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WILSON RAWLS


On April 30, 2011, the Tahlequah Public Library in Tahlequah, Oklahoma was designated a Literary Landmark in honor of Woodrow Wilson Rawls (1913-1984). The dedication took place in the Carnegie Room of the Tahlequah Library. Wilson Rawls was the author of two beloved and award-winning children’s books: “Where the Red Fern Grows” and “Summer of the Monkeys.” Rawls’ early childhood was spent on his mother’s Cherokee allotment 13 miles northeast of Tahlequah, along the Illinois River in Cherokee County. Rawls visited the Tahlequah Library, a Carnegie library, frequently when he was young. He wrote, “The day I discovered libraries was one of the biggest days of my life. Practically all of my spare time was spent there. I read everything I could get my hands on pertaining to creative writing. I didn’t just read those books, I practically memorized them.” Rawls’ lifelong dream of writing was finally realized after he married Sophie Ann Styczinski in 1958 who encouraged him to write and publish.  


At the Literary Landmark dedication, held during Tahlequah’s annual Red Fern Festival, Robin Mooney, Tahlequah Library Manager, welcomed over 100 guests. Rob McClendon, host and executive producer, “Oklahoma Horizon TV,” served as master of ceremonies.  In honor of Rawls’ Cherokee heritage, John Ketcher offered a Cherokee blessing, and the D. D. Etchieson United Methodist Church Choir sang three hymns in Cherokee. Dedication speakers included Tahlequah Mayor Ken Purdy; Tom Mooney, archivist at the Cherokee National Historical Society, Inc., Tahlequah; and Dr. Bill Corbett, professor of history at Northeastern State University, Tahlequah. Attendees also listened to the recording, “Wilson Rawls: Dreams Can Come True,” by Jim Trelease, Reading Tree Productions. In conjunction with the dedication, FOLIO published a 28-page educational booklet about Wilson Rawls. The booklet was coordinated and edited by Associate Professor Karen Neurohr, Oklahoma State University (OSU) Library, and FOLIO members and Tahlequah residents Irene Wickham and Harlene Wills.


Sponsors for the dedication were Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations; FOLIO; Tahlequah Friends of the Library; and the Cherokee Heritage Center. Sponsors and partners for the booklet were the Tahlequah Public Library, Tahlequah Friends of the Library, Oklahoma Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, OSU Library, Friends of the OSU Library, Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book, the Cherokee Heritage Center, Kiwanis Club of Tahlequah, Reading Tree Productions, World Literature Today, Tahlequah Community Foundation, Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Council, Tahlequah/Cherokee County Rotary Club, The Northeastern State University Library, Arvest Bank, Reading Tree Productions, Tulsa City-County Libraries, Oklahoma Horizon TV, Oklahoma State University Native American Student Association, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers, Oklahoma Library Association, Sophie S. Rawls, Peter Cox, and James Hatfield Granger.