Walker A. Tompkins was born on July 10, 1909 in Prosser, Yakima County, Washington. He was the son of Charle E. and Bertha Tompkins who had moved to Washington from Missouri. Tompkins grew up on a wheat farm in Walla Walla County before moving with his family to Turlock, California in 1920. He began his writing career in Turlock, at the age of fourteen, as a reporter for the Daily Journal. At the age of 21, he sold his first western novel to Street and Smith of New York, just before beginning college at Washington State. He also attended Modesto Junior College.
In 1931, Tompkins went to work at the (Portland) Sunday Oregonian. He also wrote fiction on the side for magazines, books, radio, and later, television. During the 1930s, he worked his way around the world, travelling to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Dutch East Indies. He wrote western pulp stories during these journeys and collected his fees for them on the fly. At the beginning of World War II, Tompkins was drafted into the Army where he served as a correspondent in Europe for three years. Following the war, he settled in Santa Barbara, California where he began concentrating on local history.
Dubbed "Two-Gun Tompkins" early in his career for his prodigious output of pulp westerns, he wrote western fiction for 30 years before switching to history and biography. He was best known for his work in the latter field, especially his regional histories which focused on the Santa Barbara area. His many works include: Goleta: The Good Land (1966), Santa Barbara Past and Present (1975), It Happened in Old Santa Barbara (1976), Stagecoach Days in Santa Barbara County (1982),and Santa Barbara History Makers (1983). While working on his many projects, he also held a job as a reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press from 1957 to 1973, where he was the author of the column "Santa Barbara Yesterdays." Tompkins was greatly interested in the history of Santa Barbara's neighborhoods and sought to encourage his readers and listeners to appreciate the unique attributes of each. To this end, he published his twelve-pamphlet series, Santa Barbara's Neighborhoods, originally published between 1977 and 1980.
Tompkins served on the board of directors for the Santa Barbara Historical Society and the Santa Barbara County Landmarks Advisory Committee. In 1975, he was honored by the California State Legislature for his contributions in the area of regional history. Walker A. Tompkins died in Santa Barbara, California on November 24, 1988.
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