Two Birthdays for “Two-Gun” Bob?

This past Friday, January 22nd, everyone who is a Robert E. Howard fan paused to remember the 104th anniversary of his birth, raising a glass or mug of their favorite adult beverage and reading their favorite poem or story in his memory.

While everyone celebrates “Two-Gun” Bob’s birthday on January 22nd, the 24th is also sometimes noted as Howard’s date of birth.  Here is an excerpt from “A Short Biography” by Rusty Burke:

Robert E. Howard was born on January 22 (or possibly January 24), 1906, in the “fading little ex-cowtown” of Peaster, Texas, in Parker County, just west of Fort Worth. The confusion surrounding his date of birth arises from Howard celebrating January 22 as his birthday (this was the date he submitted to Who’s Who Among North American Authors), while his record of birth in Parker County reads January 24. As his father also gave Robert’s birthday as 22 January, it is probably safe to assume that is the correct date.

The confusion arises out of Howard’s official birth record which records the date of birth as the 24th.

The Texas Historical Commission, which approved two monuments to commemorate Howard’s life and record the Howard House on the National Register of Historical Places, both of which show the date as the 24th:

Robert E. Howard

(January 24, 1906 – June 11, 1936)

Born in Parker County, Robert Ervin Howard grew up in the Brown and Callahan County communities of Cross Cut, Cross Plains, and Brownwood.  He attended Brownwood High School and Howard Payne College, and published his first works of fiction in school newspapers. He later wrote poetry and short stories for popular fiction magazines. His main interest was in science fiction and fantasy. In 1932 he created the Character of Conan the Barbarian.  Howard committed suicide at age 30.  His Conan character has become known worldwide through books, magazines, and movies (1991)

 –Text of marker located at Howard’s gravesite in Greenleaf Cemetery, Brownwood, Texas

Robert Ervin Howard was born January 24, 1906, at Peaster, Parker County, Texas. At the time of his birth, his parents, Isaac Mordecai and Hester Jane Ervin Howard, lived in the community of Dark Valley, Palo Pinto County, near the Parker County border.

 – From the official Narrative on the Texas Historical Commission website

One possible reason the date is listed in the records of the Texas Historical Commission might be attributable to Dark Valley Destiny, which was published shortly before these markers were applied for and this biography listed Howard’s date of birth as the 24th. Another reason might be since Howard’s “official” recorded birth date is the 24th, that date was used.

 As for how the 24th got in the record in the first place, one theory is the attending physician, a country doctor like Dr. Howard, and who was on call 24/7, may have erroneously recalled the date as the 24thwhen he submitted the official birth record on February 2, 1906 to the Parker County Records clerk (he also listed Howard’s middle name as “Ervine” instead of Ervin).

Regardless of how the date was incorrectly recorded as the 24th, it is still an interesting footnote that adds a little more intrigue to the legend of the man from Cross Plains.