Eckert’s varied writing includes 225 episodes he wrote for the renowned Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom series for which he received an Emmy Award in 1970 from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in the category of outstanding program achievement. He wrote the acclaimed outdoor drama Tecumseh! which has been performed at the Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre at Chillicothe, Ohio, every summer since 1972. Described as the finest outdoor theater production in America, Tecumseh! has been seen by more than 2 million people. For this drama and his other writings, in 1987 Eckert received the Second Annual Silver Arrow Humanitarian Award from the Scioto Society “for his contributions to the human spirit and knowledge as an author, novelist, playwright, naturalist and historian.”
His Pulitzer Prize-nominated book A Time of Terror: The Great Dayton Flood, published in 1965, was adapted for the stage in 1996 by W. Stuart McDowell and Timothy Nevits as “1913: The Great Dayton Flood.” The Wright State University production featured recorded narrations by actors Martin Sheen, Ossie Davis, and Ruby Dee, and received awards from the American College Theatre Festival XXIX and opened the 1997 Festival at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.
Eckert’s best-known historical narrative, The Frontiersmen, from which he adapted the drama Tecumseh!, won the Ohioana Library Association Book of the Year Award in 1968. In that same year, the Chicago-based national literary society, The Friends of American Writers, presented him with its highest award of the year for The Frontiersmen and Wild Season – the first time in that organization’s 40-year history of awarding literary prizes that it could not decide between two books by the same author and therefore awarded him first prize for both. Eckert’s Incident at Hawk’s Hill received several awards: the Newbery Honor Book Award, the highest award for juvenile literature in America; the Austrian Juvenile Book of the year Award in 1976, the first time this prize was awarded to a non-Austrian; and the Best Book of the Year Award from Claremont Colleges in California.
In recognition of his 6-volume historical narrative Winning of America series, Eckert was presented the Americanism Award by the Daniel Boone Foundation in 1985. That Dark and Bloody River: Chronicles of the Ohio River Valley was named runner-up for the Spur Award of the Western Writers of America in 1995. In 1997 Eckert received the Writer of the Year Award for his entire body of work by the National Popular Culture Association. Eckert shared with Toni Morrison the accolade of Favorite Ohio Writer of All Time in a 1999 poll conducted the Ohioana Library Association.
Eckert’s works also appeared in films. Incident at Hawk’s Hill was adapted into a two-part television movie in 1974 by Walt Disney Productions under the title The Boy Who Talked to Badgers. His screenplays include The Legend of Koo-Tan, Don Meier Productions, 1971; Wild Journey, Don Meier Productions, 1972; The Kentucky Pioneers, Encyclopedia Britannica Productions, 1972; and George Rogers Clark, Jerry Bean Productions, 1973.
In addition to the award-winning Incident at Hawk’s Hill and its sequel Return to Hawk’s Hill (1998), Eckert’s writings include a series of children’s fantasy adventures, The Mesmerian Annals, including The Dark Green Tunnel and The Wand.
He also designed and wrote for Writer’s Digest magazine its popular correspondence courses The Writer’s Digest Course in Article Writing and The Writer’s Digest Course in Short Story Writing.
A noted American naturalist, Eckert wrote about wide-ranging natural history subjects. He had a keen interest in geology, lepidopterology, entomology, ornithology, herpetology, paleontology, archeology, anthropology, mineralogy, and allied fields. Among his important natural history writings are his companion books, The Owls of North America and The Wading Birds of North America. He wrote the four-volume series Erath Treasures, a guide to over 5,000 sites in the contiguous United States where the amateur collector can find excellent minerals, rocks, and fossils. His definitive work on the gemstone opal, The World of Opals, was published in 1997.
Eckert was founder and chairman of the Lemon Bay Conservancy in Englewood, Florida, an organization which preserves wildlife and estuarial systems, and he was a life member and former trustee of the Dayton Ohio Museum of Natural History, and a life member of the Mazon Creek Paleontological Society. He was a member of the American Gemcutters Society and a consultant for La Salle Extension University in Chicago.
Eckert was born in Buffalo, New York, on January 30, 1931, and grew up in the Chicago area. He graduated from Leyden Community High School in Franklin Park, Illinois, in 1948. After four years in the U.S. Air Force, he attended the University of Dayton (Ohio) and the Ohio State University. He received honorary degrees as Doctor of Humane Letters from Bowling Green State University in Ohio in 1985, and from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio in 1998. He lived most of his adult life in Bellefontaine, Ohio, but lived the last years of his life in California with his wife, Joan. Allan W. Eckert died on July 7, 2011 at his home in Corona, California, at the age of 80.