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Tennessee Authors (Special Collections): W-Z

This research guide highlights primary sources and research materials about prominent authors in Tennessee.

Robert Sparks Walker

Robert Sparks Walker (1878-1960) was born on February 4, 1878, in Chattanooga, Tennessee to William Thomas and Mary Elizabeth Moore Walker. He attended Maryville College and earned a law degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1905.

Walker was an avid horticulturalist and naturalist, interests that were reflected in his work. His work included poetry and articles, many of which were published in magazines and newspapers, as well as short stories and novels. His bibliography includes My Father’s Farm, Outdoors in the Cumberlands, and Lookout: The Story of a Mountain. He was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for his 1931 publication Torchlight to the Cherokees. In addition to writing about nature, Walker helped found his local Audubon Society and also established the Elise Chapin Wildlife Sanctuary in East Brainerd, Tennessee.


  • Torchlights to the Cherokees: The Brainerd Mission. 1931 (E99.C5 W25)
  • Outdoors in the Cumberlands. 1933 (QH105.T2 C8)
  • Lookout, the Story of a Mountain. 1941 (F443.L8 W25)
  • As the Indians Left It: The Story of the Chattanooga Audubon Society and its Elise Chapin Wildlife Sanctuary. 1955 (QH77.U6 W3)
  • Anchor Poems. 1925 (PS3545.A53 A8 1925)
  • My Father's Farm. 1927 (PS3545.A53 M8 1927)

Robert Penn Warren

Black and white portrait of Robert Penn Warren sitting in front of typewriter with a bookshelf behind him.
Robert Penn Warren circa 1960

Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989) was born in Guthrie, Kentucky to Robert Warren and Anna Penn on April 24, 1905. He graduated from Clarksville High School in Tennessee. He then studied at Vanderbilt University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Yale University. It was at Vanderbilt that he began his association with the Fugitives, a group of poets and other literary figures, and subsequently, the Southern Agrarians, contributing an essay to the group's manifesto, I'll Take My Stand (1930).

Warren wrote a number of literary, poetic, and nonfiction works including At Heaven’s Gate (1943), Promises: Poems: 1954 – 1956 (1957), and Who Speaks for the Negro? (1965). He won three Pulitzer Prizes, two for poetry collections in 1958 and 1979 and one for his novel All the King’s Men (1946), thus making him the only person to ever win Pulitzer Prizes for both poetry and fiction. He earned several other literary awards and accolades including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1980), the National Medal of Arts (1987), and serving as the first U.S. Poet Laureate. Warren taught at several universities including Vanderbilt University, the University of Minnesota, and Louisiana State University. It was at Louisiana State University that he helped found the literary journal, The Southern Review.

Manuscript Resources

Other Resources

  • World Enough and Time, a Romantic Novel. 1950 (PS3545.A748 W6 1950)
  • Brother to Dragons, a Tale in Verse and Voices. 1953 (PS3545.A748 B7)
  • Answer to Prayer: A Short Story That Could Be Longer. 1975 (PS3545 .A748 A798 1975)
  • Two Peters: Memory and Opinion. 1977 (PS3539 .A9633 Z987 1977)
  • Rumor Verified : Poems, 1979-1980. 1981 (PS3545.A748 R8 1981)

Don Whitehead

Journalist Don Whitehead (1908-1981) was born on April 8, 1908, in Inman, Virginia, but was raised in Kentucky and attended the University of Kentucky. He started his journalistic career in 1928, working for newspapers in LaFollette, Tennessee and Harlan, Kentucky. His career with the Associated Press started in 1935 and he earned a great deal of respect as a journalist while covering World War II and the Korean War. Following his war experiences, Whitehead wrote several books, including the bestseller The FBI Story. During this time he also worked for the New York Herald Tribune. In the latter years of his career, he continued to write books and was a regular columnist for the Knoxville News-Sentinel. His writing earned him several awards including the George Polk Award (1950), the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting (1951) and the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting (1952).

Manuscript Resources

Other Resources

  • The FBI Story; A Report to the People. 1956 (HV8141 .W45)
  • Attack on Terror; The FBI Against the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi. 1970 (HS2330.K63 W4)
  • Combat Reporter: Don Whitehead's World War II Diary and Memoirs. 2006 (D766.82 .W48 2006)

Samuel Cole Williams

Samuel Cole Williams (1864-1947) was born in Gibson County, Tennessee on January 15, 1864. After graduating from the Vanderbilt School of Law, he moved to Johnson City, Tennessee. In 1913, he was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. From 1919 to 1924, he served as the first dean of the Lamar School of Law at Emory University in Atlanta before retiring back to Johnson City. Later in his life, he focused more on writing. As a scholar of Tennessee history, Williams published many works on the subject including History of the Lost State of Franklin (1924) and History of Johnson City and its Environs (1940). Additionally, he helped reinvigorate the Tennessee Historical Commission and founded the East Tennessee Historical Society.

Manuscript Resources

Other Resources

  • An Address to the People of Tennessee. 1914 (F436.5 .W55 1914)
  • Ann Robertson: An Unsung Tennessee Heroine. 1944 (F436.C7 W5)
  • William Tatham, Wataugan. 1947 (F436 .T21)
  • History of Johnson City and its Environs. 1954 (F444.J67 W5 1954b)
  • History of the Lost State of Franklin. 1970 (F436 .W72 1970)

Tennessee Williams

black and white portrait of Playwright Tennessee Williams sitting and leaning backwards on his hands that rest behind him.
Tennessee Williams, 1941

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) was born Thomas Lanier Williamson on March 26, 1911, to Cornelius and Edwina Williams in Columbus, Mississippi. He briefly attended Washington University in St. Louis before graduating from the University of Iowa in 1938. At the age of 28, Williams moved to New Orleans, a place that would heavily influence his writing. Though he had some moderate success with earlier plays, success came with 1944’s The Glass Menagerie. His other major plays include A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), and The Night of Iguana (1961). Williams also wrote novels, essays, short stories, and film scripts. Several of his plays were performed on Broadway, many adapted as movies, and he won a number of awards for his writings including two Pulitzer Prizes, four Drama Critics’ Circle awards, and a Tony award.


  • 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, and Other One-Act Plays. 1945 (PS3545.I5365 T9)
  • Suddenly Last Summer. 1958 (PS3545.I5365 S83 1958)
  • Tennessee Williams' Letters to Donald Windham, 1940-65. 1976 (PS3545 .I524Z548)
  • Steps Must Be Gentle: A Dramatic Reading for Two Performers. 1980 (PS3545.I5365 S7)

Special Collections and University Archives

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