Nebraska Authors

Wilbur G. Gaffney

AKA: Wilbur George Gaffney

Born 1906-01-01 Burlington, IA (USA)

Died 1986-02-13
Lincoln, NE (USA)

Gaffney was another protege of the University of Nebraska's Lowry Wimberly. He met up with Nebraska writer Rudolph Umland during Umland's travels as a hobo in the depths of the Great Depression. Umland preserved one of Gaffney's drawings from that time in his scrapbook. Gaffney was also a participant in the rambling discussions that accompanied late night visits to Wyuka Cemetery and country walks recounted by Loren Eiseley and Rudolph Umland, among the Lincoln writers of the late 1920s and the 1930s.

After graduating from the University of Nebraska in 1927, Gaffney went east and pursued a twenty year career as an editor. He joined the staff of the magazine American Mercury when H.L. Mencken was still editor. He edited the American Writers Series for the American Book Company. He worked as a librarian and writer for the Army and the Air Force during the war years. He also worked as a freelance editor.

He taught at New York University, City College of New York, among others, and returned to the University of Nebraska in 1949 to teach English. The Gaff (as he was sometimes known) refused to pursue a doctorate, and his status at the University suffered somewhat for that. But he was greatly appreciated by students, and seemed to attract to himself many of those students who were serious about creative careers. Glenna Luschei wrote (letter to Jane Geske, March 26, 1986) that it was Gaffney who introduced her to Ted Kooser, which led to her publishing Kooser's A Local Habitation and a Name. He taught Gail Rock and Marilyn Coffey at UNL. Many other writers remember him fondly. Ted Kooser served as his literary executor.
In many ways Gaffney was a successor to Lowry Wimberly as a literary mentor for Nebraska writers, though his importance in this role is more a matter of oral tradition than it should be.

Gaffney served as an associate editor of Prairie Schooner 1955-56. Wilbur and Elizabeth Gaffney are the donors of the big display case in the Heritage Room.


Places Lived

Lincoln, NE
New York, NY
Catskill Mountains (place), NY

Author Of

  • Poetry
  • Nonfiction
  • Other


English Criticism; Encyclopedia Entries; Poetry; Editor; Literary Criticism


Bachelor of Arts in English, 1927, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
Master of Arts Degree, 1928, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE



Places Worked

University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, 1958-1974
New York University
College of the City of New York, New York, NY
University of California
American Mercury Magazine
American Book Company
Vanguard Press
Stackpole and Heck Publishers


Annis Chaikin Sorensen Award for Distinguished Teaching the Humanities, 1974


Loren Eiseley
Lowry Wimberly
Rudolph Umland
Gail Rock
Marilyn Coffey
Ted Kooser
David Wiltse
Glenna Luschei
Kathleen Cain
Jim McKee
Thomas Woodward (lawyer)


The Allegory of the Christ-Knight In Piers Plowman. 1931.
Twelve Hundred Years: The Literature of England. 1948.
The Fillmore County Story. 1968.

Poetry published in:
Life Magazine
New York Times
Adventure Magazine

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Wilbur G. Gaffney

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(e.g. Author is buried in Fremont, not in David City / Also wrote for the Daily Nebraskan during her time as a student)