Of the writers from Mississippi, most focus on novels or short stories. However, Mississippi has also produced one of the most famous playwrights of all time. Tennessee Williams hails from Columbus and schools teach many of his works. Although some Union residents may know his works by name, many will not know the author well. All Mississippians should express pride in this playwright, and everyone should know his story.
Tennessee Williams came into the world in 1911 as Thomas Lanier Williams, and he lived in Columbus for the first seven years of his life, giving him a wonderful childhood until he moved to St. Louis, Mo. After this abrupt move and change of life, Williams became extremely unhappy with his life, and started writing to give himself comfort. He attended a few different universities in his early adulthood, worked for a while and eventually moved to New Orleans (“Tennessee Williams Biography”). During the 1940s, Williams traveled the country, and in 1944, he wrote his play “The Glass Menagerie,” which eventually went all the way to Broadway in New York City. With this play, Williams won a New York Drama Critics’ Award and a New York Film Critics’ Award. This play gave him almost overnight fame, establishing Williams as one of the premier playwrights of the 20th century (“Tennessee Williams Biography”).
After this breakthrough, Williams entered the late 1940s and 1950s with newfound inspiration. He worked with several other artists to produce several famous plays during this time—"A Streetcar named Desire,” “Camino Real,” Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Sweet Bird of Youth.” He also produced the movie “Baby Doll” during this time as well (“Tennessee Williams Biography”). Despite these successes, the approach of the 1960s brought hard times for Williams. To start off this decade, he received extremely harsh criticism of his new plays “The Night of the Iguana” and “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore.” As the decade progressed, Williams experienced some personal trauma, turning to alcohol and drug abuse as a way to cope and continued to write this entire time. Eventually, he went into the hospital in 1969 in an attempt at recovery (“Tennessee Williams Biography”); however, this did little to help his substance abuse. During the 1970s, Williams wrote short stories, plays, poems and a memoir about his life. He included the good parts of his life as well as the bad in these works. In 1980, Williams wrote the play “Clothes for Summer Hotel” about the lives of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. This would be his last play since he died a mere three years later, providing a sad ending to the story of a theatrical genius.
Although Williams did not live most of his life in Mississippi, he still experienced an early childhood in the state. Growing up in Columbus, he experienced what some describe as a carefree, ideal childhood, and this makes him as much a Mississippian as those who live here all their lives. He wrote some of the greatest plays in American literature, yet his story does not have a happy ending. Union residents should still feel pride in calling the same state home, and no one should forget his story.