T. S. Stribling was born in Clifton, Tenn., where his parents ran a weekly newspaper and then a general store. As a boy, Stribling spent summers with relatives living near Gravelly Springs, Ala. Although he wanted to write, to please his parents Stribling trained to be a teacher. He studied first at Southern Normal College in Huntingdon, Tenn., then at the State Normal College in Florence, Ala. (now the University of North Alabama), from which he graduated in 1903. He taught in a public school in Tuscaloosa for one year, then entered law school at the University of Alabama, from which he graduated in 1905. He briefly practiced law in Florence, then returned to Tennessee to work as an office boy for a Nashville magazine. He left the magazine in 1908 and began to write full-time. He worked briefly as a reporter for the Chattanooga News in 1917, and he served as a stenographer for the Federal Aviation Bureau in 1918 as his contribution to the war effort.
As a professional writer, Stribling initially wrote children’s stories for Sunday school magazines and adventure stories for popular magazines. In 1917, he published his first novel, The Cruise of the Dry Dock, a “potboiler.” His first “serious” novel, Birthright, was published initially as a serial in Century Magazine in 1921-22, then as a book in 1922. His most famous novels, The Forge, The Store, and Unfinished Cathedral, formed a trilogy about the rise and fall of a fictional Florence family, the Vaidens. He continued to write both “potboilers” and "serious" novels until 1938. After that, he published only short stories in popular magazines such as Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine until his retirement in 1955.
T. S. Stribling has been called a pioneer in social realism novels. His “serious” novels examined race and class issues and treated blacks and poor whites realistically and sympathetically. His work anticipated and possibly influenced the fiction of writers like his contemporaries Erskine Caldwell and William Faulkner.
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Photo courtesy of the Collier Library Archives, University of North Alabama.
Last updated on Feb 29, 2008.