Walter Wendell's Home Page

Walter Wendell Arnett
(May 5, 1912 - July 10, 1998)

an annotated and illustrated biography



Walter Wendell Arnett was born a hundred years ago today on May 5, 1912, in Salyersville, Magoffin County, Kentucky.  On July 10, 1998, at the age of 86 he died at home suddenly of aortic stenosis.  He had Alzheimer’s disease for the previous three or four years, but had a remarkable memory for past events.  Just a few hours before he died I had been talking with him about some of these remote memories and wrote down one of the last comments he made, “I remember it well.”  Indeed, he had a great gift for detailed memory and over the years had shared his memories especially of his childhood in letters to newspapers and stories we recorded.  In 1975, upon hearing my telling about a Navy Medical Admiral’s dementia, he wrote out detailed memories of his experiences with the “Ghost Army” in WWII.

The following narrative of his life growing up in Salyersville and his career as an artist is an annotated compilation of his memories as well as a series of slide shows of his art work and photos of him, the town, and his family.  When I was in my mid twenties, he gave me a journal that his grandfather, H.G. Arnett, had written at the age of 82.  I “published” an annotated copy of this journal and H.G.’s “Well Remembered Life” on our “Family and Friends” internet site in 1998 shortly after Wendell’s death. In one of his letters H.G. stated that the earliest Arnett he knew about was a David Arnett whose father had immigrated from Scotland just after the Revolutionary War which would have been sometime after 1781.  David and his wife Letitia (nee Green probably) had moved from Virginia to Harlan County in the early 1800’s, and David’s two sons, Stephen and Reuben, had come to what is now Magoffin County (was Morgan and Floyd Co at the time) shortly after the birth in 1814 of their son, Ambrose, H.G. Arnett’s father.

Over course of  this 2012-13 100th anniversary year I’ve uploaded most of the remainder of dad’s illustrious and illustrated life.  This is still a work in progress, and I'll continue to add more material* and tweak what's here (including grammatical, spelling, and typo errors.*)  His mother, Lucy Jones Arnett, named him Walter Wendell in honor of a classmate at Ohio Wesleyan who had lost an infant son by the same name.  Until WWA enlisted in the Army in 1942, he went by the name “Wendell.”  Subsequently, the Army called him by his first name, “Walter,” and that name continued to be the one he went by at his work at the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times for the thirty-two years of his employment.  However, at home and among his friends at church and elsewhere, he continued to be “Wendell.”  In signing most of his personal artwork he used the full name of “Walter Wendell Arnett.”

*As you come across these errors in the copy, send me a note so I can try to correct them. As I continue to find articles, letters, and interesting photos, I'll add them to the collection.  There's probably a years worth of work yet to do, but it's enjoyable.

                                                                                                                                                                        John Wendell Arnett
                                                                                                                                                                        Louisville, Kentucky
                                                                                                                                                                        arnettj1@gmail.com
                                                                                                                                                                         May 5, 2012 -- April 27, 2013


Contents of pages:

Origins:  Ancestors, parents, Salyersville, store, house
1912-1931:  Growing up in Salyersville, siblings
1931-1933:  Georgetown College & Art Academy of Cincinnati
1933-1937:  Advertising Art School Nashville - early jobs
1937-1942:  Nashville - Leila
1942-1945:  Ghost Army Days
1945-1998:  Courier-Journal, Louisville Times, and later years
Cartoons, Marty Lynn, Free Lance
Biographical Portraits
Caricatures and CHBC
Sports Paintings
Novelties and Collections

Timeline of Walter Wendell Arnett's Life:

May 5, 1912.............born in Salyersville, Magoffin Co, KY
1924.........................won pony with lucky movie ticket
1927.........................Lindbergh’s solo flight across Atlantic
October 1929...........Stock Market crash and onset of Great Depression
_____........................Lone Scout
Spring 1931...............graduated from Magoffin Baptist Institute
Fall, 1931..................Freshman at Georgetown College, KY
Fall, 1932..................entered Art Academy of Cincinnati
Summer 1933............attended World’s Fair in Chicago (Wheeler paid for train)
Fall, 1933..................entered Advertising Art School, Nashville, TN
Spring 1935...............Finished at Advertising Art School; spent fall in Salyersville
1935-1937.................worked at home; job in Louisville; hernia surgery
Summer 1937-42.......working for Robert G. Fields Advertising Agency in Nashville
June 10, 1939............married Leila Katherine Routh in Oklahoma City, OK
Dec 7, 1941..............Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and US entry to WWII
Oct 1942...................WWA enlisted in Army and called “Walt”
1943-44....................Stationed at Fort George Meade, MD
May 1944..................transported to Britain
June, 1944.................John born in Richmond, VA (Walt at Swansea, Wales)
Aug 1944.................. landed at Utah Beach, Normandy
Dec 1944.................. Luxembourg and Paris
Spring, 1945...............Trier
, Germany
May 8, 1945..............VE Day
Aug 6 & 9..................Atomic bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Aug 14 (Sept 2)..........VJ Day (surrender ceremony aboard USS Missouri)
August 1945...............discharged from Army
Fall, 1945...................began working at Courier-Journal & Times: Promotion Dept
Aug, 1946..................Mary Lou born in Louisville, KY
April-May, 1951.........Towboat trip down Ohio and Mississipi:  info for comic strip
June, 1951..................Elaine born in Louisville, KY
1951-55.....................drawing and trying to sell “Marty Lynn” cartoon strip
Aug 1953....................move from N. Crestmoor to Hillcrest Ave
1958...........................biographical paintings idea emerged and first three painted
1971.......................... move to the Advertising Dept at The Louisville Times
1973...........................Sam Rayburn and portraits on leather era began (lasted ten years)
1973...........................moved to the Editorial News Art Department at Lou Times
1973...........................Secretariat poster painted
1975...........................wrote his memoir of the Ghost Army in WWII
June, 1977.................. retired from the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times
Spring 1978................ Joe Hall and 1978 UK Champ team poster:  Framehouse Gallery
Spring 1980................ Denny Crum and 1980 UL Championship team poster
1989 ...........................Leila and Wendell celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary
1995............................last biographical portrait (Bob Russell); onset of Alzheimer’s
July 10, 1998...............died at home on Hillcrest


                                    Slide Shows:

Arnett Ancestors
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157629963921279/show/

Lucy Jones family
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157629963943665/show/

Salyersville
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157629599566938/show/

Helen & Don Donaldson
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157629964004643/show/

Ruth & CV Schoppe
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157629599655246/show/

Oaks & Gracie Hickman
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157629964026723/show/

Paul & Ruth Gillum
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157629599631012/show/

Bernice
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157629963990751/show/

WWA Artwork and photos Slideshows:

WWA 1912-1931
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157629537071420/show/

WWA 1931-1933
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157631976541353/show/

WWA 1933-1938
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157631976692411/show/

WWA 1939-1942
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157631976877679/show/

WWA 1942-1945
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157631976204583/show/

WWA 1945-1958 (Promotion Dept at Courier-Journal)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157632556977377/show/

WWA "Captain Marty Lynn" Adventure 1951-1955
After working at the Courier during the day, Walter worked on his dream project in the evenings -- an adventure comic strip about Captain Marty Lynn and his experiences aboard a towboat on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. In the spring of 1951 Walter took a towboat trip from Louisville to New Orleans to gather background material for his strip. These are some of the hundreds of strips he drew but was unable to sell to various newspaper syndicates.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157632558848281/show/

WWA 1959-1970 (Promotion Dept at Courier)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157632557312069/show/

WWA 1971-1977 (Advertising and then News Art and Editorial Art Department of Courier)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157632557562553/show/

Walter Wendell Arnett retired from The Courier-Journal in 1977 and continued his painting. The areas of his interests are grouped into the following categories:

WWA Biographical Portraits (pre leather era) 1960-1967
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157632562799146/show/

WWA Biographical Portraits (leather era) 1960, 1961, 1967-1981, 1991
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157632562846320/show/

WWA Biographical Portraits (post leather era) 1978-1996
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157632563054052/show/

Caricatures
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157632562442382/show/

WWA Sports paintings 1962-1986
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157632563412066/show/

WWA Cartoons other than Marty Lynn
In the last weeks of his life someone mentioned that he was an artist, and Wendell scrawled on a piece of paper, "No I'm a cartoonist." His ambition as a child was to become a cartoonist, and his ever present sense of humor allowed him to fulfill that dream. In one of his cartoons he laughs at the situation of another rejection letter from the Saturday Evening Post.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157632563580870/show/

WWA Mt Rushmore - Stone Mtn - Burma Shave, and other novelty paintings/projects
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157632563893720/show/

WWA Free Lance (miscellaneous) & Ky. Bapt. Convention work
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157632559544575/show/

WWA nature and animal paintings
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157632559733773/show/

WWA Miscellaneous 1978-1998

 

Leila's Life Story in three parts:

1917 - 1937:  Dallas, El Paso, Oklahoma, Texas
1935 - 1945:  Texas, Ridgecrest, Nashville, Baltimore, Richmond, Oklahoma, Texas
1945 - 2011:  Louisville (Crestmoor, Hillcrest)

Leila's Siblings and other Kin: 
Lucile & Clinton Burnett
Ross Routh & Fay
Elizabeth & Christy Pool
Porter & Ruth
Copass & Rhett
Aunt Leila & Uncle Mac (B.B. McKinney)
Aunt Katie (Wroe) & Uncle Ryland House

Pool family archive at Duke University (established in 2012):
http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/poolfamily/

Leila Slideshows:

Leila 1917-1943
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157630046218447/show/

Leila 1944-1977
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157630108632072/show/

Leila 1978-1987
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157630108652358/show/

Leila 1988-1997
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157630046383331/show/

Leila 1999-2003
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157630046406973/show/

Leila 2004-2011
http://www.flickr.com/photos/59496800@N04/sets/72157630152486164/show/

see photo of Walt at 18..(close-up)
and Bernice with her velveteen rabbit.

UofL painting in the Collection

Peter Boardman website
http://peteboardman.weebly.com/






Genealogy Notes

* Known immigrants are indicated by italics in lists below.



Other Associated Genealogies


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revised 5/5/2012 - 5/4/2013