Monday, October 7, 2013

T. S. Stribling

On our recent trip to Clifton, Tennessee, we visited the home of writer T. S. Stribling.

Stribling was born in 1881 and spent his childhood in Clifton and Florence, Alabama.  Tom wasn't much for manual labor and aspired to be a writer, causing some to think he was just lazy. He earned his teaching degree at Florence State College, then went on to law school.  He earned a law degree and practiced law for a year, then moved to Nashville, where he started writing seriously.  Later, he lived in New Orleans and made his living writing Sunday School literature.

His first novel was published in 1921, followed by a new one every year for a while.  His greatest writing may have been a trilogy started in 1931 with The Forge.  In 1932, Stribling wrote The Store, which won the Pulitzer Prize.  The trilogy was finished in 1933 with Unfinished Cathedral.  All these books were set in and around Florence.


 Many, many people were not happy with the way Stribling portrayed the people of Florence. His career and legacy were damaged because of his honest exploration of the racial and social injustice all over the South during that time.

He returned to Florence in 1962 and lectured at Florence State College (now the University of North Alabama).  He died in Florence in 1965 and is buried in Clifton. The epitaph on his tombstone reads, Through This Dust These Hills Once Spoke.

Some say that T. S. Stribling was the first serious Southern writer.  He sold more books during the time between the World Wars than Faulkner, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald combined.

Collier Library at the University of North Alabama has an extensive collection of his books.  They are not easy reads, but unforgettable ones.