James Agee and David McDowell Papers
Collection of material documenting the work of David McDowell especially as it relates to author James Agee.
One portion of this collection houses material that David McDowell gathered for his unfinished biography of James Agee. This includes numerous examples of Agee's work, including some unpublished materials. Among these items are notes, poems, manuscripts about John Carter, two unpublished chapters of A Death in the Family, an issue of the Harvard Advocate containing one of Agee's early poems, and two screenplays. Also included are three notebooks that contain numerous diary entries and personal notes.
The other portion contains items showing McDowell's career in the publishing industry. While much of this material documents his considerable editorial and publishing pursuits, some show his work with Agee and his writings. As trustee for the James Agee Trust, McDowell frequently corresponded with Agee researchers and biographers as well as with the author's family and friends. Of particular interest is the extensive correspondence between McDowell and Father James H. Flye of St. Andrews School in Sewanee, Tennessee.
Conditions Governing Access
Collections are stored offsite and must be requested in advance. See www.special.lib.utk.edu 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 www.special.lib.utk.edu for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.
3 Linear Feet (1 record box, 2 half boxes)
Collection of material documenting the work of David McDowell especially as it relates to author James Agee. One portion of this collection houses material that McDowell gathered for his unfinished biography of Agee. The other portion contains items showing McDowell's career in the publishing industry.
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. 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.
David Ulrey McDowell was born on January 20, 1918 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He began his career in publishing as a publicity director for New Directions. He then worked as an editor for Random House (1949-1957) before founding a publishing house named McDowell, Obolensky with Ivan Obolensky. One of the first books the organization published was James Agee's A Death in the Family. McDowell left the firm in 1960 to join Crown Publishers. He also served as the first trustee of the James Agee Trust, which was established for Agee's children with the royalties from Agee's writings. At the time of his death in April of 1985, McDowell was writing a biography of James Agee.
This collection is in three boxes and consists of two series:
- Series I: James Agee Papers, 1932-1974
- Series II: David McDowell Papers, 1940-1985
These papers were purchased with funds from the Lindsay Young Endowment.