Literature and Authors

Entries - Entry Category: Literature and Authors

Roy, Frederick Hampton, Sr.

Frederick Hampton Roy Sr. was an ophthalmologist who lived and practiced in Little Rock (Pulaski County). He wrote many books on ophthalmology, some of which have been translated into other languages. Roy also authored books on topics such as history, architecture, and religion. In addition to being a prominent member of the Arkansas medical community, he was a prolific writer, a philanthropist, an advocate for historic preservation, and a politician. F. Hampton Roy was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 27, 1937. He graduated from Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in June 1955. After graduation, he entered the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and received a BS in 1958. In 1961, he received his MD from the …

Ruled by the Whip

Ruled by the Whip: Hell behind Bars in America’s Devil’s Island, the Arkansas Penitentiary is a 1958 self-published autobiographical account written by Dale Woodcock. One of the few printed accounts by an Arkansas prisoner, the book chronicles Woodcock’s experiences at Cummins prison farm in the 1950s. While the book garnered little attention when it was written, its tales of violence, corruption, and brutality corroborated abuses documented later during the governorship of Winthrop Rockefeller, who began work to reform the prisons. The author was born Charles Dale Woodcock on March 21, 1925, in Rogers (Benton County). He was the son of Henry Lee Woodcock (1900–1928) and Lillie Dell “Honey” Townsend Woodcock (1907–1988), both of whom were Arkansas natives. After the death …

Salassi, Otto

Otto Russell Salassi was a librarian and writer best known for the young-adult novel Jimmy D., Sidewinder, and Me (1987). Salassi attended and worked at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and lived in Fayetteville from 1974 until his death. Otto Salassi was born on October 2, 1939, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, to Walter Salassi and Ruby Lee Salassi. He served in the U.S. Air Force and worked as a mathematician at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California before attending Memphis State University, where he was awarded a BS in English and philosophy in 1967. He earned an MLS from Vanderbilt University in 1968 and worked as a librarian first at Bemidji State College in Minnesota (where he …

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft published the first written description of the Arkansas Ozarks’ geography, vegetation, wildlife, and inhabitants. His Journal of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri and Arkansaw, published in London, England, in 1821, is an account of a three-month exploration by Schoolcraft and one companion, Levi Pettibone. From November 1818 to February 1819, Schoolcraft explored land from Potosi, Missouri, southwest to the White River, northwest to near Springfield, Missouri, then south by canoe on the White River to present-day Batesville (Independence County), and finally northeast again to Missouri. Schoolcraft’s great-grandfather was a British soldier in New York in the early 1700s who settled with a German wife in Schoharie County, New York. His son John served in the …

Scott, Melissa Elaine

A scholar who followed her father, a prominent lawyer, from Little Rock Central High School to the academic citadels of the east, Melissa Scott turned to writing fiction in the 1980s and became one of the most honored and prolific authors of English-language science fiction. Over nearly forty years, she has published eighteen original novels, several short stories, and numerous tie-in novels for the science-fiction network-television series Star Trek and Stargate: Atlantis. Her fiction has been noted for the frequency of lesbian and gay characters, who were often the protagonists. In the 1980s, even among book lovers, there was little knowledge or acceptance of the biological and social diversity of human life in the area of gender and sexuality. The …

Shakespeare Series

aka: Lily Bard Series
The Shakespeare series consists of five novels in the “cozy” crime genre by Charlaine Harris, who lived in Arkansas for many years. Shakespeare and Bartley, the fictional Arkansas towns where the novels are set, resemble several small communities in the state, and Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Memphis, Tennessee, are both referred to as conveniently nearby. Like other books in this genre, these novels do not focus on police procedure or the reasoning of a genius detective. Instead, a lay person, generally a woman, investigates and solves a crime, sometimes with the help of a police officer or other trained investigator. In order of publication, Harris’s Shakespeare novels are Shakespeare’s Landlord (1996), Shakespeare’s Champion (1997), Shakespeare’s Christmas (1998), Shakespeare’s Trollop …

Shaver, Richard Sharpe

Richard Sharpe Shaver was an American writer and “outsider” artist best known for his controversial stories known collectively as “the Shaver Mystery,” which were presented as nonfiction in science fiction magazines, most notably Amazing Stories. These stories, in which Shaver claimed to have discovered an ancient, sinister civilization in underground caves, led to Shaver Mystery Clubs and influenced many artists and writers, including Harlan Ellison and Phillip K. Dick. Shaver died in the Arkansas town of Summit (Marion County), where he had moved in the mid-1960s. Richard Shaver was born on October 7, 1907, in Virginia, but his family moved to Berwick, Pennsylvania, sometime before 1910. Little is reliably known about Shaver’s early life. According to Shaver, in 1932, while …

Sheehan, James Murray

James Murray Sheehan served as the first journalism instructor and first publicity director at University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), was editor of the Arkansas Traveler, and published two well-received novels, Half-Gods and Eden. Half-Gods, published in 1927, offered a scathing satire of Fayetteville and the university. Murray Sheehan was born to David Este Sheehan and Alfarata Winder Sheehan on December 15, 1887, in Hamilton, Ohio. Sheehan earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a master’s from Harvard University. Before coming to the University of Arkansas, he served as a sergeant major of artillery in the Sixth Division during World War I, worked as a newspaper reporter, and taught at the University …

Sherman, Harold Morrow

Harold Morrow Sherman was a popular author and lecturer in the fields of self-help and extrasensory perception (ESP). Arkansas was his adopted home, where he lived for forty years and promoted community development in Stone County. Harold Sherman was born on July 13, 1898, in Traverse City, Michigan, the eldest of three sons of Thomas H. Sherman, a men’s clothier, and Alcinda Morrow Sherman. After briefly attending the University of Michigan, he joined the Student Army Training Corps during World War I. After the war, he moved to Detroit, Michigan, to work for the Ford Motor Company. There, he became reacquainted with a former classmate, Martha Bain, who was a nursing student. They were married on September 26, 1920, and …

Simon, Charlie May

Charlie May Simon is among the state’s most prolific major authors. Known primarily for her children’s literature, with just under thirty books and with numerous short stories to her credit, Simon had a long career writing for adults as well. Additionally, she is known as the wife of Pulitzer Prize–winning poet John Gould Fletcher. Her work in the field of children’s literature has been honored in Arkansas since 1971 by the annual presentation of the Charlie May Simon Book Award. Simon was born Charlie May Hogue on August 17, 1897, not far from Monticello (Drew County), to Charles Wayman Hogue and Mary Gill Hogue. She was named after both her parents, according to Southern tradition. Her father, a tenant farmer …

Smith, P. Allen

P. Allen Smith is an award-winning designer, a nationally known gardening/lifestyle expert, and the host of two public television programs, P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home and P. Allen Smith’s Garden to Table, as well as the syndicated show P. Allen Smith Gardens. He appears frequently as a guest on such programs as the CBS Early Show and the Today show on NBC, and on the Weather Channel, sharing design and gardening tips with viewers. He is a contributor for a number of national publications such as Elle Décor, House Beautiful, Southern Accents, Southern Living, and Woman’s Day, and is the author of several bestselling books. Paul Allen Smith Jr., the oldest of four children, was born on March 12, 1960, …

Snake Eyes: Murder in a Southern Town

Snake Eyes: Murder in a Southern Town is a true crime nonfiction book written by Bitty Martin of Hot Springs (Garland County) and published by Prometheus Books in 2022. The book received much acclaim, garnering positive reviews, brisk sales, and requests from across the nation for the Arkansas-based author to appear on true crime media programming. Over the six years she spent writing the book and interviewing more than fifty sources, Martin uncovered underlying secrets about the death of a teenage girl in what was originally called an accident but later revealed to be a murder. The book’s title is evocative not only of the scene of the crime but also the era in Hot Springs history when it was …

Sorrells, John Harvey

John Harvey Sorrells was executive editor of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain and former deputy director of the U.S. Office of Censorship during World War II. At the time of his death, the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) native was well respected in journalism circles for his first-hand knowledge of the field and his warm, engaging personality. John Harvey Sorrells was born on March 31, 1896, in a one-story house on State Street in Pine Bluff, one of four children of Walter Bartlett Sorrells, who was a circuit judge, and Mary Iva Fletcher Sorrells. In 1886, his maternal grandfather, Reid Fletcher, launched and edited the Daily Graphic newspaper in Pine Bluff. As a high school student working part time, John Sorrells would …

Stanford, Frank

aka: Francis Gildart Stanford
Francis Gildart Stanford was one of the most recognized and prolific emerging poets of his generation until his suicide at the age of twenty-nine. Though all but two of his books remain out of print, his poems, which pitch startling and often surreal imagery against stark Southern landscapes, have sustained Stanford’s reputation and influence among poets who knew him during his lifetime and have ushered in a resurgence of admirers among a new generation of poets. Frank Stanford was born on August 1, 1948, on the Mississippi side of the Delta, was orphaned, and then was adopted in 1949 by Dorothy Gildart, who was single and the first female manager in the Firestone Corporation. In 1950, Dorothy Gildart adopted a …

Starr, Fred

Fred Starr was an educator, farmer, sometimes-politician, and writer who spent the second half of his life working in, observing, and writing about the Ozarks. He was best known for essays that were published in Arkansas and Oklahoma newspapers for more than thirty-five years. They were a mixture of Ozark folklore, often-funny stories of life in the hills, and his own homespun philosophy, told in unpretentious and conversational prose. Fred Starr was born in Waco, Georgia, on September 11, 1896, to William D. Starr, who was a farmer, and Alice Murphy Starr. He was the sixth of their nine children, with six brothers and two sisters, one of whom died soon after birth. He and his family moved to Oklahoma …

Stewart, Trenton Lee

Trenton Lee Stewart is a contemporary novelist and short-story writer. He is well known as the author of The Mysterious Benedict Society series of best-selling young adult novels. Described by Kirkus Reviews as “entertainingly quirky” and “hung about with cantrips to catch clever readers,” Stewart’s writing incorporates a cerebral playfulness, utilizing wordplay and mental puzzles that the reader is invited to solve along with the characters. The series has garnered nationwide popularity among students and teachers alike. Additionally, his stories have been published in a number of literary magazines, including the Georgia Review, Shenandoah, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and the New England Review. The 2004 Best American Short Stories volume, published by Houghton Mifflin and guest edited by Lorrie Moore, …

Stockley, Griffin Jasper

Griffin Jasper Stockley Jr. was an author, historian, and attorney known for his lifelong commitment to the cause of civil rights. Although Stockley was honored over the years for his legal achievements, his books garnered him the widest recognition. His five Gideon Page novels became popular in the 1990s. Noteworthy in their own right, his legal mysteries are also an outward expression of Stockley’s own personal and political beliefs. In 2001, he published a finely researched historical account of the Elaine Massacre, titled Blood in Their Eyes: The Elaine Race Massacres of 1919, and he followed that up with a biography of Daisy Bates, a history of the Negro Boys Industrial School Fire of 1959, and other works of history. …

Street, James Howell

James Howell Street was a newspaperman and novelist who worked at the Arkansas Gazette in the 1920s and later wrote essays celebrating the state and the newspaper. James Street was born on October 15, 1903, in Lumberton, Mississippi, to John Camillus Street and William Thompson Scott Street (her actual name). Although his family was Catholic, he converted and became a Baptist minister after marrying Lucy Nash O’Briant, the daughter of a Baptist preacher, in 1923. After three children were born, he gave up preaching and became a newspaper reporter, first at the Pensacola Journal in Florida and then in 1926 at the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock (Pulaski County). He was twenty-three when he went to work for the Gazette …

Stuart, Mary Routh McEnery

aka: Ruth McEnery Stuart
Mary Routh McEnery Stuart, working under the name Ruth McEnery Stuart, wrote a body of fiction and poetry based on the experiences she had in Arkansas, modeling characters, dialect, and even a fictional town on her interactions within the state. She was, both financially and critically, one of the most successful fiction writers of her time, and in recent years has been studied by feminist and social literary critics. Routh McEnery was born on February 19, 1852, (according to the date provided on her marriage license; though she may have been born as early as 1849). Her parents were Mary Routh Stirling and James McEnery, who was at that time the mayor of Marksville, Louisiana, where McEnery was born. In …

Sugar Lacey Series

aka: Sugar [Book]
aka: This Bitter Earth [Book]
Sugar Lacey, a fictional character created by novelist Bernice L. McFadden, is the protagonist in Sugar and its sequel This Bitter Earth. The two novels center on a brutal murder of a young girl in 1940s Arkansas and the personal redemption of Sugar, an emotionally broken prostitute with a turbulent past. The series is a story of acceptance with a backdrop of the segregated South. McFadden’s debut novel, Sugar (Dutton, 2000), introduced readers to the title character, Sugar Lacey. Most of the novel’s action takes place in 1955, but the story begins in 1940 with the brutal rape, murder, and mutilation of Jude, the young African-American daughter of Pearl Taylor in the small, mainly black fictional town of Bigelow. In …

Summer of My German Soldier

Bette Greene’s Summer of My German Soldier is a novel and a television movie set in eastern Arkansas during World War II. Both portray the Arkansas location, era, and characters realistically. Since the novel’s publication in 1973, it has remained a young-adult best-seller and is considered a classic of young-adult literature. In 1973, it was an American Library Association Notable Book, a National Book Award finalist, and one of The New York Times’s Outstanding Books of the Year; it also won the Golden Kite award. In 1979, the movie earned Emmy nominations for Outstanding Drama and Outstanding Writing. Esther Rolle won the Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmy for her portrayal of Ruth. Rolle praised Greene for her skillful, true-to-life characterization of …

Tales from the South

Tales from the South was a nationally recognized radio show. During its first year in 2005, shows were recorded in the studio of public radio station KUAR (FM 89.1) in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 2005, Paula Martin Morell and her business partner and husband at the time, Jason Morell, opened the Starving Artist Café in the Argenta Arts District of North Little Rock (Pulaski County) and later began recording shows there. The café closed in 2014, and the show began recording at various venues in Little Rock and North Little Rock, as well as around Arkansas as part of a touring arts program, before ceasing production in 2016. On Tales from the South, amateur and professional writers read their own …

Thanet, Octave

aka: Alice French
Alice French was a leading writer of local color stories and journalistic essays under the pseudonym Octave Thanet. Some of her best work is based on the years she spent at her winter home in Clover Bend (Lawrence County) in the Black River swamp country. French also published stories and essays in such national periodicals as the Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Scribner’s Magazine, and Century Magazine. She prided herself on the accurate depiction not only of the physical setting of her stories but also of the customs and dialect of the characters in them. Alice French was born on March 19, 1850, in Andover, Massachusetts, to George Henry French and Frances Morton. The French family also included sons George, Morton, Nathaniel, and …

Thibault, David

David Thibault was an agricultural agent and writer whose short stories appeared in popular national magazines. His early death cut short his career before he could accumulate a large body of significant work. Some of his best fiction draws characters, settings, and themes from plantation life in Arkansas in the early twentieth century. David Thibault was born on May 23, 1892, at Walnut Grove plantation east of Little Rock (Pulaski County). His parents were James Keatts Thibault, a farmer, and Corinne Laurie Gibson Thibault. He was the youngest of nine chlidren and was educated in the public schools of Little Rock. In 1915, Thibault married Irene Graeme Stockton, a high school English teacher. In 1917, they had a son, David …

This Scorched Earth

This Scorched Earth is a 2018 work of historical fiction by William Gear set in the Arkansas Ozarks during the Civil War. While the Civil War has been fertile ground for historical fiction, novelists have rarely ventured west of the Mississippi River to the often-ignored Trans-Mississippi Theater. This Scorched Earth is an exception. Gear avoids the stereotypical image of Arkansas Ozarkers as benighted hillbillies. The story centers around the experiences of the Hancock family—mother, father, three sons, and one daughter—who live in the highlands of northwestern Arkansas not far from Elkhorn Tavern. The eldest son is a doctor, a recent graduate of medical school in Boston, Massachusetts. The middle son spent time as a student in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he …

Thomas, David Yancey

David Yancey Thomas was one of the most influential academic historians in the field of Arkansas history. He was a driving force in the re-establishment of the Arkansas Historical Association (AHA) in 1941, was the first editor of the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, was the chair of the Department of History at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) for twenty-eight years, and was known nationally for his scholarly books and articles. David Thomas was born on January 19, 1872, to James Fuller Thomas and Eliza Ann Ratliff Thomas. He grew up on a farm in southwest Kentucky, near Hickman in Fulton County. He was the youngest of nine children. Thomas was a student at Marvin Training School in …

Thurman, Sue Bailey

Author, lecturer, historian, and editor Sue Bailey Thurman was a pioneer in civil rights and equality long before the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Her contributions in her advocacy, writings, and speeches helped lay a foundation that many others have built upon. Sue Elvie Bailey was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on August 26, 1903, one of ten children of educators Rev. Isaac Bailey and Susie Ford Bailey. Her parents emphasized education, religious instruction, and missionary work. They helped to found the forerunner of what became Morris Booker Memorial College in Dermott (Chicot County), a private college funded by African-American Baptists throughout the state. She completed her high school studies at Spellman College in Atlanta, Georgia, …

Tom Sawyer, Detective

Tom Sawyer, Detective, a novella written by Mark Twain and published in 1896, was a parody of mystery stories, especially the Sherlock Holmes tales of Arthur Conan Doyle, which began to appear in 1887. Set in Arkansas, the novel was adapted into a movie in 1938. In the mid-1890s, Mark Twain, near bankruptcy after unwise investments, returned to his popular characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to revive his fortunes. He wrote Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894), a parody of the travel adventures of Jules Verne, and began a novel to be titled Tom Sawyer among the Indians, which was never completed. Tom Sawyer, Detective (1896) had an unusual origin. While visiting Europe in late 1894, Twain had been told the …

Tomkievicz, Shirley Jean Abbott

aka: Shirley Abbott
Shirley Jean Abbott Tomkievicz, a magazine editor and writer, achieved her greatest fame for her three volumes of memoirs, which detail the story of her family history and her own coming of age in Hot Springs (Garland County): Womenfolks: Growing Up Down South (1983), The Bookmaker’s Daughter: A Memory Unbound (1991), and Love’s Apprentice: The Education of a Modern Woman (1998), all written under the name Shirley Abbott. Critics  lauded her books as well-written examinations, not only of her own life, but of the South in an age of transition. Even after becoming a resident of New York, Abbott continues to write about Arkansas for a wide audience in magazines and newspapers. She once commented, “I learned to respect and …

Trieschmann, John Werner, IV

John Werner Trieschmann IV is a playwright and professor living in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Trieschmann’s many plays have been staged by Moving Arts in Los Angeles, California; Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York; the New Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts; Red Octopus Productions in Little Rock; and other companies, as well as by countless middle schools and high schools in the United States and abroad. First-prize winner of the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans New Play Competition, Trieschmann was also the first playwright to have been honored with the prestigious Porter Prize in Arkansas (1994). Werner Trieschmann was born on September 9, 1964, in Hot Springs (Garland County), the oldest of four boys. His father, John Trieschmann, was a …

Trimble, Vance

Vance Henry Trimble was a prolific award-winning journalist, biographer, and newspaperman from Harrison (Boone County). In 1960, Trimble won the Pulitzer Prize for national coverage, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for distinguished Washington coverage, and the Raymond Clapper Award for that year’s best reporting. Vance Trimble was born in Harrison on July 6, 1913. His father, Guy L. Trimble, was a lawyer, and his mother, Josie Trimble, was a poet and writer. By 1920, anti-union violence and mob rule, culminating in what has been called the Harrison Railroad Riot, forced Guy Trimble to resign as mayor and move his family to Okemah, Oklahoma, where Vance Trimble grew up. Trimble’s mother directed plays at Okemah’s Crystal Theater, and when Trimble was …

True Grit

“Here is what happened.” With those simple words, Mattie Ross of Dardanelle (Yell County) begins her reminiscence of the time she avenged her father’s murder with the help of a one-eyed deputy marshal and a dandy Texas Ranger. Set in western Arkansas and the Indian Territory of the 1870s, the novel True Grit, written by Arkansan Charles Portis, mixes this unlikely trio of personalities in a bestselling Western adventure. Published in 1968, True Grit was adapted into a movie and released the following year. The movie garnered veteran actor John Wayne the first and only Oscar of his career for his portrayal of Deputy Marshal Rooster Cogburn. In 2010, a second film adaptation of the novel, written and directed by …

Turnbo, Silas Claiborne

Silas Claiborne Turnbo was a former Confederate soldier who spent much of his life collecting reminiscences of life in the Ozark Mountains. These tales are preserved in several archival institutions and provide important primary source information on the region. Silas Turnbo was born on May 26, 1844, on Beaver Creek in Taney County, Missouri, one of eight children of the farming family of James C. Turnbo and Eliza Turnbo. By 1862, the family was living in Arkansas in Marion County, and the young Turnbo enlisted as a private in Company A, Twenty-Seventh Arkansas Infantry, in June 1862, at Yellville (Marion County). He rose to the rank of third sergeant in 1863 but resigned that rank on January 31, 1864, and …

Vance, Rupert Bayliss

Rupert Bayliss Vance was a sociologist on the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), who, along with fellow sociology faculty member Howard Odum, established the field of “regional sociology”—in their case, an extensive study of the South. The two helped provide a progressive counterweight at UNC in the 1930s to the conservative agrarian philosophy centered with the faculty at Vanderbilt University and expressed in their collection of essays I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition (1930). Rupert B. Vance was born on March 15, 1899, in Plumerville (Conway County), the oldest of four children of Walter Vance and Mary Bayliss Vance. Walter Vance owned a general store, though the Vances lived on …

Vapors, The [Book]

Written by Hot Springs (Garland County) native David Hill, The Vapors: A Southern Family, the New York Mob, and the Rise and Fall of Hot Springs, America’s Forgotten Capital of Vice is a nonfiction work released to great acclaim in July 2020. The word “vapors” in the title represents the nightclub of the same name and the steam emitted from the area’s warm underground springs, but also perhaps the illusory wisps of a vanished world. Hill captures the notorious heyday of Hot Springs as a center of open gambling, presenting the story not only using historical documentation but also through the experiences of the author’s own family members who were part of the town’s casino culture. Some historians have cited …

Vining, Peggy Sue Caudle

Peggy Sue Caudle Vining was appointed Poet Laureate of Arkansas in 2003 by Governor Mike Huckabee. She was the sixth poet laureate since the creation of the position by concurrent resolutions of both houses of the Arkansas legislature in 1923. Peggy Sue Caudle, the oldest of three daughters, was born on March 4, 1929, in Greenfield, Tennessee, to Clayton R. Caudle, a salesman and later owner of a farm equipment company, and Winnie May Moore, a schoolteacher prior to their marriage. Caudle’s father was a deacon at the Greenfield Baptist Church, and she learned hymns and Bible verses at an early age. Caudle left home to attend college at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, in 1946. She earned her elementary …

Warriors Don’t Cry

Melba Pattillo Beals’s Warriors Don’t Cry, published in 1994, is a first-person account of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Melba Pattillo was born on December 7, 1941, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Lois Marie Pattillo, PhD, and Howell Pattillo. In 1957, she was one of the Little Rock Nine, nine Black students who volunteered to integrate Central High School. She spent her senior year, when Little Rock’s high schools were closed during what is known as the Lost Year, at a high school in California. After her marriage and divorce, Melba Pattillo Beals earned a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in 1973, and …

West, Donald W. (Don)

Donald W. West was a farmer, educator, writer, and folklorist who became a local legend in northwestern Arkansas, especially Fayetteville (Washington County). West moved with his family to the thickly forested mountains, abandoned farmland, and isolated hollows of southern Washington County near Winslow (Washington County) in 1938. He published a memoir about his family’s subsistence farming experience and worked as itinerant teacher. (A different Don West was also a writer and proponent of folk culture and rural life who co-founded the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, in 1932.) Don West was born in Oklahoma on September 12, 1905, the fourth of five children of John West and Mollie West. West was a resident of Garrett, Oklahoma, and Santa Fe, …

Whitehead, James Tillotson (Jim)

James Tillotson Whitehead was a Mississippi-reared athlete who received a classical education at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee to prepare himself for a career writing poetry and fiction and teaching in Arkansas. He won some literary acclaim for his single completed work of fiction, the novel Joiner, and published four books of poetry. With his Vanderbilt pal William Harrison, he started the creative-writing program at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). Jim Whitehead was born on March 15, 1936, in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Dick Bruun Whitehead and Ruth Ann Tillotson Whitehead. The family moved to Jackson, Mississippi, at the end of World War II, and Whitehead attended school there. His large size, strength, and agility …

Widow’s Web

Gene Lyons, a New Jersey–born writer who settled in Arkansas, set out to impose order and create literature out of the spectacular murder mysteries and media circus involving Mary Lee Orsini, a North Little Rock (Pulaski County) woman who ultimately was convicted of the murders of her husband and the wife of her defense attorney. The result was Lyons’s Widow’s Web, which was published by Simon & Schuster in 1993 and recounted in fastidious detail the police work that eventually foiled all of Orsini’s schemes and those of her willing and unwitting collaborators, sending her to prison for the rest of her life. Lyons already had a national reputation as a writer before he tackled the bewildering Orsini story that …

Wilkins, Gina Ferris Vaughan

Gina Ferris Vaughan Wilkins is the author of more than 100 books. A life-long resident of central Arkansas, Wilkins obtained a journalism degree from Arkansas State University (ASU) and worked in advertising and human resources until she sold her first book in 1987 to Harlequin. Gina Vaughan was born on December 20, 1954, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Vernon Vaughan, an electrician, and Beth Vaughan, an executive secretary. She has three younger brothers. In February 1972, she married John Wilkins, a wood turner. They have three children. When she sold her first book, he used his savings to buy her a typewriter. She returned the one she had borrowed from her mother-in-law. After graduating from ASU in May 1976, …

Williams, C. Fred

Dr. C. Fred Williams was a professor of history who chaired the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock) history department through its largest expansion. Williams authored several works on Arkansas and served in many capacities at UA Little Rock; he also volunteered his services as a consultant for the Little Rock School District, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Society, the Old State House Museum, Ouachita Baptist University, the Arkansas Humanities Council, and the Historic Arkansas Museum. Williams was the recipient of the Arkansas Historical Association’s lifetime achievement award. Charles Fredrick Williams was born in Allen, Oklahoma, on December 24, 1943, to Charles H. Williams and Willie Mae Williams. He had two brothers and five sisters. Williams married Glenda …

Williams, Miller

aka: Stanley Miller Williams
Stanley Miller Williams, known professionally as Miller Williams, was one of the foremost American poets of the post–World War II era. For thirty-three years, he was a professor of English, foreign languages, and comparative literature at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and was a key figure in the university’s nationally known programs in creative writing and translation. He was the author, editor, or translator of over thirty volumes of poetry, literary criticism, and fiction. Miller Williams was born on April 8, 1930, in Hoxie (Lawrence County) to Ernest Burdette and Ann Jeanette Miller Williams. In his early years, he lived in five Arkansas towns, where his father served as a Methodist minister. After graduating from high …

Wilson, Charles Morrow

A native of Fayetteville (Washington County), Charles Morrow Wilson was a nationally known freelance author. While the majority of his many books and magazine articles were on international trade, agriculture, and medicine topics, a significant number were on Arkansas culture and politics. Charles Wilson was born in Fayetteville on June 16, 1905, to Joseph Dixon and Martha (Mattie) Maude Morrow Wilson. He was educated in Fayetteville Public Schools and graduated from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville in 1926. Wilson began writing when he was still a student, and author Charles J. Finger became his mentor. Wilson was included in the group of writers, artists, and scientists who frequently gathered at Finger’s home near Fayetteville, and he was associated …

Witness, The

A 2012 novel by romance writer Nora Roberts published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, The Witness is set in the imaginary Ozarks town of Bickford, Arkansas, a community that somewhat resembles the tourist town of Eureka Springs (Carroll County). Bickford is hardly ever mentioned by name, however, and its identity with Eureka Springs is tenuous. The novel’s characters are what you might expect to find in a tourist town in the mountains: generous, family-centered Ozarkers gifted at story-telling and meandering conversation. They are also more welcoming to “Yankees” than small-town folk in other Roberts novels. Brooks Gleason, chief of police of Bickford, has come home after ten years on the Little Rock (Pulaski County) police force. His father teaches mathematics …

Woman Who Wouldn’t Talk, The

After enduring a harsh national spotlight for several years—almost two of them while she was confined in a series of seven different prisons—for refusing to furnish evidence in the historic Whitewater investigation led by Republican federal prosecutor Kenneth Starr, Susan McDougal of Camden (Ouachita County) wrote a book titled, The Woman Who Wouldn’t Talk: Why I Refused to Testify against the Clintons & What I Learned in Jail. The book had an unexpected impact, owing mainly to the second part of the subtitle—her descriptions of the conditions and treatment of women inmates in federal lockups. Written with lawyer Pat Harris (her friend and former fiancé) and published by Carroll & Graf in January 2003, McDougal’s book received laudatory reviews, made …

Woods Colt, The

Thames Williamson’s The Woods Colt, published by Harcourt, Brace and Company in 1933, was the first Ozarks-based novel to be a significant popular and critical success. The novel was a selection in the Book of the Month Club for October 1933 and was praised by several critics, including an anonymous reviewer who, in the October 1933 issue of Time, argued that it was worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. Set in the early 1930s, The Woods Colt (a regional term for an illegitimate child) tells the story of Clint Morgan, a young man who was brought up fatherless and shunned by many members of his community. He is now a jealous and rowdy hill man courting the voluptuous and flirtatious Tillie …

Woodward, Comer Vann

Comer Vann Woodward was arguably the twentieth century’s foremost Southern historian. Although published in the 1950s, his Origins of the New South, 1877–1913 and The Strange Career of Jim Crow remain vital interpretive narratives. C. Vann Woodward was born November 13, 1908, to Hugh (Jack) and Emily (Bess) Woodward in Vanndale (Cross County). During Woodward’s youth, his father was a school administrator in Wynne (Cross County), then Arkadelphia (Clark County), and subsequently Morrilton (Conway County). Woodward graduated from high school in Morrilton in 1926 and enrolled at Henderson-Brown College, a small Methodist institution in Arkadelphia. After two years, he transferred to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, graduating in 1930 with an AB in philosophy. Inspired by his uncle and namesake, …

Wright, C. D.

aka: Carolyn Wright
Carolyn Wright was a poet whose work won acclaim for its experimental variety and rich colloquial sound. As a publisher and an exhibit curator, she was a long-term advocate of poets and poetry. Wright was a National Book Award finalist for her 2010 volume One With Others: [a little book of her days], which won the National Book Critics Circle Award that year. C. D. Wright was born on January 6, 1949, in Mountain Home (Baxter County) to Alyce E. Collins, a court reporter, and Ernie E. Wright, a judge for the chancery and probate court. She has one brother, Warren. Wright grew up in Boone County, graduated from Harrison High School, and received her BA in French from Memphis …

Wright, Richard Nathaniel

Richard Nathaniel Wright was a writer of fiction and nonfiction. His many works, influenced by the injustices he faced as an African American, protested racial divides in America. His most famous work, the autobiographical Black Boy, was a controversial bestseller that opened the eyes of the nation to the evils of racism. Richard Wright was born on September 4, 1908, on a farm in Roxie, Mississippi, the son of Nathan Wright, a sharecropper, and Ella Wright, a teacher. He had one younger brother, Leon. The family’s poverty forced them to move around the South during Wright’s childhood. In Memphis, Tennessee, his father left the family, and in 1915, his mother put Wright and his brother in a Memphis orphanage after …