- NAME: William Styron
- OCCUPATION: Author
- BIRTH DATE: June 11, 1925
- DEATH DATE: November 01, 2006
- EDUCATION: Duke University, Christchurch School, New School for Social Research
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Newport News, Virginia
- PLACE OF DEATH: Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
- AKA: William Clark Styron
- Full Name: William Clark Styron Jr.
- AKA: William Styron
Best Known For
Novelist William Styron won a Pulitzer Prize for The Confessions of Nat Turner and wrote Sophie’s Choice, the basis of an Academy Award-winning film.
William Styron - Confessions (2:09)
Wiliam Styron is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of "The Confessions of Nat Turner."As a white author wiring about African American issues, Styron faced criticism from both sides. Video courtesy of Open Road Media.
Authors Henry Louis Gates, Alice Walker and others discuss African-American literature and its role in the Civil Rights movement.
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William Styron was born on June 11, 1925, in Newport News, Virginia. He published his first novel, Lie Down in Darkness, in 1952. In 1968 he won a Pulitzer Prize for The Confessions of Nat Turner. In 1979 he published Sophie’s Choice, which was made into a film in 1982 and an opera in 2002. Styron continued to write throughout the 1990s. He died November 1, 2006 on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
"It seems to me that only a great satirist can tackle the world’s problems and articulate them. Most writers write simply out of some strong interior need, and that, I think, is the answer. A great writer, writing out of this need, will give substance to, and perhaps even explain, all the problems of the world without even knowing it."
William Clark Styron Jr. was born in Newport News, Virginia, on June 11, 1925. While William Jr. was growing up, his father, William Styron Sr., whose ancestors had been living in the South since the 1600s, worked as a shipyard clerk. William's mother, Pauline Margaret Abraham Styron, was born into a long line of Pennsylvanians, and died when William Jr. was just 13.
After his mother's death, William Jr. started rebelling. In order to discipline the unruly teen, his father sent him to Christchurch School, a small Episcopal boys' preparatory school in Middlesex County, Virginia.
After graduating from Christchurch in 1942, Styron began training as a Marines reserve officer and attending Davidson College. The Marines transferred him to Duke University the following year.
In 1944, Styron left Duke to assume active duty, and after training for a year, was sent to help invade Japan as a second lieutenant. Styron was discharged just a month after arriving, when Japan surrendered in the wake of the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Back in the United States, William Styron resumed his education at Duke University. During this time, he became reacquainted with his former professor, William Blackburn. Blackburn took Styron under his wing, encouraging Styron's interest in literature and coaching him in his writing. With Blackburn's support and guidance, Styron began writing his first short stories. Styron at last completed his Bachelor of the Arts degree at Duke in 1947. After graduation, he moved to New York, following Blackburn's suggestion that he take Hira Haydn's creative writing class at the New School for Social Research.
In New York, Styron also took a copy writing job with the McGraw-Hill publishing company, but he soon felt that the job drained him of creative inspiration. To his relief, he was fired within six months for his sloppy appearance and for slacking off on the job.
Since his father was providing him financial support, Styron decided to stop working and focus entirely on his writing. The decision yielded successful results; after a summer redeployed, in 1952, Styron published his first novel, Lie Down in Darkness, about the collapse of a Southern family. The book earned Styron the Prix de Rome of the Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as a free year at the American Academy in Rome. The summer before his year in Rome, Styron stayed in Paris, where he helped found The Paris Review.
Once in Rome, Styron fell in love with Rose Burgunder, a poet and classmate at the American Academy.
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