Texas writer and director of UT fellowship program dies at 76

photo by Rino Pizzi


Dr. Michael Wayne Adams, a writer and painter who directed the Dobie Paisano Fellowship Program for the University of Texas at Austin from 2007 to 2022, died November 28, 2022, in Austin. He was 76 years old. Survivors include his wife, Dorothea Adams.  


His life and works will be celebrated at a special gathering Feb. 19, 2023, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., in the University of Texas Alumni Center’s Legends Room. More information is available here


A native of Killeen, Dr. Adams received his bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech and his master’s degree and Ph.D. from UT-Austin. His writings include two novels, Blind Man’s Bluff and Anniversaries in the Blood, plus a college textbook, The Writer’s Mind: Making Writing Make Sense, as well as numerous short stories and essays. As an artist, Dr. Adams showed a special passion for light, color, and Austin’s music and honky-tonk scene. His first art exhibit was commissioned for the 1979 Governor’s Inaugural Ball, where several paintings from his “Neon Cowboy” collection were displayed.  


The Dobie Paisano Fellowship Program provides writer-in-residence grants that enable selected candidates to live and work for several months at the historic and secluded J. Frank Dobie Ranch 14 miles southwest of Austin. When Dr. Adams became the program’s director in 2007, he also took on the roles of “caretaker and fundraiser” for the historic but deteriorating ranch, according to a 2013 Austin Chronicle article. The ranch had been donated to UT-Austin as a writer-in-residence site after the death of its owner, J. Frank Dobie, a famed author and folklorist who wrote extensively about Texas and the Southwest. 


Along with overseeing the fellowship’s recipients, Dr. Adams raised critically needed restoration funding that included “generous support” from Texas Book Festival co-founder Mary Margaret Farabee, the Chronicle noted. He is also credited with increasing the sizes of the Dobie Fellowship grants and creating separate grants for early-career writers and authors who are more established. 


An in-memoriam statement from the Dobie Paisano Fellowship Program noted that Dr. Adams was a former English professor and Associate Director of the Michener Center for Writers at UT-Austin. He received numerous awards and honors during his academic and creative careers, including “a Fulbright Award, the Liberal Arts Council Teaching Award, and election to the Academy of Distinguished Teachers, and the Texas Institute of Letters. Those who knew him inevitably admired his vast trove of knowledge, his gentlemanly kindness, and his willingness to give freely of himself for the benefit of students and colleagues.” 


“He was very well loved and respected within the Texas literary community,” says Austin short-story writer and novelist Brian Van Reet, a Michener Center graduate and Dobie Paisano Fellowship recipient.