Thomas McAfee was born and raised in Haleyville, Ala. His mother died when McAfee was five. His stepmother had a large library and allowed him to read whatever he liked without any restrictions. McAfee began writing as a boy. He spent his last two years of high school at Columbia Military Academy in Columbia, Tenn. McAfee attended the University of Missouri at Columbia where he earned an AB in English in 1949 and an MA in 1950. He was also a student at the Kenyon School of English, a summer literature program at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. McAfee was drafted in 1950 and served in the US Army for two years. He continued his extensive reading and his writing during this time.
After his discharge from the Army, McAfee returned to Columbia where he taught in the English department of the University of Missouri for twenty-nine years. His poems and short stories began appearing in literary magazines in the 1950s. In 1959, his short story “The Prisoner” was published in Esquire magazine. The following year, McAfee published his first book, Poems and Stories. Over the next twenty-two years, he published a novel, another collection of short stories, and several poetry collections, some in limited-edition chapbooks. McAfee received a writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1976. He died in Columbia of lung cancer in 1982.
The poems of Thomas McAfee are stark and unflinchingly realistic. His dark and violent short stories are set in rural or small-town Alabama. His novel, Rover Youngblood, is about the travels of an unsophisticated North Alabama boy.
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Photo courtesy of the James T. McAfee, Papers, 1948-1985, Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia, MO and the University of Missouri/State Historical Society of Missouri.
Last updated on May 30, 2008.