Morey, Walt

Alternative names
Birth 1907-02-03
Death 1992-01-12

Biographical notes:

Walter Nelson Morey was born February 3, 1907 in Hoquiam, Washington. He began school in 1912 in Jasper, Oregon, and struggled throughout his career as a student. He did not find his desire for writing until after graduating from high school. He had read a Zane Grey novel entitled The Vanishing American, and disliked the book’s ending so much that he decided to write a new one; after doing so, he knew he wanted to become a writer. His previous indifference to school caused him problems at first, but he copied stories from magazines word for word to learn why they were punctuated as they were. Over the next ten years Morey wrote a two million word novel, rewriting it almost fourteen times. He never sent it to a publisher, but it taught him the art of writing.

While Morey was mastering his writing skills he took other jobs, such as working in a veneer plant, making brushes in a paintbrush factory and “working in the woods.” After injuring a shoulder he took up boxing on the advice of his chiropractor. He later fought professionally for three years, using pseudonyms so his family wouldn’t learn of it. His work as a fighter got him a job as a theater manager, where he was employed to control gangs of tough kids that frequented the theater. After the last show each night, Morey went home and wrote until early in the morning.

On July 8, 1934, Morey married his first wife, Rosalind Ogden, in Portland, Oregon. He met John Hawkins, a pulp fiction writer who later became a well-known television producer and story editor. Hawkins persuaded Morey to write short stories for pulp magazines. Using his experience as a boxer, Morey wrote a fight story for a magazine called Knockout in 1937 for $55.00. In 1951 Morey spent a summer in Alaska working as a deep sea diver, giving him many new things to write about, but the pulp magazine market was being crowded out by television. Morey did have one adult non-fiction work published in 1954, North to Danger, which chronicled the adventures of his friend Virgil Burford, with whom he had worked in Alaska. Morey stopped writing for several years, and he and his wife moved to Sherwood, Oregon, where they bought and managed a filbert orchard. Rosalind, a school teacher, encouraged him to try juvenile fiction, and drawing on his previous experiences in Alaska, Morey started to write Gentle Ben. The story became a critical and financial success. From that moment Morey embraced juvenile fiction, using such authors as Jack London and Wilson Rawls for inspiration. He had fourteen books for juveniles published, as well as two adult non-fiction books, all of which dealt with the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Morey won awards for his books Gentle Ben, Kavik the Wolf Dog, Canyon Winter, Runaway Stallion, Run Far Run Fast, and Year of the Black Pony .

Rosalind died on February 28, 1977 after a long illness. During Rosalind’s hospital stay the Moreys had become friends with Peggy Kilburn, who at the time was also a patient. On June 26, 1978, Walt and Peggy were married, and Morey published three more novels before his death. The couple lived in Wilsonville, Oregon. Morey died on January 12, 1992. Peggy currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

Source: Something About the Author . Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1990.

From the guide to the Walter Nelson Morey papers, 1939-1990, (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries)


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