“We want our loved friends to live forever, by which we mean to live beyond us, and they can’t. It is necessary to remember them, particularly the great ones, because they deserve it and because our own peace of mind, if we have any, demands it. We think of the memories they leave us as of gifts, immutable and permanent, pictures laid down on iron…”Ken Purdy’s eulogy to a friend
The man after whom the Purdy Award is named may have been the best auto writer this country has yet produced. And he was a better editor than he was a writer. To those younger writers who knew him, he was the spiritual father of their craft.
Ken W. Purdy was born in Chicago in 1913, and raised mostly in Auburn, N.Y., by his mother after his songwriter father (“On Wisconsin”) died when Ken was six. He was graduated in 1934 from the University of Wisconsin. Soon after, he got his first newspaper job with the Athol, Mass., Daily News. From there he went to Oshkosh, Wis., to the Chicago Radio Guide, to associate editor of Look; and to the Office of War Information as editor of Victory during World War II. He was editor of Parade and True in the late 40’s and early 50’s, spent a few minutes at Argosy and became a full-time freelance writer in 1955.
Ken Purdy’s literary efforts were not confined to automobiles. He was a magnificent writer whose main interest just happened to be autos and the people who drove them. Among other things, he produced 35 short stories and about double that number of automotive pieces for Playboy . He won Playboy’s annual writers’ award three times. His Kings of the Road, published in 1949, is still a landmark.
He died on June 7, 1972, but left a legacy of words that magically alchemized man and metal into art. All of us connected with autos should consider ourselves fortunate to have had Ken Purdy as our chronicler and critic.