He attended school from 1930-38 at St. Mary's Academy, a boarding school for Native American girls at Sacred Heart. He was one of several farm boys enrolled there. Sacred Heart was near a Benedictine mission to the Citizen Band Potowatomie Tribe. For high school, he was bused to Konawa High School. He graduated in 1942. He returned to farming after a brief sojourn to college and after his father's death.
In 1943, he joined the U. S. Army, serving in combat in World War II. He was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Purple Heart after being wounded in 1945. (These injuries included broken legs, foot, ankle, facial burns, and temporary blindness.) He was discharged in 1945.
After the war, he attended the University of Oklahoma, receiving a B. A. in 1948.
He married Marie Unzner in 1948, to whom he is still married. They have six grown children.
From 1948-1962, he worked in a variety of journalist positions. He was a reporter for the Borger News Herald in Borger, TX (1948), city editor for the Morning Press-Constitution in Lawton, OK (1948-50), political reporter for UPI in Oklahoma City (1950-52), UPI bureau manager in Santa Fe, NM (1952-4), political reporter and then, editor for the Santa Fe New Mexican (1954-63).
In 1963, he returned to graduate school in English at the University of New Mexico. He was an assistant to the University president at the same time. He joined the journalism faculty of UNM in 1966 after receiving his M.A. He taught there until 1987, serving as department chair from 1976-81.
Although he says he feels great for the shape he's in, his health has been a concern. He told PBS in 1996, "
I am 71, have now-and-then rhematic arthritis but now very badly, have
in-remission cancer, have had a minor heart attack, have one mediocre
eye, one tricky ankle and two unreliable knees due to being blown up in
His memoirs were published in October, 2001. It won the Agatha Award for Best Non-Fiction.
He resides in Albuquerque, NM.
See Awards for more information.
Sources: The Tony Hillerman Companion, Contemporary Authors,and Online Q and A with Tony Hillerman. See Criticism, Profiles, and Interviews for complete citations.