1983 Notable Authors

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Helen Josephine Ferris
Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith
John Willard Toland

Helen Josephine Ferris, 1890-1969

Although Helen Ferris was born in Hastings, Nebraska, her roots are in Wisconsin. Her mother, Minnie Lunn Ferris was born in Marshall and grew up in Waterloo. Her father, Elmer, was a Baptist minister who was born in Seven Mile Creek and grew up there and in Fond du Lac. Both parents attended Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam. Between 1901-04, the Ferris family lived in La Crosse. Helen enjoyed "the mighty Mississippi River" and later wrote "... it will always be my river." The family lived in Milwaukee during Helen's high school years, 1905-07. Two Wisconsin librarians were Helen's mentors: her aunt, Anne Mayers, Assistant to the State Library Commission; and Mary Emogene Hazeltine, Preceptor of the Wisconsin Library School. Helen referred to herself as a "Great Granddaughter of Wisconsin" and maintained family ties to the state throughout her life.

Helen's first publication appeared in the Wisconsin Audubon Magazine when she was eleven. During the years 1912-19, she held several editorial positions including The Guardian, American Girl, and Youth's Companion and also published her first four books. In 1924 she and Albert B. Tibbets were married.

Helen Ferris was editor-in-chief of the Junior Literary Guild from 1929 until her retirement in 1959. Her high literary standards and the desire to share good literature stem from her parents' extensive reading aloud in their home; standards which are reflected in the high quality of her Guild selections as well as her own published works. Throughout her career, she wrote ten books and edited seventeen others for young readers. The New York Times ran an article announcing her death on September 28, 1969.


Phi Beta Kappa, Vassar College, 1912

Child Study Association Children's Book Committee Award, 1950, for Partners

Selected Books:

Girls Who Did: Stories of Real Girls and Their Careers, 1927

Adventure Waits: A Book of Adventure Stories for Girls, 1928

When I Was A Girl: The Stories of 5 Famous Women as Told by Themselves, collected by Helen Ferris, 1934

My Poetry Book: An Anthology of Modern Verse for Boys and Girls, selected ... in collaboration with Helen Ferris, 1934

Partners: The United Nations and Youth, by Eleanor Roosevelt and Helen Ferris, 1950

Writings for Boys & Girls: A Young Wings Anthology of Essays by 216 Authors Who Tell How They Came to Write Their Special Kinds of Books for Young Readers, ed. by Helen Ferris, 1952

Favorite Poems, Old & New, selected for boys and girls by Helen Ferris, 1957


Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith, 1905-1982

"Red" Smith, the foremost sportswriter of our time, was born and raised in Green Bay. He received his A.B. from Notre Dame in 1927. After a short stint as a general news reporter at the Milwaukee Sentinel, he transferred to the St. Louis Star and his forte, sportswriting. His career led him on to The Philadelphia Record and then The New York Herald-Tribune until it folded in 1966. National syndication followed, and in 1971 he joined The New York Times as a contract writer. Although he successfully covered political writing, he said, "I've enjoyed these excursions outside sports, but I never wanted to stay out. You spend a lifetime learning to find your way to the dugout at Yankee Stadium; it would be a shame to waste it."

Many of Smith's books are collections of his sports columns, and the Pulitzer Prize was given in 1976 for his newspaper writing.

At the time of his death, he was commended by many for the quality of his writing. The Sporting News said that "Red" Smith "had shown writers what could be done with good writing, and by elevating the taste of his readers (including editors), he made no longer acceptable the kind of inanity that had been tolerated." Selected essays from his first book, Out of the Red, have been used as texts in the Columbia University School of Journalism.


Grantland Rice Memorial Award, 1956

Catholic Institute of the Press Award, 1958

Pulitzer Prize, 1976
Honorary Doctor of Laws, Notre Dame, 1968

Selected Books:

Out of the Red, 1950

How to Get to First Base, with Marc Simont, 1952

Views of Sport, 1954
Red Smith on Fishing Around the World, ed. by Verna Reamer, 1963
Strawberries in Wintertime, 1974
Press Box: Red Smith's Favorite Sports Stories, 1976
The Red Smith Reader, ed. by Dave Anderson, 1982
To Absent Friends, 1982


John Willard Toland, 1912-

La Crosse was the home for the first seven years of John Toland's life. The Mississippi River and the local movie theater hold strong memories for him. In fact, John became interested in history as a boy as he watched historical movies at the old Casino Theater. He also remembers his father taking him downtown when World War I ended. Together they watched as the Kaiser was burned in effigy.

Toland says he still feels like a Midwesterner. "If you came from Wisconsin in those days, you absorbed some of the LaFollette spirit for the underdog. I think it has affected my writing. It's made me realize the things you're supposed to think aren't necessarily true."

As assignment to write a book on dirigibles led to the development of Toland's outstanding interview-research technique. Thus, a successful career as a storyteller-historian was launched. While conducting exhaustive research, he has gone on to write many books on World Wars I and II. Serving as his Japanese translator, his wife, Toshiko Matsumura, gives invaluable help in his research.

Toland says, "I write without thesis...I believe it's my duty to tell you everything and let you draw your own conclusions...I keep my opinions to a minimum." The New York Times Book Review says his writing is "scrupulously accurate while at the same time absorbing and dramatic."


Overseas Press Club Foreign Affairs Award for: But Not In Shame, The Last Hundred Days, Rising Sun, Adolf Hitler
L.H.D. Williams College, 1968
Van Wyck Brooks Award for Nonfiction, 1970, for Rising Sun
Pulitzer Prize, 1971, for Rising Sun
L.H.D. University of Alaska, 1977
National Society of Arts & Letters Gold Medal, 1977, for Adolf Hitler
Academia del Mediterrano, 1978

Selected Works:

  • Ships in the Sky,1957
  • Battle: The Story of the Bulge, 1959
  • But Not In Shame, 1961
  • The Dillinger Days, 1963
  • The Flying Tigers, 1963
  • The Last Hundred Days, 1966
  • The Battle of the Bulge, 1966
  • Rising Sun: Decline and Fall of the -Japanese Empire, 1934-45, 1970
  • Adolf Hitler, 1976
  • Hitler: The Pictorial Documentary of the Life, 1978
  • No Man's Land: 1918
  • The Last Year of the Great War, 1980
  • Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath, 1982