Prominent Alumni: Part III

Prominent Alumni: Part III

In 1950 the American Book Publishers Council, the American Booksellers Association, and the Book Manufacturers Institute established the National Book Award to honor outstanding works of literature by American citizens published in the United States during the preceding calendar year. Initially, a volunteer committee chosen from the publishing industry selected the award winners; from 1960 to 1974, the National Book Committee, Inc., a non-profit group of citizens interested in books chose the recipients. Beginning in 1976, the award came under the direction of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Presently, the award carries a $10,000 prize for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Two UTK alumni have received National Book Awards, the book publishing industry's major prize. Joseph Wood Krutch's The Measure of Man: On Freedom, Human Values, Survival, and the Modern Temper won the award for nonfiction in 1955, and All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy received the 1992 prize for fiction.

The Academy Award recognizes the Hollywood film industry's most impressive achievements. UTK alumnus Clarence Brown directed over fifty feature films, and his movies received thirty-eight Oscar nominations. In 1948, he was awarded the British Academy's counterpart of the American Oscar for his direction of "Intruder in the Dust." Krutch, McCarthy, and Brown each influenced the arts, literature, and the entertainment field with their works. Another alumnus who left his mark on American society was Supreme Court Justice Edward T. Sanford. Although his tenure on the high court bench was relatively brief, several of his opinions were influential in shaping the course of jurisprudence in the area of civil liberties.

Joseph Wood Krutch

Joseph Wood Krutch, son of Adelaine and Edward Krutch, was born on November 25, 1893 in Knoxville. After finishing local public schools, Krutch entered the University of Tennessee, graduating in 1915 with a B.S. in mathematics.

By the time he entered Columbia University, he had changed his field of study to English literature, earning an M.A. in 1916 and a Ph.D. in 1924. World War I interrupted his studies, and Krutch joined the Psychological Corps of the United States Army, advancing from private to sergeant. The following year he received a Cutting Traveling Fellowship from Columbia which enabled him to journey to England to complete his dissertation research on Restoration and early eighteenth-century drama.

When he returned to New York, he began a teaching career that spanned three decades. He taught English at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (1920-1923) and Vassar College (1924-1925), served as associate professor in the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia (1925-1931), and lectured at the New School of Social Research (1932-1935). However, it was not in Columbia's School of Journalism that Krutch achieved his fame as a scholar and educator but rather in its English Department, where he taught from 1937 to his retirement in 1953. In 1943, the department named Krutch the Brander Matthews Professor of Dramatic Literature. While a student at Columbia, Krutch had taken a course from Professor Matthews and earned a "B" in the class. Krutch later mused: "It would have comforted me greatly and no doubt disgusted Brander had we known that I was one day to climb into the Chair of Dramatic Literature which had been founded and named in his honor."

Krutch extended his interests and expertise beyond the classroom, joining the staff of The Nation as drama critic from 1924 to 1952 and serving as associate editor from 1932 to 1937. A prolific writer, Krutch also penned twenty-nine books, compiled anthologies, and edited numerous other volumes to bring the number of his works to more than forty. His literary subjects included biography, drama, and natural history. Critics praised especially his studies of Henry David Thoreau (1948) and American Drama Since 1918 (1957) as definitive and significant contributions to the field of American literature.

Ironically, his two most famous books did not address drama or literature but gauged the impact of science on humans. In 1929, Krutch published The Modern Temper, a bleak examination of life. He argued that technology had robbed humans of values, had distanced people from nature, and had contributed to the decadence of civilization. This book earned Krutch a reputation as a pessimist. However, he experienced a conversion of sorts while working on the biography of Henry David Thoreau in the 1940s. An appreciation and celebration of nature and life replaced his cynical attitude. After his retirement from Columbia University, Krutch and his wife, Marcelle Leguia, moved to Tucson, Arizona. This locale further encouraged Krutch's budding optimism, and he began to produce a number of books on the theme of natural history.

The Measure of Man: On Freedom, Human Values, Survival and the Modern Temper, (1954) which won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 1955, reassessed the gloomy fate prophesied for mankind in The Modern Temper. Krutch still registered alarm at the predominance of science, which figures as the chief enemy in the book because it impinged on human autonomy and freedom. Yet this time the book concluded on a hopeful note: It was not too late for humans to alter their destructive habits and improve the quality of life on earth, and the humanities could bring about civilization's salvation.

Krutch received honorary degrees from four universities. He was elected to a membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He was the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship (1930), the Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing (1954), the Fife Award from the Garden Club of America (1958), and the Richard Price Ettinger Award (1964) for writings which contributed to the understanding of science. In 1970, Krutch died at his home in Tucson. In appraising his accomplishments, his biographer concluded that while he did not rank among the greatest American writers, Krutch was an extraordinarily skillful synthesizer and popularizer and the author of "some of the most distinguished prose in modern letters."

Charles Joseph "Cormac" McCarthy, Jr.

A native of Providence, Rhode Island, Cormac McCarthy was born on July 20, 1933, the oldest son of Gladys and Charles J. McCarthy. "Cormac," Gaelic for "Charles," was used by the family to refer to both the father and later the son. When Cormac was four years old, his family moved to Knoxville, where his father worked as a lawyer and later chief legal counsel for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

After graduating from Catholic High school in 1951, McCarthy entered the University of Tennessee. He completed one year of college before joining the United States Air Force in 1953 for a four-year stint. To break the monotony of military life, McCarthy began reading in the barracks, sparking his interest in literature. Once he finished his service, he again enrolled at the University of Tennessee from 1957 to 1960, majoring in English. It was at this time that McCarthy began his writing career. While at the University he submitted two short stories to the literary journal, The Phoenix. One, "Wake for Susan," appeared in the initial issue of this publication in October 1959; a second, "A Drowning Incident," was featured in the March 1960 edition. Even at this early date, McCarthy's work began receiving recognition. The Ingram-Merrill Foundation awarded him $125 to encourage his writing at the University.

McCarthy left college in 1960 to pursue his writing full time. The Orchard Keeper, published in 1965, won the William Faulkner award for a first novel and earned McCarthy a traveling fellowship from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. A year later, in 1966, the Rockefeller Foundation designated McCarthy as one of its grant recipients. McCarthy's next novel, Outer Dark (1968), further added to his literary reputation, winning him a John Simon Guggenheim fellowship for creative fiction. His next two works, Child of God (1973) and Suttree (1979), continued East Tennessee/Appalachian themes that McCarthy had explored in his first two books. Literary critics have consistently praised McCarthy's command of local dialect and his vivid descriptions of the land and its people, and they often compare his writings to those of another southerner, William Faulkner. McCarthy's words and images emanate from personal experiences gained by living in the South. Indeed, he refuses to write about places he has not lived in or visited.

His most recent novels, Blood Meridian (1985), All the Pretty Horses (1992), and The Crossing (1994) departed from the Appalachian motif and described incidents in the southwestern United States. To prepare for these novels, McCarthy roamed throughout Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, even meandering across the Rio Grande into Mexico.

McCarthy's literary endeavors have attracted the attention of both foundations and scholars. In 1981, he received a "genius" award of $236,000 from the John C. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and in 1992, he won the coveted National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award for All the Pretty Horses. His first five monographs have been the subjects of numerous journal articles and a book, The Achievement of Cormac McCarthy (1988), by Vereen M. Bell. In October of 1993, Bellarmine College's English Department hosted the first conference on McCarthy's works.

Critics have praised his latest novel as "spectacular" and a "masterpiece," and a British reviewer predicted that it would become a "classic." The Knoxville News-Sentinel expressed appreciation for the "creative talents" the National Book Award winner shared with his readers.

After writing for over thirty years, McCarthy is emerging as a prominent figure in American literature, extending his circle of admirers from scholars and award councils to the public at large.

Clarence Leon Brown

Clarence Leon Brown was born May 10, 1890, in Clinton, Massachusetts. In 1901, he moved with his family to Knoxville, where his father served as general manager of Brookside Cotton Mills. At the age of fifteen, Brown received special permission to enter the University of Tennessee, where he graduated in 1910 with a B.S. degree in mechanical and electrical engineering.

Rather than follow his father into cotton manufacturing, Brown put his engineering skills to work in the relatively new automobile industry. He worked in a variety of places as an expert mechanic before settling in Birmingham, Alabama, where he founded his own automobile dealership. Lunch breaks spent in penny-arcades or "shooting galleries" introduced him to the newest entertainment phenomenon, motion pictures. The movies were to occupy his inquisitive and creative mind for the next forty years in a career that would bridge the transition from silent to talking motion pictures.

In 1915, Brown left his automobile dealership to seek out French director Maurice Tourneur, whose more than fifty American films showed his distinctive aestheticism and flair for fantastic pictorial inventions. Brown convinced the master director to take him on as an assistant. The young apprentice's duties soon included editing all of Tourneur's films and directing all of the scenes shot outside the studio. This working relationship was interrupted by World War I, in which Brown served as a flight instructor for the fledgling Air Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

After the war, Brown made his directorial debut with "The Great Redeemer" (1920), which told the story of a jailed cowboy artist who decorated his cell with inspired drawings. He then teamed up with Tourneur again, and the two co-directed "The Last of the Mohicans" (1921), and "The Foolish Matrons" (1921). Feeling confined by the Hollywood studio bureaucracy, Tourneur returned to his native France and left Brown to direct on his own.

Brown's next solo efforts were Lon Chaney's "The Light in the Dark" (1922) and "Don't Marry for Money" (1923). The latter led to a five-movie stint at Universal Studios, after which he enjoyed a short stay at United Artists. During this period, Brown directed the popular romantic lead, Rudolph Valentino, in the star's next-to-last picture, "The Eagle"(1925). The longest and most prosperous portion of Brown's career came with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where he worked from 1925 until his retirement from active motion picture work in 1953.

Brown directed a number of Hollywood's female stars and soon-to-be stars and quickly earned a reputation as a woman's director. The foundations of this reputation date back to Brown's early work at Universal, where he directed Pauline Frederick in "Smouldering Fires" (1924) and Louise Dresser in "The Goose Woman" (1925). He went on to direct such actresses as Norma Shearer, Beulah Bondi, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy, Jane Wyman, Elizabeth Taylor, Marie Dresser, and Jean Harlow. Probably the most famous woman he directed was Greta Garbo, with whom he made seven films. Brown was behind the camera of Garbo's first hit, "Flesh and the Devil" (1927), as well as her first "talkie," "Anna Christie" (1930), in which she spoke the now-famous lines, "Gimme a visky. Ginger ale on the side. And don't be stingy, baby."

Besides Garbo, Brown also directed both established and newly-rising stars who benefited from his talent. Brown is credited with being the first director to consciously exploit Clark Gable's aggressive, macho appeal in "A Free Soul"(1931), the movie that made Gable a star. Lionel Barrymore won a Best Actor Oscar for his work in that movie, an award Barrymore later attributed to Brown's masterful direction. To find the boy who would play the character of Jody Baxter in "The Yearling"(1946), Brown posed as a building inspector and toured classrooms throughout the South. He discovered eleven-year-old Claude Jarman, Jr., in Nashville. Jarman's performance won him an Academy Award for the outstanding child actor of 1946.

In all, Brown's more than fifty feature films gained a total of thirty-eight Academy Award nominations and earned nine Oscars. Brown himself received six nominations but never won the coveted trophy. His 1949 production of William Faulkner's "Intruder in the Dust," however, secured for Brown the British Academy Award for Best Director. Among Brown's other classics are "National Velvet"(1944), "The Human Comedy"(1943), and "The White Cliffs of Dover"(1944).

Although Brown retired in 1953, his interest in the theatre arts continued until his death. Ever the loyal UT alumnus, Brown donated $50,000 to the University in 1968 for the construction of a theatre that would permit students to perform in major dramatic productions. Later contributions from Brown amounting to $500,000 and funds from other sources resulted in the construction of a modernistic brick theatre building that the trustees named for Brown. Of the new structure Brown boasted, "This [theatre] represents a climax of my complete life. It's a thing that I'm prouder of than anything I've ever done."

On November 13, 1970, Jane Wyman and Claude Jarman, Jr., joined Brown and his wife, Marian, on the UT campus for the black-tie gala dedication of the Clarence Brown Theatre. Brown died on August 18, 1987, but his memory and talents live on in the professional productions performed at the theatre which Brown made possible. The full extent of that generosity was not made known until May 1993, when, upon the death of Marian Brown, the University's theatre program received $12 million from the Brown estate to continue the work that Clarence Brown had initiated twenty-five years earlier.

Edward Terry Sanford

Edward Terry Sanford, the only UT alumnus to have served as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born July 23, 1865, in Knoxville, the son of Edward Jackson Sanford, a carpenter and businessman who made a fortune during the post-Civil War years. At the age of fourteen, Sanford enrolled in the University of Tennessee, where he was a member of the Chi Delta Literary Society. In 1883, he graduated at the head of his class with both A.B. and Ph.B. degrees. Sanford continued his education at Harvard University, where he received another A.B. degree in 1885 and M.A. and LL.B. degrees in 1889. While at Harvard he served as one of the first editors of the Harvard Law Review, established while he was a law student.

Sanford passed the bar exam while still in law school and began his legal career in Knoxville in 1890. During the years between the beginning of his practice and his first appointment to the bench, Sanford participated in a variety of professional and community activities. He joined a reputable Knoxville firm, Andrews and Thornburgh, and was thrust into the legal limelight by the sudden deaths of the firm's two partners. The inexperienced attorney was forced to take on the burden of a number of cases pending before the state Supreme Court.

Sanford early became closely associated with his alma mater, serving as president of the Alumni Association in 1892-1893 and then, again, from 1909 to 1912. In 1894, he gave the address commemorating the University's centennial, a history of the University which was published and became a major source of information on the institution's early years. In 1897, Sanford was elected to the Board of Trustees, a position he held until his appointment to the U. S. Supreme Court in 1923. As chairman of the Board's College of Law Committee, Sanford was instrumental in raising the college's quality and obtaining its admission into the Association of American Law Schools. He also was a lecturer in the law school from 1897 until 1916.

Sanford left private practice in 1905 to become a special prosecutor under Assistant U. S. Attorney General and future Supreme Court Justice James C. McReynolds in the federal case against the fertilizer trust. Sanford succeeded in securing indictments against thirty-one corporations and twenty-five individuals for price-fixing and suppressing competition. McReynolds resigned in 1907, and, with the support of Justice Department officials, newspaper editors, and President Theodore Roosevelt, Sanford became assistant attorney general.

Within a year, the district judgeship for the Eastern and Middle Districts of Tennessee became vacant. President Roosevelt offered the position to Sanford, who had become content with life in Washington and initially declined the position. He relented under pressure, however, and finally accepted the appointment in June 1908. He inherited a full docket and found it impossible to work quickly enough to decrease his caseload. Sanford was an assiduous researcher who paid careful attention to details and preferred ample time for contemplation and reflection. These characteristics contributed to one of the few criticisms of him: often he was slow rendering a decision. Regardless, Sanford distinguished himself on the district bench as a fair and impartial judge.

As early as 1921, the Tennessee Bar Association suggested Sanford as an ideal Supreme Court appointee, and in 1922 the fourth high court vacancy in two years occurred. Sanford also enjoyed bipartisan support from southern legislators, journalists, and the American Bar Association, and the Tennessee General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution in support of his nomination. In 1923, President Warren Harding, relying on the advice of Chief Justice William Howard Taft and Attorney General Harry Daugherty, nominated Sanford to be Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Although his stay on the high bench was relatively brief, Sanford authored 130 opinions, several of major importance. One of his most significant decisions was Okanogan Indians v. United States (1929). This case approved a liberal interpretation of the President's power of the pocket veto by allowing the President to veto bills by not returning them to Congress during adjournments as well as at the end of a Congressional term.

Two other cases involved the First Amendment rights of communists. In Gitlow v. New York (1925), the Supreme Court upheld New York's conviction of Benjamin Gitlow, who had published a manifesto advocating the establishment of socialism by "class action...in any form." In Whitney v. California (1927), the court affirmed the conviction of a member of the Communist Labor Party on the grounds of "criminal syndicalism." Even though the First Amendment was designed to protect those who espouse unpopular political ideas, Sanford argued that the advocacy of communism presented a "clear and present danger" to national security and could legally be suppressed. The importance of the latter two decisions lies in the fact that they "incorporated" into the Fourteenth Amendment the free speech provisions of the First Amendment. For the first time, then, the Supreme Court held that the protections of the First Amendment applied to the actions of the states as well as the federal government. This legal doctrine would take on increasing significance for civil liberties in the decades to come.

Sanford died on March 8, 1930, after only seven years on the court, a period too short for a clear judicial philosophy to be discerned. Sanford's death came on the same day that his friend and former President and retired Chief Justice William Howard Taft died. Sanford's death did not therefore command the attention the passing of a Supreme Court justice might normally receive, but his legacy as an important and fair jurist and a devoted UT alumnus is not insubstantial.