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Sunday, September 19, 1999
The 1900s have seen New Mexico grow from an out-of-the-way U.S. territory to a state known for science, sports, literature and the arts as well as for its unique cultural mix and brand of politics.
While many people have contributed in these areas, some have had a larger-than-usual impact. Some are known far and wide: Smokey Bear, Georgia O'Keeffe, the Unser family. Others might not have as high a name recognition outside New Mexico, but leave a legacy that helped define the state.
And in most cases, their influence has been felt far beyond New Mexico's borders.
Here is one of the 20 individuals or families who helped make New Mexico what it is today.
Tony Hillerman -- 1925-
Yes, he's an Okie by birth. But no one has captured the endless highways, sly humor and red-rock spirit of Indian Country as well as Tony Hillerman, a New Mexican for the better part of his 74 years.
For 30 years now, the former newspaperman has kept a huge and furiously loyal stable of fans throughout the world hanging on the investigations of two imaginary Navajo cops.
Veteran Joe Leaphorn and his protegé Jim Chee a have zigzagged the sprawling Navajo Reservation in search of murderers, robbers, pot thieves and skin walkers to the delight of millions of readers who snap up each new mystery.
Hillerman taps out each plot, heavy on native religion and culture, on a word processor from his office in Albuquerque. He is not Navajo -- born to farmer parents in Sacred Heart, Okla., at the dawn of the Dust Bowl -- but Hillerman has managed to capture the essence of Navajo life while not exposing too much. It has made him the most famous author in New Mexico and an unofficial ambassador to the reservation.
Compiled by Fritz Thompson, Leslie Linthicum, Bill Hume and Dennis Latta