Chet Lauck (1902–1980)
aka: Chester Harris Lauck
Chester Harris (Chet) Lauck and his partner, Norris “Tuffy” Goff, created Lum and Abner, a radio program based on life in Pine Ridge (Montgomery County) that was popular nationwide from 1931 to 1955. Lauck portrayed Lum Edwards (pronounced “Eddards”), Grandpappy Spears, and Cedric Wehunt, with Goff doing the voices of the other characters.
Chet Lauck was born on October 10, 1902, in Alleene (Little River County) to W. J. and Cora Lauck. The family moved to Mena (Polk County) in 1911. The Lauck and Goff families were prominent in local events in Mena, and as children, the two boys began a lifelong friendship.
Lauck was expected to continue his father’s business interests, banking and lumber, but was more interested in entertaining at local events. After graduating from Mena High School in 1920, he attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where he majored in business and art. In 1924, he was co-editor of White Mule, the university humor magazine.
On September 1, 1926, Lauck married Harriet Wood of Hot Springs (Garland County). They settled in Mena, where their first child was born; two more were born after the family moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1931.
Lauck and his friend Goff were popular entertainers at local events, so in April 1931, they were invited to appear for a statewide charity broadcast on the radio in Hot Springs. The Lum and Abner show which they put on was an instant hit. Within a few months they were performing in Chicago and, in a few years, were heard nationwide.
In 1939, Lauck moved his family to Hollywood, California, where he and Goff continued radio broadcasts while making seven Lum and Abner movies. They retired from regular radio and movie schedules in 1955. Lauck continued to portray Lum for Conoco Oil Company while he was the company’s vice-president of public relations.
In 1963, Lauck returned to Arkansas and lived in Hot Springs, where he operated his own public relations firm until shortly before his death on February 21, 1980. He is buried in Hot Springs.
For additional information:
“A Chat with Chet.” The Looking Glass 1 (October 1976): 13-15.
Cates, Michael, ed. Mena’s Centennial History, 1896–1996: A Photographic History of the City of Mena, Arkansas. Murfreesboro, AR: Looking Glass Press, 1996.
Chet Lauck Collection. Center for Arkansas History and Culture. University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Lewis, Bill. “Chet Lauck Keeps Trying to Retire, But.” Arkansas Gazette, May 10, 1970, p. 3B.
Lum and Abner Museum. Pine Ridge, Arkansas.
Strucker, Kathryn. Hello, This is Lum and Abner: The Story of Lum and Abner’s Jot ‘Em Down Store in Pine Ridge, Arkansas. Pine Ridge, AR: Lum and Abner Museum, 1992.
Kathryn Moore Stucker
Lum and Abner Museum
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