Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

ADAMS, RAMON (1889-1976)

Musician, businessman, bibliophile, and lexicographer, Ramon Frederick Adams authored twenty-four books about the West. Born to Cooke M. and Charlie Adams in Moscow, Texas, on October 3, 1889, he attended Sherman Private School in 1903 and Austin College in 1905. Adams dropped out in 1909 but returned and graduated in 1912. He edited Reveille, a student publication, in 1907. Adams studied violin under Carl Venth at Kidd-Key College in Sherman and later taught at the University of Arkansas until 1914. Further study in Chicago before moving to North Texas led him to chair the violin department at Wichita Falls School of Music. Later he became well known for accompanying silent films in theaters in Wichita Falls, Fort Worth, and Dallas. A wrist broken while he was trying to crank a Model T Ford forced his retirement from music. With his wife, Allie, whom he had married while in Arkansas, Adams then opened a highly successful candy business in Dallas, first retail and later wholesale. They sold the business in 1955, after which Adams, who had privately published his first book, Poems of the Canadian West, in 1919 and sold his first story to Western Story Magazine in 1923, devoted himself to book collecting and writing.

Adams's focus on cowboy life took him, with support from various foundations, across the Great Plains from Texas to Montana interviewing and collecting. His books include Six Guns and Saddle Leather (1954), an extensive bibliography; Charles M. Russell, the Cowboy Artist: A Biography (1948), written with Homer E. Britzman; and A Fitting Death for Billy the Kid (1960). Also important are the dictionary Western Words (1944); Come An' Get It (1952), which features western cooking; and The Cowboy and His Humor (1968), which details the entertainments of the old-time cowboy. Burrs under the Saddle (1964) points out historically inaccurate passages in Western writing, a passion that drove Adams to extensive reading and research.

Adams won the Dallas Public Library Award in 1965 and received an honorary doctor of letters degree from Austin College in 1968. He died on April 29, 1976, in Dallas and was buried there in Resthaven Memorial Park.

Lawrence Clayton Hardin-Simmons University

Klinefelter, Karen. "Folklorist Enjoys Third Career." Dallas Morning News, October 26, 1969: 38a.

Phillips, Edward Hake. "Adams, Ramon Frederick." In The New Handbook of Texas, edited by Ron Tyler. Vol. 1: 25. Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1996.

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