By the time of his death in 1964, J. Frank Dobie had become nationally and internationally known. A writer, columnist, and folklorist, Dobie had become a champion of southwestern culture and the spokesman for everything Texas. He was a chronicler of Texas history and was instrumental in saving the Texas Longhorn from extinction. President Johnson awarded him the nation’s highest honor, the Medal of Freedom.
In 1959, Dobie bought 258 acres southwest of Austin and named it Paisano, the Spanish word for roadrunner and, meaningful to Dobie, “compatriot." More a retreat than a working ranch, Paisano was a delightful gathering place for friends and colleagues. A few months after Dobie's death, a group of friends decided that preserving Paisano and using it for a writers' retreat would be both a fitting memorial and a way of extending his legendary generosity toward writers. Thus, the Dobie Paisano Fellowship Program was established. Over its fifty years, the program has become one of the most prestigious writer retreats in the country, hosting not only some of the most important Texas writers but some of the most distinguished national and international writers as well.