Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Willard Motley  

Pen Name: Bud Billikin

Genre: C:ADULT Fiction

Born: July 14, 1909 in Chicago, Illinois


Illinois Connection

Motley grew up in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood. After high school he left Chicago and returned in 1939.

Biographical and Professional Information

Willard Motley was an African-American writer. The Chicago Defender published some of Motley's fiction when he was only 13 years old, launching him on his career as a writer. He was soon writing a weekly column for young readers called "Bud Says" under the pseudonym "Bud Billikin". After graduating from high school Motley traveled to New York, California and the western states, earning a living through various menial jobs, as well as by writing for the radio and newspapers. Returning to Chicago in 1939.He became associated with Hull House, and helped found the ''Hull House Magazine'', in which some of his fiction appeared. In 1940 he wrote for the ''Works Progress Administration Federal Writers Project'' along with Richard Wright and Nelson Algren. His first novel, ''Knock on Any Door'' appeared to critical acclaim in 1947. His third novel, ''Let No Man Write My Epitaph'' picks up the story of ''Knock on Any Door''. Columbia Pictures made it into a movie in 1960. The bulk of Motley's archive is held in Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University.

Published Works Expand for more information

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-- *Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, 2014