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Warren J. Halliburton Biography

Selected writings


Professor, writer, editor

Warren J. Halliburton was one of the first authors to provide access to African-American resources to the American public. Publishing from the 1970s through the early 1990s, Halliburton offered a wide array of materials to his readers, including simply worded biographies of famous black Americans and histories of significant achievement of black Americans aimed at school-aged children. He also contributed eight volumes to the reference-based Africa Today Series. Although Halliburton's writing never gained him much critical or public attention, his books were some of the very first on the shelves of many school libraries that addressed issues important to African Americans.

Halliburton was born on August 2, 1924, in New York, New York, to Richard H., a book shipping manager, and Blanche (Watson) Halliburton. He grew up in New York during the Great Depression, and following his graduation from high school, he served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during the last years of World War II, from 1943 to 1946. After leaving the military, he enrolled at New York University. He married his first wife, Marion Jones, on December 10, 1947. They had four children: Cheryl, Stephanie, Warren, Jr., and Jena.

During his time at New York University, Halliburton was an outstanding track and field athlete and an exceptional hurdler, and he carried his love for running and jogging with him throughout his lifetime. While working on his bachelor's degree, he was active in the Phi Alpha Fraternity and traveled in the same social circles as fellow academic and author Harry B. Dunbar.

After graduating with his undergraduate degree in 1949, Halliburton took a position as an instructor in English at the historically black Prairie View Agriculture and Mechanical College (now University) in Prairie View, Texas. In 1951 he moved his family to Dallas, Texas, where he was an instructor of English at the now-defunct Bishop College, another historically black school. In 1952 he left the classroom behind to become an associate for the Institute of International Education, the organization that, among other functions, administers the Fulbright Program.

Halliburton moved back to New York City in 1953 to work as a newspaper reporter and columnist for the Recorder. Five years later, he served as a junior high school teacher and dean in a school in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, a position he held from 1958 to 1960. From 1960 to 1965 he was an associate for the New York Department of Education, and in 1967 he became an editor for the publisher McGraw Hill, Inc.

On February 11, 1971, Halliburton married his second wife, Frances Fletcher, a teacher. In that same year he returned to academia as a visiting professor of English at the all-male Hamilton College and its sister school, the all-female Kirkland College, both in Clinton, New York (the two schools merged in 1978). Returning once more to New York City in 1972, Halliburton spent he next five years filling various roles at Columbia University Teachers College. He was an editor and research associate, served as the director of a scholarly journal, a government-sponsored program, and headed up the Ethnic Studies Center. In the late 1970s Halliburton became an editor and writer for Reader's Digest, as well as a freelance editor and writer.

Halliburton has been an avid reader all his life and prolific writer since the 1960s. On his Web site Dunbar on Books, Harry B. Dunbar remembered: "I…recall, from being in a course with him at NYU more than 50 years ago, that he was even then voracious and rapid reader, and that he had absolutely no difficulty reading the torrent of books that the professor in a literature course that we took together would assign to us on the spur of the moment on any given day." Author of more than twenty books, nearly 100 short stories, and innumerable papers, monographs, reviews, workbooks, and teachers' guides, Halliburton's bibliography includes a wide range of writing styles and topics.

Serving as co-editor with Mauri E. Pelkonen, Halliburton's first published material was New Worlds of Literature. One of the earliest attempts to highlight cultural literature, the book was published in 1966 and with a revised second edition in 1970. In 1969, Halliburton published three novels: The Heist; Cry, Baby!; and Some Things that Glitter, all with the McGraw imprint. This would be his only major attempt at full-length fiction, and the books received little attention. In 1970 Halliburton was the sole author of his first major work that featured nonfiction books by and about blacks. America's Majorities and Minorities, published by Ayer Company Publishers, served as an early canon of writings that were being produced by black intellectuals who were attempting to interpret the rapid social and racial changes that had happened within the United States during the 1960s.

Perhaps influenced by his experience as a junior high school teacher in a black community of Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, Halliburton turned his attention to the audience of black youth. In 1970 he authored They Had a Dream, with Laurence Swinburne and Steve Broudy, which recounted true stories about black Americans and their achievements. The Picture Life of Jesse Jackson, first published in 1972 with a second edition released in 1984, is aimed at second- to fourth-graders and provides a simple biography of Rev. Jesse Jackson, including numerous photos. The treatment of Jackson's life avoids most charged political issues and focuses on the details of his life rather than his political agenda.

Halliburton followed the publication of The History of Black Americans, published in 1973, with Harlem: A History of Broken Dreams, published in 1974. In his history of Harlem, Halliburton traces the development of this six-square mile section of Manhattan from a Dutch encampment to the home of over a half million black Americans. In that same year, Halliburton also published Pathways to the World of English. Along with his busy writing schedule, Halliburton also continued his education at Columbia University during the 1970s, earning his Master of Education in 1975 and his Doctor of Education in 1977.

In 1978 Halliburton published The Fighting Redtails: America's First Black Airmen, an illustrated history of the 332nd Fighter Group, a World War II all-black combat unit that gained recognition. The following year he authored a biography of Daniel James, Jr., the first black American to achieve the rank of a four-star general. His The Picture Life of Michael Jackson, published in 1984 and once again aimed at elementary school-aged children, is heavily dependent on photos, with brief text outlining the pop star's life to date.

At a Glance …

Born on August 2, 1924, in New York, NY; son of Richard H. and Blanche (Watson) Halliburton; married Marion Jones, December 20, 1947; married Frances Fletcher, February 11, 1971; children (first marriage): Cheryl, Stephanie, Warren, Jr., Jena. Education: New York University, BS, 1949; Columbia University, MEd, 1975, DEd, 1977. Military Service: U.S. Army Air Forces, 1943-46.

Career: Prairie View A&M College (now University), instructor in English, 1949; Bishop College, instructor in English, 1951; Institute of International Education, associate, 1952; Recorder (New York, NY, newspaper), reporter and columnist, 1953; high school in Brooklyn, teacher and dean, 1958-60; New York City Board of Education, coordinator, and New York State Department of Education, associate, 1960-65; McGraw Hill, Inc., editor, 1967; Hamilton-Kirkland Colleges, visiting professor of English, 1971-72; Columbia University, editor, research associate, and director of scholarly journal, government program, and Ethnic Studies Center, 1972-77; Reader's Digest, editor and writer; freelance editor and writer.

Addresses: Home—Wilton, CT.

Halliburton followed his recounting of the events surrounding Custer's last stand in The Tragedy of Little Bighorn, published in 1989, with another biography of a prominent black American, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, published in 1993. In 1992 and 1993 Halliburton published eight titles in the Africa Today Series, with topics ranging from wildlife to industries to city and village life. The series, which is aimed at fourth- to sixth-graders, attempts to make complex issues accessible to school-aged children. In his last publication, Historic Speeches of African Americans, Halliburton compiles speeches by such famous black Americans as W. E. B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X.

Although many of his books have gone out of print, Halliburton's prolific literary offerings marked an important place in the growth and development of a core of nonfiction writings focused on African and African-American topics.

Selected writings

(Editor, with Mauri E. Pelkonen) New Worlds of Literature, Harcourt, 1966.

The Heist (novel), McGraw, 1969.

Cry, Baby! (novel), McGraw, 1969.

Some Things that Glitter (novel), illustrated by Elzia Moon, McGraw, 1969.

(With William L. Katz) American Majorities and Minorities: A Syllabus of United States History for Secondary Schools, Arno, 1970.

(With Laurence Swinburne and Steve Broudy) They Had a Dream, Pyramid Publications, 1970.

(Editor and contributor) America's Color Caravan, four volumes, Singer Graflex, 1971.

The Picture Life of Jesse Jackson, F. Watts, 1972, 1984.

The History Black Americans, Harcourt, 1973.

(With Ernest Kraiser) Harlem: A History of Broken Dreams, Doubleday, 1974.

Pathways to the World of English, Globe, 1974.

The Fighting Redtails: America's First Black Airmen, illustrated by John Gampert, Contemporary Perspectives, 1978.

Flight to the Stars: The Life of Daniel James, Jr., Contemporary Perspectives, 1979.

The Picture Life of Michael Jackson, F. Watts, 1984.

The Tragedy of Little Bighorn, F. Watts, 1989.

Africa's Struggle for Independence, Africa Today Series, Crestwood, 1992.

African Wildlife, Africa Today Series, Crestwood, 1992.

Celebrations of African Heritage, Africa Today Series, Crestwood, 1992.

Nomads of the Sahara, Africa Today Series, Crestwood, 1992.

African Industries, Africa Today Series, Crestwood, 1993.

African Landscapes, Africa Today Series, Crestwood, 1993.

Africa's Struggle to Survive, Africa Today Series, Crestwood, 1993.

City and Village Life, Africa Today Series, Crestwood, 1993. Clarence Thomas: Supreme Court Justice, Enslow, 1993.

(Compiler and introduction) Historic Speeches of African Americans, F. Watts, 1993.



Booklist, March 1, 1993; April 15, 1993; June 1, 1993; April 1, 1994.

School Library Journal, July 1994; August 1984; February 1985; February 1993; May 1993; July 1993; September 1993.


Contemporary Authors Online, Gale Group, http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC (December 3, 2004).

"The Evolution of Black Nonfiction Books in the Twentieth Century," Dunbar on Books: A Monthly Online Newsletter, www.queenhyte.com/dobb/dobb_03/dobb_dec03.html (December 3, 2004).

"Spotlight on Warren J. Halliburton," Dunbar on Books: A Monthly Online Newsletter, www.queenhyte.com/dobb/dobb_archives/dobb_01/dec_01.htm (December 3, 2004).

—Kari Bethel

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