Novelist Thomas Jefferson Young was born on 1 October 1921 in Oma, Mississippi, a hamlet in Lawrence County twelve miles north of Monticello. His parents were Clara Boutwell Young and Thomas Shelby Young.
After graduating from Monticello High School, Young enrolled at Hinds Junior College in Raymond in January 1940, graduating in 1941. While a student at Hinds, Young served as a sports correspondent for the Jackson Daily News. He spent two years in the US Army Air Corps, serving as a bomber pilot in England during World War II, before earning his bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Missouri in June 1946.
Young spent two years working in an editorial and public relations position with the American Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors in Dallas before moving to New York and submitting a novel in progress for a Eugene F. Saxton Memorial Trust Fellowship, a program established in 1943 to assist talented writers who would otherwise be unable to complete book projects. Young received the Saxton Fellowship in 1951 and moved to New Orleans, where he completed the novel. A Good Man was published in 1953, while Young was enrolled in graduate school at Tulane University, but he left before completing a year of study.
A Good Man was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, and Reader’s Digest released a condensed version of the novel. It tells the story of how Albert Clayton, a black tenant on the farm of a white man, John Tittle, in the Piney Woods section of Mississippi, strives for self-respect and decency.
Although the New York Times said that A Good Man was “so good a book that Mr. Young’s future career is certain to be followed eagerly,” Young drifted into obscurity. Sometime during the 1960s he returned to his hometown of Oma and lived out his life in the house his parents built. He died on 31 March 1995 in Winnsboro, Louisiana.
- Thomas J. Young Obituary, Lawrence County Press (5 April 1995)
- Jefferson Young File, Bobbs-Merrill MSS., Manuscripts Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University