Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 5, Number 2, Fall, 1993 Page: 41
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Book reviews by Evelyn Oppenheimer (pictured
with Ralph Gilliland, who purchased McMurray's
in 1955) drew hundreds of book lovers.
of printing, and E. L. DeGolyer, looking for Western
With individuals like these frequenting the
shop, it was not surprising that some of the giants of
Texas writing-J. Frank Dobie, Walter Prescott
Webb, and Tom Lea-stopped by when in town.
Editors and press directors also came, including
John McGinnis and Allen Maxwell from SMU,
Savoie Lottinville from the University of Oklahoma
Press, and Frank Wardlaw from the University of
Texas Press.33 Even J. Evetts Haley, who was always
ready to express his dislike for Dallas, visited
the shop on occasion. Such comings and goings also
provided McMurray with the news she needed to
keep her network of friends informed so they felt
part of the bookish activity centered in the store.
"Evetts was in here between trains for just an hour
the other day. He looked fine and it was mighty good
to see him," McMurray wrote to Carl Hertzog after
one of Haley's visits.34
Still others, like J. B. Priestley, the English
novelist and playwright, discovered McMurray' s on
their own as soon as they arrived. While his wife,
Jacquetta Hawkes, went to Santa Fe, Priestley came
to Dallas, both gathering material for Journey Down
a Rainbow, their collaborative book of opinions and
impressions based on travel around the Southwest.
After checking in at the Adolphus, Priestley made
his discovery: "Opposite my hotel, quite small, only
one room, was a bookshop, the real thing. Now and
again one comes across these small bookshops in
America, usually run by women who have a genuine
interest in literature, and, like the one I found in
Dallas, they are generally places where people drop
in for a gossip. There is much to be said in their
favour.... There is a world of difference between
stores operated by sellers of merchandise and shops
kept by shopkeepers. Books properly belong to the
latter; they are not merchandise. I found some companionable
souls in this little bookshop, and popped
across all the more often because I took a strong
dislike to my hotel."35
In 1955 McMurray sold her shop to Ralph
Gilliland in order to move to Boston with her husband,
William Weber Johnson, who had been
Southwest Bureau Chief for Life and Time, Inc. and
had just accepted a position as chief of the New
England bureau. After nearly eighteen years in business,
she had one of the half dozen most famous
bookshops in the nation, referred to in the Dallas
press as a "local institution, like Neiman-Marcus, if
not quite so chic."36 In addition to her innovative and
lively bookselling activities, McMurray had instituted
the McMurray Prize awarded by the Texas
Institute of Letters for the best Texas first novel, had
engaged in the occasional publishing of interesting
books under the imprint of the Peripatetic Press (in
collaboration with Everette DeGolyer), had helped
organize the highly successful Southwest Book Fair
in 1945, had served on the board of Margo Jones's
Theatre-in-the-Round, and had housed the theater's
downtown box office in her small shop. In these and
dozens of other ways, Liz Ann McMurray made
significant contributions to the cultural activity of
Dallas, and much of her impact centered around
books, their writing, making, reading, and collecting.
A FTER HER DEPARTURE, McMurray's Personal
Book Shop was managed by Ralph
Gilliland and his nephew, William R. Gilliland.
They continued the tradition of quality service and
assumed key roles in such activities as the Dallas
Book and Author Luncheons as well as in the Dallas
observations of National Library Week, all of which
drew national attention. Bill Gilliland was particularly
instrumental in bringing attention to "sleepers"
which thereafter moved onto national bestseller
lists. These included The Story ofBridie Murphy and
Jules Pfeiffer's Sick, Sick, Sick. During this time he
even gave employment to writers like William Goyen
and Larry McMurtry. In 1962 Doubleday acquired
controlling interest in McMurray's, which was
eventually relocated to the NorthPark shopping mall,
following the general dispersal of small downtown
Dallas businesses to outlying areas.
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Dallas County Heritage Society. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 5, Number 2, Fall, 1993, periodical, 1993; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35115/m1/43/: accessed June 26, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.