Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI WRITERS: James Street


James Street James Street, Photo by Editta Sherman1903-1954

Major Works

  • Oh, Promised Land 1940
  • In My Father's House 1941
  • The Gauntlet 1945
  • The High Calling 1951
  • The Biscuit Eater  published in Saturday Evening Post, May 13, 1939, made into a film in 1940 and again in 1972 by Disney
  • Tap Roots 1942  (made into a film)
  • Good-Bye, My Lady 1954  (made into a film twice)
  • By Valor and Arms,
  • Nothing Sacred (also made into a film)
  • Look Away
  • Mingo Dabney

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James Street: A Biography Lindsay Roberts (SHS)
By Lindsay Roberts (SHS)

Best known internationally for his boy and dog story called The Biscuit Eater, James Howell Street was a hobo, soda jerk, butcher, reporter, and minister before he became a famous writer.  His stories grew out of his background and experience, primarily the country, boys, dogs,Mississippi, and ministers.  He considered himself a professional entertainer or craftsman rather than a literary writer.

James Street from The Gauntlet cover James Howell Street was born in Lumberton, Mississippi,  on October 15, 1903, to John Camillus (a lawyer) and William Thompson Scott Street (that was his mother.)  Street's  family moved to Poplarville and  then Hattiesburg before finally settling down in Laurel, Mississippi.  At the age of fourteen,  Street began working at the Laural Daily Leader, a local newspaper.  He became a reporter in Hattiesburg at nineteen.

In 1923 Street (nicknamed Jimmy) married a women by the name of Lucy Nash O'Briant,  who was a Baptist minister's daughter. That is when Street (whose family was strictly Catholic) decided to to follow in the footsteps of his father-in-law and become a Baptist minister. Street studied at Fort Worth's Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and first became the minister of a church in St. Charles, Missouri.  He then preached at churches in Lucedale, Mississippi, and later Bayles, Alabama, while attending Howard College in Birmingham.  While he was in the ministry, his wife gave birth to their three children:  James Jr., John,  and Ann. After all three were born,  Street decided  that the ministry was not what he wanted to do. When he left the ministry profession in 1926,  he started to write again, working first for newspapers and then writing novels. (See time line).The Biscuit Eater by James Street

Street's  first novel appeared in 1940 and was called The Promised Land.  It was the first of five historical novels, Tap Root, By Valour and Arms, Tomorrow We Reap and Mingo Dabney are the others.  They tell the story of the Dabney family in Lebanon, Mississippi, from 1794 to 1896. Street has written two stories about country boys and dogs:  The Biscuit Eater and Goodbye, My Lady (which was published under the title "Goodbye, My Lady" but was the same as the Saturday Evening Post story, "Weep No More,  My Lady."  The book  rapidly became an American best-seller and was made into a film after the Second World War.

 

In 1945 Street moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and purchased a house and farm where he experimented with organic farming. He was an outspoken liberal who advocated social justice for Negroes. He also wrote two histories, The Civil War and The Revolutionary War, which debunked some popular myths about the wars.

In 1945, Street wrote The Gauntlet, an autobiographical novel about a Baptist minister.  It's sequel is The High Calling.  In all, Street ended up writing thirty-five different short stories, seventeen novels and twenty magazine articles. Almost all of his novels were best sellers. Some were made into movies: Good-Bye My Lady,The Biscuit Eater, and Tap Roots all were successful films. His success is measured primarily on his very popular appeal rather than his literary talent. James Street died in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, September 28, 1954, of a sudden heart attack. (Cox) 

UPDATE: James Street's daughter Ann Street Bowring reports that both her father James Street and her mother are "buried in the beautiful, pre-Civil war cemetery on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The family headstone is engraved with the simple STREET, but Dad's foot stone is unique in that it provides his birth and date years and his name, James Street, engraved with his signature." She adds that her mother "had a difficult time with the granite engraver, but I'm glad she stuck to her guns, as it is appropriate and noteworthy."

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Timeline

1903- Born in Lumberton, Mississippi

1923- Married Lucy Nash O'BriantThe Promised Land by James Street

1924- Became a Baptist minister in St. Charles, Missouri

1926- Decided that he wasn't suited for ministry and was hired at as a reporter for the Pensacola Journal

1928- Moved to work for Associated Press

1933-Transferred to New York

1936- Produced his first full-length work Look Away: A Dixie Notebook (sketches of life in Mississippi)

1937- Left the Press to work for the New York World Telegram

1939-The Biscuit Eater published in Saturday Evening Post, May 13.

1940- First novel published called Oh, Promised Land (long historical narrative), Dedicated to his family including Harold Matson (18th printing in May 1967) main character is Sam Dabney.
        - Street moved to Natchez, MississippiThe Gauntlet by James Street

1940-The Biscuit Eater made into movie by  filmmaker Stuart Heisler ( first solo work as director), said to be the first talking feature  filmed entirely on location (in Albany, Georgia), the story of  white boy and his black friend who train a dog to hunt despite their fathers' objections.

1941- In My Father's House was produced

1942- Tap Roots  published

1945- settled down in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
        - The Gauntlet was published

1954- Good-Bye, My Lady was published
        - Died on September 28 of a heart attack.  

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A Review of Good-bye My Lady Good-bye My Lady by James Street
by Lindsay Roberts (SHS)

Good-bye, My Lady by James Street is a novel about a boy named Skeeter. The original story was published in the Saturday Evening Post as "Weep No More, My Lady."  In the story Skeeter's mother died when Skeeter was very young. Therefore, Skeeter's Uncle Jessie takes the boy in. One day when the two are out hunting together,  they find a dog that can cry, laugh, and whine. The dog is  just like a human, but in form it is a dog. When Uncle Jessie sees her for the first time,  he calls her a Yankee dog because he has never seen a dog like that in the South before.

Skeeter has a hard time trying to find a name for the dog. He thinks of names like Dixie, Pal, Tray, and Gertrude. Finally,  he thinks of the name Lady.  Lady impresses Uncle Jessie because she can smell a partridge that is over sixty yards away. Everything goes well,  and then the Lady's owner Mr. Grover shows up. Uncle Jessie and Mr. Grover talk over who should be able to keep Lady. To find out who gets her,  you must read this book. This book is a very good book for dog lovers. It will make you cry and laugh. I would strongly encourage you to read it. 

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Bibliography

Abbott, Dorothy (1985). Reflections of Childhood and Youth. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi.Actors in Good-bye My Lady

Cox, James L.(1997). Mississippi Almanac 1997-1998. Tallahassee, Florida: Rose Printing Company.

H. W. Wilson Company (1947). Current Biography 1946. New York: New York.

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Related Web Site

Victoria C. Bynum's The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War discusses the writings of James Street.

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Copyright 1999
Updated December, 2009
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