 sustaining severe fractures of his left elbow and shoulder; this made him an invalid and bedridden. This followed with bilateral amputations of his legs related to complications of decubitus ulcers on his heels that would not heal. His death was within the year. Even going through this painful ordeal, he wrote his historical novel “Cahena”, about an African warrior princess, which was published in 1986. The final John the Balladeer short story "Where Did She Wander" was also published that year. “Manly was first and foremost a storyteller,” said novelist David Drake, who was a friend of Wellman’s and is now the owner of his literary estate. His father, using the pen name Cyril Kay-Scott, and younger brother Paul Islin Wellman were accomplished writers in their own right.

Bio by: Linda Davis


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 19 Aug 2004
  • Find A Grave Memorial 9337058
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Manly Wade Wellman (21 May 1903–5 Apr 1986), Find A Grave Memorial no. 9337058, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated, Ashes scattered, who reports a Scattered on the lawn of his home in Chapel Hill, NC..