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August 2006

Release Date: August 31, 2006

WTC to Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Old Yeller with Program, Exhibit

A program on Old Yeller, both the book by Mason author Fred Gipson and the Walt Disney movie that made a generation of Baby Boomers cry, will highlight the annual meeting of the Friends of the Porter Henderson Library and West Texas Collection, Tuesday, Sept. 19, on the campus of Angelo State University.

The program, beginning at 7 p.m. Sept. 19 in the Houston Harte University Center Theater, will feature remarks by Gipson biographer Mike Cox, who donated his extensive collection on Old Yeller to the West Texas Collection, and Beck Gipson, son of the late author and a current Kerrville resident.  Following the presentations, the West Texas Collection will debut an exhibit on Old Yeller.

This year marks the golden anniversary of the 1956 publication of Old Yeller.  The movie was released on Christmas Day a year later.  The book and movie both have San Angelo connections as the West Texas Collection has extensive materials from the Gipson family as well as movie memorabilia.  Additionally, Fess Parker, the star of the movie, grew up in San Angelo where the movie debuted before general release.

The exhibit will feature photographs and documents from the Gipson family; a variety of movie memorabilia; and materials from Tommie Wynn Gipson North, Gipson's wife at the time he wrote Old Yeller.  North later graduated from ASU and taught English at Central High School.

Old Yeller is the story of a young Hill Country boy and his dog in the late 1860s.  The book was an instant hit, receiving both popular and critical acclaim, including designation as a Newbery Honor Book in 1957.

The author was born Frederick Benjamin Gipson on a Mason County farm in 1908.  He graduated from Mason High School in 1926 and attended the University of Texas before leaving to become a newspaper reporter with several newspapers, including the San Angelo Standard-Times.

In the 1940s Gipson began writing stories and articles for pulp western magazines and such popular publications as Liberty and Look.  He published the first of nine books in 1946.  His second book Hound-Dog Man in 1949 is considered by many critics as his best work, but it was for Old Yeller, especially, and Savage Sam in 1962, both of which were made into Disney movies of the same title, that he is best remembered.  Gipson died in 1973 on his Mason County ranch and was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin by special proclamation of the governor.

The WTC display will remain on exhibit during the fall semester and will be open for public viewing weekdays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and until 8 p.m. on Thursdays.