A native of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, Gerald McMurtry began his career in Lincoln studies in 1932 as the librarian at the Lincoln National Life Foundation in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In that position he worked under the foundation’s first director, Louis A. Warren.
In 1935, McMurtry left the Lincoln National Life Foundation to seek his fortune as an insurance salesman back in Hardin County. Alas, he was a better historian than salesman, and his career in the insurance business was short lived.
Also during this time, McMurtry was appointed to serve of the Lincoln Memorial Highway Commission, which was charged with determining the route taken by the Lincoln family in their migrations from Kentucky to Indiana and later to Illinois. As a result of his historical investigations, McMurtry had an article published in the Indiana Magazine of History titled “The Lincoln Migration from Kentucky to Indiana.”
In the fall of 1937 McMurtry became the Director of Research at the Lincoln Museum at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. While serving in this capacity, McMurtry built the Lincoln Museum’s collection and library, which now contains countless national treasures. During his tenure at LMU, McMurtry wrote a number of books and articles, and edited the Lincoln Herald.
In 1956 McMurtry returned to Fort Wayne, being named director of the Lincoln National Life Foundation, succeeding Louis A. Warren. As director of the Foundation, McMurtry was the editor of their regular newsletter, Lincoln Lore.
During his career McMurtry was the author of 25 pamphlets and brochures and numerous articles and book reviews.
Dr. R Gerald McMurtry passed away on Sunday, October 29, 1988. On November 5, 1988 Dr. Gary Burchett gave a speech honoring Dr. McMurtry and dedicating the R Gerald McMurtry Gallery in the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum. Below is an excerpt from Dr. Burchett’s speech:
It is because of R Gerald McMurtry’s commitment to scholarship, the field of Lincolniana and the tremendous collection that he helped build here, that this University honors him… Gerald was so much a part of LMU that it is not possible to think of the Lincoln [collection] without thinking of R Gerald McMurtry. What many men yearn for, Gerald accomplished, and what he left behind was the legacy of a learned man and a true scholar. 
 Retrieved from the Hardin County Historical Society Elizabethtown, Kentucky February 3, 2010. Available at http://webpages.charter.net/lincolnbooks/McMurtry.html
 Miller, Scott, Suppiger, Joseph, and Burchett, Gary: McMurtry on Lincoln. The Lincoln Herald, 1989.