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James Agee Letters

Identifier: MS-3839

  • Staff Only

This collection includes two letters from James Agee. One, dated April 23, 1941 and addressed to Lincoln Kirstein, describes the necessity of retrieving Rudolf Wimmer from the Gurs Camp in France. This letter is typed with Agee's signature in full and is on Time, Inc. stationery. The other, addressed to Henry Steig and written circa 1941, includes a request to meet with Steig to discuss Steig’s book, Send Me Down. This letter is handwritten, signed by Agee is full, and includes the envelope.


  • 1941


The material in this collection is in English.

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Collections are stored offsite and must be requested in advance. See for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.

Conditions Governing Use

The UT Libraries claims only physical ownership of most material in the collections. Persons wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants on for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.


0.1 Linear Feet (2 folders)


Two letters written by James Agee to Henry Steig and Lincoln Kirstein.

Biographical/Historical Note

James Rufus Agee was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on November 27, 1909 to Hugh James Agee and Laura Whitman Tyler. He had one sister, Emma. Hugh Agee was killed in an automobile accident in 1916. In 1918, Laura relocated the family to Sewanee, Tennessee. James attended the St. Andrew’s School where he met Father James Harold Flye who would become his lifelong close friend and mentor. The Agees returned to Knoxville in 1924, and James attended Knoxville High School for a year, before transferring to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. He was accepted into Harvard University’s class of 1932.

Upon graduation, Agee wrote for Fortune magazine from 1932-1937, and published his only volume of poetry, Permit Me Voyage, in 1934. In 1941, Agee turned material for a scrapped Fortune article into his first book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Agee is also credited as a screenwriter on both The African Queen and The Night of the Hunter, both released in 1955. Published posthumously in 1957, A Death in the Family is Agee’s autobiographical novel set in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Agee led a somewhat tumultuous personal life. He was married to Via Saunders from 1933-1938. Later in 1938 he married Alma Mailman, and had a son with her, Joel, before their divorce in 1941. He then married Mia Fritsch in 1946, and they two daughters, Julia and Andrea, and a son, John. Agee died of a heart attack on May 16, 1955. In 1999, the street where Agee was born was renamed to James Agee Street in the Fort Sanders neighborhood of Knoxville.

Lincoln Kirstein (1907-1996) was an American writer and artist from New York. He co-founded the New York City Ballet in 1946 with George Balanchine and served as its General Director from then until 1989.

Henry Steig was a writer, musician, and artist who lived in New York.


This material is arranged into two folders.

Related Archival Materials

Interested researchers may wish to consult these additional collections: MS.1500 MS.1904 MS.1998 MS.2296 MS.2474 MS.2625 MS.2730 MS.2832 MS.3045 MS.3142 MS.3200 MS.3229 MS.3277 MS.3450 MS.3702 MS.3824

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA