September 6, 1917 — March 22, 2013
Howardom lost perhaps its last living link (there are a few elderly ladies who may still be living) to Robert E. Howard this past Friday when Norris Chambers left this mortal coil at the age of 95. To say he was a friend to Howard would be an understatement — he was a friend to all Howard’s fans as well. Despite his advanced age, Norris was always happy to hear from Howard Heads and always promptly replied to their inquiries. He was certainly very helpful to me by supplying a wealth of information on Howard I needed for several research projects. He was an oracle of sorts, a fount of knowledge with an amazing memory. He was also a raconteur himself, a musician, a Mason, a teacher and very active in various community organizations. We stayed in contact pretty regularly — I am going to miss corresponding with him.
Here is the Obituary for Norris from The Grizzly Detail newspaper:
Norris Roe Chambers, 95, of White Settlement, Texas passed away March 22, 2013. Visitation will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Tuesday, March 26 at Baumgardner Funeral Chapel located at 3705 Highway 377 South, Fort Worth. Masonic graveside service will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27 at Wolf Valley Cemetery in Brown County.
Norris graduated from Cross Cut High School and Fort Worth’s Brantley Draughon Business College. In his teens he put his skills as a typist to work for family friend and writer Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian, and later worked for W. Lee O’Daniel as an engineer, recording transcriptions of The Hillbilly Boys radio shows for broadcast over Mexican radio station XEPN. Norris served briefly as a Merchant Marine during World War II. He owned and operated radio and television repair shops, operated a one-man printing shop for nearly 40 years, and retired from General Dynamics as an Electronic Technician after 28 years of service.
Norris served on the White Settlement ISD Board of Trustees for 13 years, and on the City of White Settlement Board of Adjustments and Appeals and Civil Service Commission. He was a member and past Secretary and Treasurer of the White Settlement Area Chamber of Commerce, a member and past president and vice president of the White Settlement Historical Society, and he helped establish the White Settlement Historical Museum and served as a curator and treasurer of the museum. Norris was also a member of the White Settlement Lions Club in the 70’s and 80’s, and worked for the city, school and county elections for 32 years.
With Clyde Morrow, Norris established the monthly White Settlement Musical Show, which ran for about 5 years in the 70s, and served as past president of the Texas Bluegrass Association. In the early 90’s Norris wrote a regular column appearing on Startext, an electronic information service. He maintained a website of his short stories and remembrances under his nom de plume “The Old Timer” at www.norrisc.com and wrote a weekly tale for local paper “The Grizzly Detail.” During the mid 1990’s until 2011 Norris was active in these musical groups at the White Settlement Senior Services; The Dukes of Ukes and the Ukeladies, The Modulators and The Golden Strings. Many video clips are posted on YouTube of The Modulators and The Golden Strings performances. For a few years he taught computer classes at the White Settlement Senior Services Center and filled in as an instructor in one guitar class.
Norris joined the Masonic Lodge (White Settlement Lodge No. 1372) in 1962, received the Golden Trowel award in 1991 and received his 50 year pin in 2012; he was active in the W. Steve Cooke Chapter of the Demolay for several years, was active in the Eastern Star Chapter No. 1053, and was a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge during the 1970s into the 1990s. Norris received the White Settlement Volunteer of the Year Award in 2000, was named an Honorary Brewer Ex in 2001, received the City of White Settlement Mayor’s Community Spirit Award in 2006 in recognition of his Old Timer Stories Series and White Settlement Historic Preservation. In 2012 the White Settlement City Council proclaimed September 6 to be Norris Roe Chambers Day. Norris was named a Director Emeritus by the White Settlement Area Chamber of Commerce in 2013 for his years of service and membership in the organization dating back to 1956.
The family would like to thank Vitas Hospice Care, Team 3 and volunteers for their care and assistance.
Norris was born in Cross Cut, Texas on September 6, 1917, to Martha and Dr. Solomon Roe Chambers. On May 16, 1939 he wed Ella Moselle Sudderth of May, Texas. Norris was preceded in death by his father, Dr. Solomon Roe Chambers, his mother, Martha Williams Chambers, his brother Thomas, sisters Deoma Morgan and Winnie Chambers. Survivors: Wife, Ella Chambers; children Dr. Dianne Blankenship and husband David, Patricia Chambers, Veronica Durnell and husband John, and Roger Chambers; grandchildren Sandie Dickens, Kathy Walters, Lisa Baker, Kelly Sustaire, Karli Sustaire; great grandchildren Zachary Swope, Christopher Baker, Jonathan Baker, Ella Sustaire, Martha Sustaire, Timothy Sustaire and Joseph Sustaire; nephew Rex Chambers and niece Marjorie Leeton.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the White Settlement Masonic Lodge No. 1372 (655 Mirike Drive, White Settlement, TX 76108) or the charity of your choice.
Leave a message and sign the online Guest Book for Norris.
Read an entry from Norris’ collection of Old Timer’s Tales about typing Conan stories for Howard.
Here are links to posts, tributes and articles about Norris:
“I Knew Robert E. Howard” by Damon C. Sasser
“Norris Chambers, 1917 — 2013” by Al Harron
“Norris Chambers Honored by City Leaders” from The Grizzly Detail
“Two-Gun Bob: Norris Chambers RIP” by Don Herron
Leo Grin and Don Herron published several pieces about Norris in the pages of The Cimmerian. Both were happy to share those with us. The first is a preface of sorts (that originally appeared in the June 2006 issue of The Cimmerian journal) to the lengthy interview with Norris. A link to the interview appears at the end of this short article:
COnun and TarZAN
by Don Herron
On the way back to the Dallas/Fort Worth airport after the Robert E. Howard Days for 2005, Leo Grin and I made a slight detour over to the pioneer enclave of White Settlement, Texas—that outpost in the vast rolling wilderness that predated the construction of the original fort at Fort Worth. Norris Chambers has been a resident of that community and a font of living history for its historical museum for many years now, and we wanted to set a tape recorder in front of him and let him talk Howard.
Born in 1917, Norris met the Howard family when his father operated a drugstore in the town of Cross Cut and Isaac Howard practiced medicine there. A frequent visitor after the Howards relocated to Cross Plains, Norris knew the family well and recalls doing clean typescripts for the increasingly busy son, who was splashing across the pulp marketplace, cracking both the Street & Smith and Munsey lines. After the deaths of Robert and Hester in June 1936 Norris stayed with Doc Howard for a couple of weeks, assisting in sorting through the author’s effects and keeping the grieving man company.
On Sunday June 12, 2005 we punched that Record button and the hours passed. Without question, the most startling moment came at us fairly early in the interview, as Norris was talking about how deeply occupied Robert E. Howard was in making a success at the writing game:
NORRIS: If he wasn’t out running around, he was home. Robert was always in there typing, but he would come in when we were there and visit with us. He had a pretty big library, oh. . . I guess as big as that cabinet, maybe bigger, full of books.
LEO: Was that in his bedroom or in the living room?
NORRIS: That was in the living room.
LEO: We were wondering where he kept all his books.
NORRIS: That’s where they were. And he would let me take them home and read them. I would read a lot of his books, because they were too expensive for me to buy back then. A book would cost you seventy-five cents, you know, even then.
Yeah, I read Tarzan of the Apes there, first time I ever read that. And Robert was pretty particular about that, too, when I was there. He would say, “It’s not supposed to be TAR-zun. It’s Tar-ZAN.” And he wrote to Edgar Rice Burroughs to get a confirmation on that, to be sure that he was right!
LEO: [laughter] Really? This is all news to me.
NORRIS: He’d say, “It’s Tar-ZAN! Not TAR-zun. Everyone’s always walkin’ around saying TAR-zun….”
LEO: So how did he say “Conan”? Was it Co-NAN or CO-nun or….
NORRIS: CO-nun I believe is the way he always said that. At least I never heard him correcting anyone for saying it like that. That’s what I always thought of when I was typing it, was CO-nun.
DON: Like Arthur CO-nun Doyle. I grew up in Tennessee, and everyone there was always saying, “Co-NAN.”
NORRIS: Yeah, there’s some kind of TV program on now that says “CO-nun,” but it’s not that Conan.
DON: Yeah, Conan O’Brien, Late Night.
NORRIS: I never looked at it, but it’s something.
LEO: So he wrote to Edgar Rice Burroughs? Wow.
Copyright © 2006 by Don Herron. All rights reserved.
And here is a link to the comprehensive interview Leo and Don conducted with Norris for The Cimmerian print journal.
Enjoy some YouTube videos of Norris showing off his musical talents.