Noted Walla Walla author, historian dies

Grover C. 'Bill' Gulick's life work included three novels made into popular movie westerns.

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WALLA WALLA — Grover C. “Bill” Gulick, a Walla Walla resident who became a nationally known western author, playwright and historian, died Friday.

Gulick died at age 97 in the Washington Odd Fellows Home in Walla Walla. Arrangements are pending at Herring Groseclose Funeral Home.

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Grover C. "Bill" Gulick is seen at his home in this 1987 photograph.

During his writing career, Gulick had 20 novels published with three made into movies. His other works included seven nonfiction books, three historical dramas, five movie scripts, an autobiography and hundreds of articles and stories.

Gulick was born Feb. 22, 1916, in Kansas City, Mo., and during his childhood attended schools in Kansas and Oklahoma. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1942 and moved to New York City to work as a writer for the Saturday Evening Post.

He then moved to Tacoma to write a serial on the history of the Pacific Northwest. During that time met Jeanne Abbott, whom he married in 1946.

According to his biography on the Northwest Digital Archives, Gulick’s research brought him to Walla Walla and the library and archives at Whitman College in the late 1940s. The Gulicks moved from Tacoma to Walla Walla in 1949 and made it their permanent home.

“We got tired of the rain and fog of the Puget Sound,” Gulick told a Union-Bulletin reporter in 2000. “A writer has to have something to write about. Walla Walla gives me that history.”

Gulick’s 1950 novel “Bend of the Snake” became the basis for the 1952 movie “Bend of the River,” starring James Stewart, Rock Hudson and Arthur Kennedy.

A second story, “The Road to Denver,” was made into a 1955 western of the same name.

A third novel, “The Hallelujah Train,” became the basis of the 1965 film “The Hallelujah Trail” starring Burt Lancaster, Lee Remick and Bill Hutton.

Two other works, “Hotel de Paree” and “Sundance and the Greenhorn Trader,” were turned into television episodes.

Gulick’s “Snake River Country” won the 1971 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award as best nonfiction book. Other later works included “Chief Joseph Country” and “Land of the Nez Percé” in 1981, “A Traveler’s History of Washington” published in 1996, and “Roll On Columbia,” published in 1997.

Locally, Gulick was known as the author of “Trails West,” a tribute to Marcus Whitman and the Indian heritage of the Walla Walla area.

Along with writing the summer musical, which debuted in 1976, Gulick and local architect Gerald Mosman were responsible for choosing the design of the Fort Walla Walla amphitheater, where the show was staged daily from July to September before it closed in 1977.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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