Remembering the Kuykendalls of Ranger

The Kuykendalls of Ranger took care of a lonely Doc Howard in his declining years, treating him like a member of their family. He repaid them by leaving them the rights to Robert’s writings. On this, the fifty-second anniversary of the passing of Dr. Kuykendall, I thought it would be appropriate to remember all three of them.  Here are their obituaries:

Dr. Pere Moran Kuykendall, 67, died May 28, 1959. He was born on August 16, 1892. He married Alla Ray Elliott in 1912. They had a daughter, Alla Ray K. Morris. He served in the US Army as a Captain in France during World War I. Mr. Kuykendall was a doctor in Desdemona when he bought the West Texas Clinic & Hospital in Ranger from Dr. Barnett on April 30, 1930.

Alla Ray Elliott Kuykendall died on April 19, 1988, Alla Ray, the second daughter of Josephine Reeves and Richard Buckner Elliott, was born November 20, 1892 in Troy, Texas. She was reared in Muskogee, Oklahoma and attended Fulton College for Women in Fulton, Missouri.

She and Dr. P.M. Kuykendall were married in Moody, Texas in 1912. Following his service as a Captain in France during World War I, they lived in Desdemona, Texas until 1930 when the family moved to Ranger.

Dr. Kuykendall died in 1959. Mrs. Kuykendall was a member of First United Methodist Church in Ranger for 56 years and was a soloist in the church choir for many years.  She was honored with a lifetime  membership pin from the women’s society of the church. For more  than 40 years she was a volunteer in Ranger Child Welfare Club and acted as boy’s camp selection officer from Ranger for the Salvation Army for 20 years.

Mrs. Kuykendall was a donor to Ranger General Hospital and was made  an honorary lifetime member of the hospital auxiliary. Kuykendall Hall, a women’s dormitory at Ranger Junior College, was named to  honor Dr. and Mrs. Kuykendall. She was elected honorary membership in the Phi Beta Theta.

In 1972, Alla Ray Kuykendall was named Ranger Woman of the Year. She  was among the organizers of Lone Cedar Country Club and was a member of the Auxiliary of Veterans of World War I and the Columbia Study Club.

At the time of her death, Mrs. Kuykendall was survived by her daughter, Mrs. James Preston Morris, of Ranger; her nephew’s widow, Mrs. R. Elliott Bryant, of Cross Plains; two nieces-in-law, Mrs. A.M.  Allison of Alice, Texas, and Mrs. Spurgeon Bell of Houston, Texas;  and a nephew-in-law, Mr. Fred Acre of Moody, Texas.

Alla Ray Kuykendall Morris, 79, died on May 25, 1995 in the Eastland Memorial Hospital. Interment was in Evergreen Cemetery.

She was born in Moody, Texas on Jan. 18, 1916 to Dr. Pere Moran Kuykendall and Alla Ray Elliott Kuykendall. Alla Ray, as everyone knew her, grew up in Ranger and graduated from Ranger High School in 1932. After attending Ranger Jr. College, she went on to receive her Bachelor in Arts from the University of Texas, where she was a member of Pi Beta Phi Sorority. She later received a Master of Arts from Western State College of Colorado in 1958. Mrs. Morris did post-graduate work in England at London University, the University of California and North Texas State University.

She married James Preston Morris in 1941 in Fort Worth.  The couple made their home in Ranger and owned Morris Funeral Home. She began her career in education by teaching fourth grade for seven years at the Hodges Oak Park Elementary School, and later teaching English and serving as Department head at Ranger Jr. College where she retired after 30 years of service. Upon retirement, she served a member, secretary, and president of the Board of Regents for Ranger Jr. College until 1983, at which time her mother’s health required her full attention. She was a noted educator, was often credited by school officials with having exceptional leadership and teaching qualities, earning the love and respect of her students and co-workers.

A pillar of the community, Mrs. Morris was a member and supporter of the first United Methodist Church for 40 years.  Other memberships  include the American Association of University Women, the 47 Club, the 1920 Club, the Columbia Study Club, and the first member of the Ranger Historical Preservation Society. She held various offices in  each organization.

She was preceded in death by her husband, James Preston Morris in 1948. Survivors at the time of her death include one cousin, Zora Mae Bryant of Cross Plains.

Here is an article from 1980 on the two Kuykendall women:

Two Ranger Women Continue to Receive Royalty Checks from Robert Howard Estate
by Betty McGee (Ranger Times, 05/15/1980)

Mrs. P. M. Kuykendall and her daughter Mrs. J. P. Morris, two prominent Ranger women, receive royalty checks from the Robert E. Howard estate. These checks continue to increase in an  impressive amount because of the renewed interest in Howard’s writings, with books, written in several languages, comic books and comic strips in over 100 newspapers in the United States. Special attention has recently been given to his Conan series. This has resulted in a film that began shooting early this year in Hollywood with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan. Schwarzenegger has been Mr. Universe five times and six times Mr. Olympia. The producers of this movie hope for its release by the end of 1980.

Mrs. Kuykendall is the widow of the late Dr. P. M. Kuykendall. Mrs. Morris is a retired English teacher. They both express appreciation for the benefits received from Robert Howard’s estate and to the two men most responsible for the universal interest in the complete writings of Howard, Glenn Lord and Sprague de Camp.  They have worked hard for many years keeping Howard’s work before the public.

Mrs. Kuykendall and Mrs. Morris have established a collection of books and manuscripts of Howard’s and material that has been written about him in the Ranger Junior College library. Robert Ervin Howard once resided in Cross Plains, Texas but as an author lived in a realm of creative imagination, wonder and fantasy. Creating, in many of his stories, a world that never really existed except in his mind.  The transition from the distant private plane back to the reality of the world in and around the small town must have become easy for Robert Howard.

The world he created for his now popular Conan the Barbarian was a place at least 12,000 years in the past. This world becomes very real as one reads of the geographical areas and the physical features of land, mountains, hills, valleys, deserts, and rivers. A complete and highly detailed map was drawn of this ancient era.

Then Robert peopled this land with tribes of strong, active, intense, savage, human beings.  With his vivid descriptions of them he could produce to his readers a distinct mental image of them all.

Robert often wrote of the Orient and the Vikings.

Robert E. Howard was the only child of Dr. and Mrs. I. M. Howard. They moved to Cross Plains in 1919 when Robert was almost 13 years old. He was a sensitive, serious and moody person as a child, as he was as a man.

In 1936, at the age of 30, Robert took a Colt automatic and shot himself in the head after being told his beloved, invalid mother was about to die. He lived only eight hours but never regained consciousness and died June 11, 1936. His mother died thirty-one hours later.

Dr. Howard, deeply grieved, stayed only a few years in Cross Plains after the suicide of his son and death of his wife within such a short period. During the outbreak of World War II Dr. Kuykendall needed help in his clinic and asked Dr. Howard to assist. Dr. Howard moved to Ranger and did help in the clinic for two or three years but became very sick and Dr. Kuykendall and his family helped him. When he died, he left everything he had to Dr. Kuykendall, including his son’s estate.

During the years between the deaths of Dr. Howard and Dr. Kuykendall the royalty checks from Howard’s estate never amounted to very much. Dr. Kuykendall did see a few checks of around two hundred dollars.

When Dr. Kuykendall died, he left the Howard estate to his widow and daughter.

The 1970’s was a decade of new interest and fascination with fantasy, the supernatural, magic and the occult. Howard often dealt with these in his writings.