Johnson, Walter Willard, 1897-1968

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American poet and editor.

From the description of Spud Johnson Papers, 1896-1973 (bulk 1920-1968). (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122492193

Walter Willard Johnson (1897-1968), nicknamed Spud by his family, was born in Illinois, but spent most of his childhood in Greeley, Colorado. Uninterested in his father's lumber business, Spud took every journalistic opportunity offered. He started and edited a newspaper at Greeley High School before entering Colorado State Teacher's College in 1916, where he wrote for the school paper and worked as a cub reporter for the Greeley newspaper.

After two years at the Teachers College and a shorter stint at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Johnson began to feel constrained by the “small-town” life in Colorado and transferred to the University of California at Berkeley. Shortly after arriving in the Bay area, he met Witter Bynner, a wealthy poet who taught a popular poetry course at UCLA. Bynner helped Johnson find a library job at the Bohemian Club and encouraged him to write poetry. The two men developed a close and lasting friendship.

For the next several years, Johnson juggled school with journalism. He found that he did not like being on the receiving end of the editorial process and in 1922, with three friends, founded his own small format magazine, Laughing Horse. Intended as an alternative to conventional campus publications, the four editors presented ...polemics, philippics, satire, burlesque and all around destructive criticism.... Even after leaving Berkeley, Johnson continued to contribute to Laughing Horse, eventually taking it over and publishing it intermittently over the next thirty years.

In the summer of 1922, Johnson visited New Mexico for the first time. Attracted by the beauty and charm of the area as well as the growing literary community, Johnson did not return to school, but remained in Santa Fe as Witter Bynner's secretary. Through Bynner, Johnson met almost everybody in the New Mexico literary scene including Mary Austin, Carl Sandburg, Mabel Dodge Luhan, D.H. and Frieda Lawrence, and Dorothy Brett. Motivated by the artistic climate and the available time, Johnson began to write poetry again and by 1926 his work had been published in Poetry, Pan, Echo, Palms, and the New Republic. He published a collection of his works in 1935, titled Horizontal Yellow.

Aside from poetry, Johnson maintained a steady stream of literary criticism, editorial comments, and other prose. In 1927 he moved to Taos to become Mabel Luhan's secretary and purchased a small hand press which he used to print Laughing Horse.

By the early 1930s Johnson had become a fixture in the New Mexico literary and social scenes. Dividing his time between Santa Fe and Taos he participated unflaggingly in community affairs and causes. He supported himself with his writing and his printing press and during World War II he ran a bookstall near the Taos central plaza. One of his most durable activities was an editorial column which ran under the title The Horse Fly and later as The Gadfly. Sometimes he published his column as a free-standing small paper and at other times he published in local papers.

Johnson remained active until his death in 1968. In 1953 he took up painting and drawing and in 1954 he travelled to Europe with Earl Stroh. While in France he met Alice B. Toklas before travelling on to Italy and England. In 1960 he helped organize and lead a week long rafting trip through Glen Canyon before it was flooded by construction of the Glen Canyon Dam. In early 1968 he was cooperating with a group of friends to produce a show of his artwork for the following year. When he died, just months before the show was scheduled to take place, it became a memorial for an artist for whom life and art were never separated.

From the guide to the Spud Johnson Papers TXRC00-A8., 1896-1973, (bulk 1920-1968), (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center University of Texas at Austin)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Dorothy Brett Collection TXRC98-A13., 1898-1968 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Idella Purnell Stone Personal Papers and Records of, Palms, Magazine TCRC98-A24., 1922-1960 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Johnson, Walter Willard, 1897-1968. Spud Johnson Papers, 1896-1973 (bulk 1920-1968). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Alice Corbin Henderson Collection TXRC92-A24., 1861-1987 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Johnson, Walter Willard, 1897-1968. Walter Willard Johnson letters to Henwar Rodakiewicz : and clippings, 1933, 1959-1969. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Henderson, Alice Corbin, 1881-1949. Papers, 1861-1987 (bulk 1920-1949). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Thomas M. Pearce Papers, 1904-1985 University of New Mexico. Center for Southwest Research
referencedIn O'Keeffe, Georgia, 1887-1986. Georgia O'Keeffe letters to Alan Priest, 1950-1961. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Crews, Judson. Papers, 1935-1981 (bulk 1940-1966). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Luhan, Mabel Dodge, 1879-1962. Mabel Dodge Luhan collection, 1885-1984. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Brett, Dorothy, 1883-1977. Dorothy Brett Collection, 1898-1968. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn E. Dana Johnson Papers, 1902-1938 Museum of New Mexico. Fray Angélico Chávez History Library.
referencedIn Mabel Dodge Luhan collection, 1885-1984 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Judson Crews Papers TXRC94-A16., 1935-1981, (bulk 1940-1966) Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Spud Johnson Papers TXRC00-A8., 1896-1973, (bulk 1920-1968) Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Stone, Idella P., 1901- . Idella P. Stone Personal Papers and Records of Palms, 1922-1960. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Taos Wood Blocks Collection, circa 1924-1982, circa1924-1952, 1982 University of New Mexico. Center for Southwest Research
referencedIn Press of the Palace of Governors. Press of the Palace of the Governors records, 1974-1997. Museum of New Mexico Library
creatorOf Johnson, E. Dana. E. Dana Johnson papers, 1902-1938. Museum of New Mexico Library
referencedIn Bynner, Witter, 1881-1968. Witter Bynner correspondence and research archive, 1889-1984 compiled by Evelyn Ortner. Drew University Library, Rose Memorial Library
creatorOf Abrams, Jane, 1940-. Taos wood blocks collection, circa 1924-1982, bulk 1924-1952, 1982. University of New Mexico-Main Campus
referencedIn Luhan, Mabel Dodge, 1879-1962. Mabel Dodge Luhan collection, 1885-1984. Yale University Library
referencedIn D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) Collection, 1865-1999, 1865-1999 GB 159 The University of Nottingham
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Austin, Mary Hunter, 1868-1934 person
associatedWith Berg, Bobby person
associatedWith Berg, Bobby. person
associatedWith Berns, Walter, 1919- person
associatedWith Brett, Dorothy, 1883-1977 person
associatedWith Brooks, Gina Knee person
associatedWith Brooks, Gina Knee. person
associatedWith Bynner, Witter, 1881-1968 person
associatedWith Cabot, Edward person
associatedWith Cabot, Edward. person
associatedWith Cannon, Gladys person
associatedWith Cannon, Gladys. person
associatedWith Crews, Judson person
associatedWith Crews, Judson. person
associatedWith Eisenstein, Samuel A. (Samuel Abraham) person
associatedWith Farran, Lee person
associatedWith Farran, Lee. person
associatedWith Fechin, Alexander person
associatedWith Fechin, Alexander. person
associatedWith Ficke, Arthur Davison, 1883-1945 person
associatedWith Goldmark, John person
associatedWith Goldmark, John. person
associatedWith Goyen, William, 1915- person
associatedWith Henderson, Alice Corbin, 1881-1949 person
associatedWith Johnson, E. Dana. person
associatedWith Johnson, J. Smith, Mrs. person
associatedWith Johnson, J. Smith, Mrs. person
associatedWith La Farge, Oliver, 1901-1963 person
associatedWith Lawrence, D. H.. , 1885-1930 person
associatedWith Lawrence, Frieda von Richthofen, 1879-1965 person
associatedWith Long, Haniel, 1888-1956 person
associatedWith Lovejoy, Sue Cannon person
associatedWith Lovejoy, Sue Cannon. person
associatedWith Luhan, Mabel Dodge, 1879-1962 person
associatedWith MacLeod, Norman person
associatedWith MacLeod, Norman. person
associatedWith McCarthy, Daniel Clifford person
associatedWith McCarthy, Daniel Clifford. person
associatedWith O'Keefe, Georgia, 1887-1986 person
associatedWith O'Keeffe, Georgia, 1887-1986. person
associatedWith Pearce, T. M. (Thomas Matthews), 1902- person
associatedWith Press of the Palace of Governors. corporateBody
associatedWith Riggs, Lynn, 1899-1954 person
associatedWith Rodakiewicz, Henwar person
associatedWith Rodakiewicz, Henwar. person
associatedWith Stone, Idella Purnell, 1901- person
associatedWith Swaine, Ruth person
associatedWith Swaine, Ruth. person
associatedWith The New Yorker corporateBody
associatedWith The New Yorker. corporateBody
associatedWith Van Tijn, Gertrude person
associatedWith Van Tijn, Gertrude. person
associatedWith Van Vechten, Carl person
associatedWith Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964. person
associatedWith Waters, Frank, 1902- person
associatedWith White, Partrick, 1912- person
associatedWith White, Patrick, 1912-1990. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Poets, American--20th century
Authors, American--20th century
West (U.S.)--Social life and customs
Occupation
Editors
Function

Person

Birth 1897

Death 1968

Information

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SNAC ID: 39925677