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‘It started as a project. It turned into a labor of love’ — Susan Croce Kelly spent years writing a biography of Lucile Morris Upton, ‘Newspaperwoman of the Ozarks’

KSMU Summer Reading broadcast on August 24, 2023 with seventh-generation Ozarker Susan Croce Kelly discussing her new biography of longtime Springfield Newspapers reporter Lucile Morris Upton and Upton's role in 20th-century Ozarks history.
Author photo courtesy Susan Croce Kelly / Book cover courtesy University of Arkansas Press / Cover image: Lucile Morris Upton circa 1933, Morris family photo collection
KSMU Summer Reading broadcast on August 24, 2023 with seventh-generation Ozarker Susan Croce Kelly discussing her new biography of longtime Springfield Newspapers reporter Lucile Morris Upton and Upton's role in 20th-century Ozarks history.

For our pop-up series KSMU Summer Reading, reporter Gregory Holman interviews Susan Croce Kelly about her new biography of a legendary Springfield journalist.

Susan Croce Kelly is a seventh-generation Ozarker and former journalist for Springfield Newspapers — the outlet now known as the Springfield News-Leader. She's also a magazine editor and author of two prize-winning books about the history of Route 66.

Kelly's latest book, "Newspaperwoman of the Ozarks," published Aug. 7 by the University of Arkansas Press, tells of the life and times of Lucile Morris Upton, who lived from 1898 until 1992.

Lucile Morris Upton, photographed March 28, 1978.
© Springfield News-Leader / USA TODAY NETWORK, available at Springfield-Greene County Library Center's From the Darkroom files.
The legendary Ozarks journalist Lucile Morris Upton, photographed March 28, 1978 by Springfield News-Leader photographer Jane Mohnen.

Like Kelly, Upton was a longtime Springfield Newspapers journalist.

Upton forged her own way as a professional woman — in a time when the world counted on newspapers to tell the public what was going on. Upton was also active in local historic preservation — and enjoyed every bit of her long journey.

BOOK TOUR: On Sept. 7 at 7 p.m., the official book launch of "Newspaperwoman of the Ozarks" takes place at theSpringfield-Greene County Library Center, 4653 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield. Kelly has several other tour dates:

  • Sept. 16 at a time to be announced, Kelly will share a book talk and book-signing at Stonecrest Book & Toy, Osage Beach.
  • Sept. 23 at 9:15 a.m. Kelly will present “Lucile and Betty — Ozarks Legends in the Flesh” at the Ozarks Studies Symposium, West Plains Civic Center, West Plains.
  • Oct. 7 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Kelly will host a book-signing at Barnes & Noble bookstore, 3055 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield.
  • Nov. 18 at a time to be announced, Kelly will present “The Ozarks’ Twentieth-Century Newspaperwoman” at the Dallas County Historical Society, Buffalo.

MORE OZARKS HISTORY? Kelly recommends "Up South in the Ozarks: Dispatches from the Margins" by Brooks Blevins, the Noel Boyd Professor of Ozarks Studies at Missouri State University. Published in Dec. 2022 by the University of Arkansas Press, this book of essays blends journalism, historical scholarship and humor. Blevins conveys the insights of a writer raised in hill country with stereotype-defying stories of marginalized characters "up south" in the Ozarks.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.