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Obituaries

R. Locke, 68; Editor, Author of History of the Navajo

June 15, 2002|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Raymond Friday Locke, author of the definitive history of the Navajo people and a veteran editor of Holloway House, a Los Angeles-based publisher, has died. He was 68.

Locke, whose 1976 "Book of the Navajo" is now in its sixth edition, died June 8 in Palm Springs of cardiac arrest, the publishing company announced. He was a resident of Studio City.

A native of Montgomery County, Miss., Locke attended the universities of Mississippi and Wisconsin, and as an adult became involved with Native American causes.

He was a member of the Navajo Tribal Ad Hoc Committee studying the social, economic and cultural effects of the relocation of Navajos from their native lands to reservations. He also served on the boards of the Urban Indian Development Assn. and the American Indian Scholarship Fund.

Locke used his abilities as a writer and historian to craft "Book of the Navajo," which is used extensively as a high school and college textbook in Native American studies. In 1989, he wrote a follow-up called "Sweet Salt: Discovering the Sacred World of the Navajo," about tribal spirituality.

A popular lecturer on the history of the American West and Native Americans, Locke was the founding editor of the history magazine Mankind. He also edited its "Great Adventures of Mankind" series. He joined Holloway House after the publisher acquired Mankind Publishing. Holloway published "Book of the Navajo."

Founded in 1959, Holloway House originally published books about Hollywood, but began working toward a more diverse market with publication in 1968 of Louis Lomax's "To Kill a Black Man."

The company became a major venue for aspiring black authors, and published several volumes by popular "ghetto realist" novelists Robert Beck (also known as Iceberg Slim) and Donald Goines.

With the acquisition of Mankind, which was devoted to publishing works by and about Native Americans, Holloway House became the only national paperback publisher devoted exclusively to multicultural fare.

The company tested the Spanish-language market but backed out, Locke told The Times in 1993, because "we found that market to be a very difficult market. If you write about Mexican culture, you're not going to sell to Cuba. There's no common cultural bond."

In addition to his 20 years as editor for the publishing house, Locke also had worked as managing editor of the Hollywood Reporter.

He wrote more than a dozen books, including the novels "Streets Paved with Gold" and "Seldom Sung Songs." "Streets" was turned into the 1965 Russ Meyer cult film "Mud Honey," with Locke and Meyer co-writing the screenplay.

Locke is survived by two sisters and two brothers.

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