Born in Wisconsin in 1906, he moved to Tucson as a teenager because of his father’s career as a professor at the University of Arizona. Summers graduated from Tucson High School and then from the University of Arizona at the age 19. After graduation he became a principal of a local school. He returned to the University of Arizona to teach English in 1928 and that same year he married Anna Louise McKee, with whom he had three children: Sanford, Anne, and Amo.
He began his prolific writing career in the late 1920s, and is most well-known for his 1937 novel Dark Madonna which dealt with the Latino community in 1930s Tucson and was hailed as a minor classic by critics. His fiction work was adapted to screenplays, including the 1951 movie The San Francisco Story, which was adapted from his novel Vigilante. His radio plays were used across the country by the Junior League and were often retellings of American Indian stories and myths. His works also include a few textbooks like College Composition with David Patrick and later Craft of the Short Story, which became a popular creative writing textbook during the time.
This collection is comprised of authored works, correspondence, professional materials and personal information created during the life or Richard A. Summers. His novels and numerous drafts, including Dark Madonna and Vigilante, make up the bulk of the material present: there are over forty novels in either partial or completed drafts in this collection, including some undated and untitled manuscripts.