Montana Public Radio

Author William Kittredge Dies At 88

Dec 7, 2020

Author, educator, and essayist William Kittredge died Friday in Missoula at the age of 88. Kittredge was raised in Oregon, but ended his life as a Montana icon.

William Kittredge was a towering presence – and not just in the literary realm.

"They called him "The Buffalo," you know, because he had that kind of forward-leaning energy and that big head, with a big shock of hair on it," says Kittredge's friend and colleague Lois Welch.

Welch is a University of Montana professor emeritus who for years directed UM’s creative writing program. She remembers Kittredge as a truly macho Western man who was raised on a southeastern Oregon ranch.

"Early he did all of those things you see in Westerns: the horse riding, the herding, the camaraderie of guys riding horses."

But Kittredge eventually grew disillusioned with, and wrote about, what he viewed as irresponsible ranching and farming practices, and his writing challenged prevailing myths of the American West.

Among his many accomplishments, Kittredge co-edited The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology and created the anthology’s name which is loved by Montanans. 

"Many of his students remember terrific advice," Welch says. "He certainly launched – with a good kick to the back end – a raft of really good writers."

His work was published in magazines ranging from The Atlantic, to Harpers and Esquire. He co-produced the movie A River Runs Through It and received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Montana Book Festival in 2017.

Kittredge’s family is planning a memorial service for sometime after the pandemic when people can safely gather and celebrate.