Hugh Prather, Jr. was an American self-help writer, lay minister, and counselor, most famous for his first book, Notes to Myself (1970). It inspired the long-running Saturday Night Live segment Deep Thoughts, has sold over 5 million copies, and has been translated into ten languages.
Hugh Edmondson Prather III was born in Dallas. His father, a successful real estate developer, married four times; his mother, a former debutante, three. He earned a bachelor's degree in English at Southern Methodist University in 1966 after studying at Principia College and Columbia University.
First published in 1970, Notes to Myself was never intended as a commercial book. It began as Prather's diary, a collection of private reflections, some telegraphic, others longer, on the nature of life, death, love, and more.
An aspiring poet with a whole pile of rejections, Hugh Prather impulsively sent the journal to a small publisher with limited distribution options and no national advertising budget. But thanks to word-of-mouth radio and the zeitgeist, the initial print run of 10,000 copies was absorbed by ardent seekers.
The book soon became a phenomenon--"Chicken Soup for the Soul of the '70s," and the New York Times called Mr. Prather "the American Khalil Gibran."
While “Notes to Myself” was hardly the first self-help book on the market (such books go back at least to the 19th century), it permeated the culture as few had before.
Mr. Prather’s dog, Moosewood, mentioned in the book, inspired the name of the Moosewood Restaurant, founded in Ithaca, N.Y., in 1973 and still serving vegetarian meals.
Notes to Myself was spoofed by the comedy writer Jack Handey as a set of public musings known as Deep Thoughts. First published in National Lampoon, Deep Thoughts became a recurring feature on Saturday Night Live in the 1990s and was released as a series of books.
Together with his second wife, Gayle Prather, whom he married in 1965, he wrote other books, including The Little Book of Letting Go; "I Touch the Earth, The Earth Touches Me"; How to Live in the World and Still Be Happy; I Will Never Leave You: How Couples Can Achieve The Power Of Lasting Love; Spiritual Notes to Myself: Essential Wisdom for the 21st Century; Shining Through: Switch on Your Life and Ground Yourself in Happiness; Spiritual Parenting: A Guide to Understanding and Nurturing the Heart of Your Child; Standing on My Head: Life Lessons in Contradictions; A Book of Games: A Course in Spiritual Play; Love and Courage; Notes to Each Other; A Book for Couples; The Quiet Answer; and There is a Place Where You Are Not Alone.
Although he can be classified as a New Age writer, he drew on Christian language and themes and does not seem to have been shy about imagining God in personal terms. In his writings, Prather stressed the importance of gentleness, forgiveness, and faithfulness.
Hugh Prather later founded and ran a religion, the Dispensable Church, in Santa Fe, N.M., which combined elements of Buddhism, Christianity, and other traditions. In recent years, Mr. Prather was a lay minister and pastoral counselor at a United Methodist church in Tucson.
Prather died in his hot tub at his home in Tucson, apparently of a heart attack.