Wilbur Kurtz was born in Oakland, Illinois in 1882. He was raised in Greencastle, Indiana, and studied at DePauw University and the Art Institute of Chicago. In his early years he worked as a draftsman and engraver. In 1910 he became a professional illustrator specializing in architectural renderings.
Kurtz first went to Atlanta in 1903 to investigate the story of the Andrews Raid. Here he interviewed Captain William A. Fuller. In 1911, he married Fuller’s daughter Annie Laurie. The couple made Atlanta their permanent home, where Kurtz created historical murals, which were in demand throughout the South. He also painted murals for the Georgia exhibits at the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress Exposition and the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
His knowledge of early Atlanta took him to Hollywood for 13 months as a technical advisor for the epic movie Gone With the Wind. He was also an advisor for Walt Disney’s 1945 saga Song of the South and the 1955 making of The Great Locomotive Chase.
Kurtz took part in the creation of the diorama in the foreground of the painting of the Battle of Atlanta at the Grant Park Cyclorama and also repaired the damaged parts of the immense scene. As a consultant for the Little White House – Franklin D. Roosevelt’s house in Warm Springs, Georgia – he aided in its conversion into a landmark commemorating the World War II president.
During the 1950’s, he wrote the text for most of the Atlanta campaign markers, which the Georgia Historical Commission erected in the area. In 1962 he was asked by the Georgia Civil War Centennial Commission to be chairman of the observances that featured the General.
For ten years he was a member of the Atlanta City Planning Commission, an honorary member of the Atlanta Historical Society, and a member of the Atlanta Symposium and Atlanta Civil War Roundtable.
Annie Laurie Kurtz, with whom he had five children, died in 1946. In 1949, he married Annie Rachell Pye. Kurtz died in Atlanta on February 18, 1967, and is buried in Westview Cemetery.