2.13.2009

Jefferson Young revisited


On 19 January 2009 many of you read the story of Mississippi author Thomas Jefferson Young in my post, “A white house.”

Visitors can read the original post HERE.

This is an update on Jefferson Young, who in 1953 wrote a critically-acclaimed book titled “A Good Man.”

After weeks of research on Young and the favorable reception of the original post, I was able to locate and purchase from a London bookstore a first-edition copy of Young’s book. In mint condition, the book has yielded a little more information on the man.

FROM THE BACK OF THE DUST JACKET:

“The material which Jefferson Young has given his publisher about himself is as simple, as direct and as unostentatious as his novel. Born in Oma, Mississippi, in 1921, Mr. Young served three years in the Air Force as a bomber pilot, was then graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, worked in an editorial and public relations capacity in Dallas, Texas, for two years and then came to New York. While there he received a Eugene F. Saxton Memorial Fellowship of creative writing, awarded in 1951, and completed the novel in New Orleans with the help of that fellowship. He is now enrolled in the Graduate School of Tulane University.

“One is similarly impressed with Mr. Young as a person. He is quiet, economical in what he has to say, sure of what he means, and all of one piece in thought and action. One who has known both him and the book is convinced of the valid application of Montaigne’s words: ‘Myself am the groundwork of my booke.’ “

(BJ NOTE: There is a photo of Young, and I wish I had a scanner so I could share it with you here. On the last page of “A Good Man:” “The writer expresses his appreciation to the Eugene F. Saxton Memorial Trust.”)

FROM THE FRONT DUST JACKET FLAP:

“This is a brief story. You could – you very well might – read it in a single evening. Yet, its dimensions are as large as imagination and human sympathy. It is not too much to say that when you have finished it you will know more than you have yet known of the quality and worth of man’s aspiring – and you will be moved and exalted by the knowledge.

“It is the achievement of Jefferson Young to show us the broadest and deepest of life values in the desire of a tenant farmer to paint his house white. The story of Albert Clayton, a hero of his people and of our kind, becomes – in this extraordinary art of Mr. Young’s telling – the study also of man’s immemorial striving to realize his own inherent nobility.

“It is a story so direct, so simple – so beautiful – that it has the quality of inspired parable or the truest folk tale. Yet, it transcends symbolism. It becomes human experience itself, rendered so clearly that its meanings are instantly discovered and cherished. They extend from the ‘good man’ Albert Clayton to all men, and they compass the dignity, the pride, the courage and hope which all of us must know as our best inheritance.

“Albert Clayton’s moving victory in defeat is to know this human inheritance completely and hold it bravely. He is a hero because he is wholly a man. It is as simple as that.

“Perhaps the best tribute to Jefferson Young’s talent is that – for all its simplicity – his story cannot be outlined here. Anything less than its full expression through Mr. Young’s consummate craftsmanship would rob it of warmth and power and you of the fullness of a memorable experience.”

FRONTISPIECE:

The book is dedicated to Young’s parents: “For Clara and Shelby Young.”

NOTES MAILED TO ME BY ELMO HOWELL, 90, AUTHOR AND HISTORIAN, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE:

Thomas Jefferson Young, 1921- (at the time not yet deceased).
Thomas Jefferson Young, son of Thomas S. and Clara Young, was born in Oma, Lawrence County, Mississippi, on 30 September 1921. He attended Hinds Junior College (Raymond, Mississippi), the University of Mississippi (Oxford) and is a graduate of the University of Missouri where he received in 1948 the B.J. degree (bachelor of journalism, I presume) after serving as a pilot in the United States Air Force in World War II (1943-1945). A recipient of the Eugene F. Saxton Memorial Writing Award and a Carnegie Fellowship, Mr. Young, apart from the writing of fiction, has engaged in newspaper work and writing for various oil journals. Presently, he lives on Route 3, Monticello, Mississippi, 39654. Fiction: A Good Man, Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis, 1953. Source: Lives of Mississippi Authors, James R. Lloyd, editor, University of Mississippi Press, 1981.

***

There is more to this story. But, the transitional moments – from heralded author to recluse – in the life of Thomas Jefferson Young might remain, like the man himself, private and secluded.

5 comments:

Annelle said...

What brought that man back to Lawrence County? I sure would like to know.

B.J. said...

You know what struck me: You used to be on Route 3. The Ole Miss researcher says Young lived on Route 3. Was Oma on Route 3? I would be tempted to drive there and seek out the oldest surviving resident and ask some questions!!!

The more I learn the more I am intrigued.

BJ

Tiny said...

BJ, thanks for the update of info on this author. Sounds like a very remarkable, talented and humble man.

Debra said...

Hmmmmm................
Handsome, talented and from Mississippi. Another + for Mississippi.
Love,
Deb

Cindy in NYC said...

Hello from NYC! I live near Union Square and love to go to Strand Books. No tellig what I will find. They do, however have a heartless practice of buying books, from people who show up, and for whatever the reason, choose to casually reject some. Therefore I know that on the weekend, if I stroll by their dumpster, I am likely to find some very interesting items. This afternoon, after heavy rain hereabout last night, I came upon piles and piles of books, many of them wet, the covers soaked through. But not all of them. One of them was a book called A GOOD MAN, by an author named Jefferson Young. Although I am a writer myself, and a reader for most of my 67 years, I am embarrassed to say - this was not an author I had ever heard of. I will tuck into it tonight, but in the meantime - what sort of fool throws away a hard cover copy of a book like this? I have read Robert Penn Warren, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Pat Conroy, and while i am a New Yorker, I still dearly enjoy the work, the sound and the world views of Southern writers. Glad I strolled out after the rain!