One of the interesting things about looking into the lives of Robert E. Howard’s contemporaries is finding out that some of the things a certain biographer described as odd were actually fairly common. Take, for instance, the fact that Howard’s mother stayed with him while he attended high school away from home in Brownwood. De Camp uses this to help paint Howard as a “momma’s boy,” but articles from the Brownwood Bulletin show that this practice wasn’t all that uncommon. For example, the Curtis brothers from Rising Star, both future editors of the Yellow Jacket and going to school in Brownwood, also had to share rooms with their mother. It even appears that Hester spent at least one week back in Cross Plains while Bob was in Brownwood alone. This may have happened more than once.
Another thing that much has been made of is Bob’s bachelorhood. De Camp, at least, thinks it strange that a thirty-year-old was unmarried. If Tevis Clyde Smith, who had been married twice before he turned thirty, is the yardstick, then yes, Howard was strange, but when you look at his other friends, he fits right in. Truett Vinson, a year older than Bob, didn’t get married until 1949. Austin Newton, also a year older than Bob, not until 1940. Austin who? Read on.
Beginning in the spring of 1978, L. Sprague de Camp began a conversation with Austin Newton of Monahans, Texas. Born on August 6, 1905, and raised in Cross Cut, Newton had known Howard during elementary and high school. He told de Camp that he and Bob Howard played cowboys and Indians, went fishing and hiking, etc. Bob had a great imagination, read a lot, and knew plenty about boxing. The boys sparred on occasion. He described Mrs. Howard as “refined and well-read,” and stated that Doctor Howard was considered a fine physician; Newton’s brother was even named after the doctor. Newton also provided a few details about the Howards’ home near the cemetery in Cross Cut, the school the boys attended, and other little details of life in the backwoods of Brown County where his father, Oscar, ran a family farm.
In 1919, after four years in the vicinity of Cross Cut, the Howards moved to Cross Plains, leaving Newton as the only student in the upper grades at the Cross Cut school. Like Cross Plains High, the Cross Cut school only went as far as the tenth grade, so Newton and Howard were reunited in Brownwood, where they both went to pick up the extra year of schooling required for college admittance; however, according to Newton, the boys were unable to renew their friendship. Newton was interested in athletics, Howard not so much. In the school’s yearbook, Newton is listed in the “Latin and Science Course; D. L. S. ’23; Basket Ball ’23; Base Ball ’23; Heels Club.” He is mentioned in a few articles from the school’s paper, The Tattler, as well (reprinted in School Days in the Post Oaks). We all know what happened with Bob Howard after his graduation from BHS, but what about Austin Newton?
Following his May 1923 graduation from BHS, Newton went to school at the newly opened McMurry College in Abilene. What follows is all the information I’ve found on Newton from various newspapers and yearbooks. The listings are formatted as follows:
Publication – date
“Article title”: “Quote from article” [or summary of relevant portion.]
The War-Whoop [student paper of McMurry College] – Oct. 19, 1923
“The Philomathians Have Good Program”: [Newton takes part in a debate: “Resolved that a chicken can roost on a round pole better than on a square pole.” Newton was on the affirmative side. No winner was declared.]
“Ministerial Council Meets”: [. . .] Scripture reading by Austin Newton. [. . .]
The War-Whoop – May 3, 1924
“Opera Tues. Night Draws Large Crowd”: [Newton in the chorus.]
“Five Students Given Exam. At Baird Meeting”: “Five ministerial students and members of the Life Service Band here took the examination for license to preach in this conference.” [Including Austin Newton.]
The War-Whoop – May 24, 1924
“Indian Head Club Holds Stag Party”: [. . .] “Austin Newton was the honor guest, being asked to attend because of his efforts to make every team. Newton came out for football, baseball and basketball. Although he did not make letters in either sport, he never missed a practice and did his best when he knew there was no chance for reward.” [. . .]
“Freshmen Lose Close Baseball Contest Here”: [Newton plays centerfield after freshmen challenge sophomore and academy classes; they lost 9 to 8.]
The War-Whoop – Oct. 4, 1924
“Year’s Work Begun by the Philo Men”: [The Boy’s Philomathian Literary Society elected Austin Newton sergeant-at-arms.]
The War-Whoop – Oct. 18, 1924
“College League Extends Invitation to Studes”: [Austin Newton chosen for Fourth Department.]
The War-Whoop – Nov. 8, 1924
“Effulgent Effusions”: “Applications will be made for Carnegie medals for Robert Young, ‘Red’ Barnett, Anthony Hunt, John Bailey, and Austin Newton. These stalwart young men traveled the four hundred miles to Alpine and back in the college ford. To our minds this is the greatest feat of bravery since Washington crossed the Delaware. Also none of the preachers along uttered one word of profanity.”
The Totem – 1925
[Quote with Newton’s photo (at top of this post): “If matters go badly now, it will not always be so.” Listed with Philomathian Society, Volunteer Life Service Band, Indian Head Association, football, basketball, and baseball.]
The War-Whoop – May 16, 1925
“Personals”: “Leo Tucker of Ovalo spent the weekend with Austin Newton.”
The War-Whoop – Nov. 14, 1925
“Quartets Are Selected Friday”: On November 6 Austin Newton tried out for the school’s quartet. He didn’t get it.
The War-Whoop – Dec. 19, 1925
“President Hunt Serves as Toastmaster”: [3rd Annual Football Banquet] “President J. W. Hunt, in his superb and inimitable style, was the able toastmaster for the occasion. He introduced first the man who ‘is so fortunate as to be named after two distinguished men,’ Austin Newton, who toasted, with apologies to Kipling, and from an Indian’s viewpoint, the Pep Squad and the Band.” [. . .]
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