A Guide to the James Neyland Papers
James Neyland was born in Centerville, Texas, on December 4, 1939. He was an art student at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) during the late 1950s and 1960s. While at UT, Neyland was active in the Student Government and the Christian non-violent civil rights movement. He served on the council of the student groups, YMCA-YWCA, the Christian Faith and Life Community, and the Students for Direct Action. He also organized stand-ins to protest the whites-only policy of the cinemas on Guadalupe and read-ins to protest the exclusion of black students from campus dorms.
After graduating from the University in 1963, Neyland moved to New York City. He began his career as an assistant art director and later worked his way up to editorial positions at Prentice Hall, T. Y. Crowell, MacMillan, and Hawthorn New York Publishing companies. Neyland was also a part of the Greenwich Village artist scene and the “Off-Off” Broadway theatre scene as a playwright from 1961 through 1972. Among his most noticeable productions was The Assassination of Guiteau.
In 1964, Neyland married Ellen Raphael, with whom he had two children, Douglas and Laura. Divorcing ten years later, Neyland moved to Venice, California, in 1977. From that time until his death in 1997, he moved back and forth between California and Palestine, Texas. In California, he worked as an editor, author, and ghostwriter for such firms as Grosset & Dunlap, Rhapsody Romances, Roundtable Publishing, and Holloway House Publishing. Neyland also operated his own company, The Word Factory.
As a writer, Neyland covered an array of genres, such as historical fiction, science fiction, and biography. A few of Neyland’s more famous subjects included actress Bette Davis and film director Frank Capra. Neyland also covered the Dr. Robert Pendleton murder case, Texas lawman and gunfighter Christopher Columbus Rogers, and the film Battlestar Galactica. Neyland’s 1977 publication, The Carter Family Scrapbook, chronicled his relationship with the Carter family, having been invited to the inauguration ceremony and ball for President Jimmy Carter. Additionally, his personal fascination with the study of astrology led Neyland to publish Gay Signs under the nom de plume of James Kneeland. Published by Hay House, it was one of the first books of its time to focus on astrological charts for the homosexual man.
During his sporadic returns to his childhood home of Palestine, Texas, Neyland served on the Palestine Historical Commission and as president of the Museum for East Texas Culture. He wrote and published numerous historical walking tours and brochures on historic Palestine.
Moving back to California for the final time in 1993. Neyland served as editor for Melrose Square publishing company. He passed away from cancer on January 2, 1997, in Inglewood.
Both professional and personal materials compose the James Neyland Collection, 1953-1997, documenting Neyland’s career as a writer and activist. Professional materials consist of manuscripts and drafts, articles, research for Neyland’s writings, book revisions and book jackets, and published works, such as Crispus Attucks, George Washington Carver, Palestine: Historical Walking Guide, Gay Signs, Eternal Fire, and The Carter Family Scrapbook. Legal contracts are also present. Personal papers comprise correspondence, cards, and invitations. Notable correspondents include actress Bette Davis, actor Richard Webb, director Frank Capra, and members of President Jimmy Carter’s family. The collection also contains personal artwork, poetry, broadsides advertising political campaigns and performances of Neyland’s plays, unpublished writings, materials on astrology, and private journals. Digital materials include audio cassettes and micro cassettes of interviews (including several with Lillian Carter), 3.5” and 5.25” floppy disks with drafts and notes, and microfilm containing early Massachusetts historical records.
This collection open for research use.
Use of audio materials by appointment only; please contact sound archivist for more information.
Use of digital materials by appointment only; please contact digital archivist for more information.
The majority of these papers is stored remotely. Advance notice required for retrieval. Contact repository for retrieval.
James Neyland Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection processed by Savannah Gignac, December 2010. Subsequent revisions made by Stacey Helmerich, Laurel Rozema, Jocelyn Petyak, June-July 2011, Maria Soscia, May 2012, and Stefanie Lapka, October 2012.
Detailed Description of the Papers