Remembering Robert M. Utley

It is with sadness that we share the news that Robert M. Utley, the preeminent historian of the West, passed away on Tuesday, June 7. Utley was the author of numerous books, including his latest published by Bison Books in 2020, The Last Sovereigns: Sitting Bull and the Resistance of Free Lakotas. The book won the 2021 Spur Award Winner for Best Historical Nonfiction from the Western Writers of America. And True West Magazine named Utley the 2020 Best Author, with The Last Sovereigns being praised as the Historical Nonfiction Book of the Year.

Bob Boze Bell of True West Magazine posted an obituary on his blog, written by Utley himself.

The University of Nebraska Press is proud to be the publisher of five more books written by Utley—all of which recently received cover updates:

After Lewis and Clark: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific (Bison Books, 2004)

The definitive study of the decisive role mountain men played in the exploration and expansion of the Western frontier. . . . Very readable and impressively detailed.”

—New York Times Book Review

Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life (Bison Books, 1991)

Historian Robert M. Utley has provided us with the best portrait to date of the real Kid, from his shrouded origins in New York City to the escalating criminal career that ended only when lawman Pat Garrett surprised him with a bullet. . . . Utley’s [book] is valuable both for its careful separation of fact from fiction . . . and for its thoughtful treatment of the Kid as an American frontier symbol.”

—Washington Post

Frontier Regulars: The United States Army and the Indian, 1866-1891 (Bison Books, 1984)

An excellent piece of scholarship and writing. Lucid, balanced, comprehensive, interpretative, and thoroughly documented, it is a scholar’s dream and a layman’s delight.”

—Library Journal

Frontiersmen in Blue: The United States Army and the Indian, 1848-1865 (Bison Books, 1981)

Along with his analysis of the general situation, Utley writes an excellent description of the frontier soldier and the army. . . . His style is unobtrusive, entertaining, and objective to an extent rarely encountered today.”

—Journal of American History

Custer and the Great Controversy: The Origin and Development of a Legend (Bison Books, 1998) was Utley’s debut, coming after six years of service as a ranger-historian at the Little Bighorn National Monument. The first edition was published in 1980 by Westernlore Press.

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