Birthday: July 10, 1923
Died At Age: 92
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Earl Henry Hamner Jr.
Born Country: United States
Born in: Schuyler, Virginia, United States
Famous as: Television Writer
Spouse/Ex-: Jane Martin (m. 1954)
father: Earl Henry Hamner Sr.
mother: Doris Marion (née Giannini)
siblings: Audrey Hamner Hankins, Bill Hamner, Clifton Hamner, James Hamner, Marion Hamner Hawkins, Nancy Hamner Jamerson, Paul Hamner
Died on: March 24, 2016
U.S. State: Virginia
Cause of Death: Cancer
education: University of Cincinnati, University of Richmond
Who was Earl Hamner Jr.?
Earl Hamner Jr. was an American television writer, novelist, and producer best known for his work in the 1970s long-running television series ‘The Waltons’. Born in Schuyler, Virginia, as the oldest son of a soapstone mill worker, he had a tough childhood. He always had a keen interest in writing and at the age of six, he published his first poem in a local newspaper. After graduating from Schuyler High School, he received a scholarship from University of Richmond. But before his graduation, he joined the army during World War II. After his military service, he first attended Northwestern University and then University of Cincinnati where he studied broadcast communications. He wrote for a radio station briefly before moving to New York and began writing his first novel ‘Fifty Roads to Town’. He got his first big break when he two scripts to Serling's TV series ‘The Twilight Zone’. He wrote scripts for many TV series and films, most of which were inspired by his own childhood memories, including ‘The Homecoming’ and ‘The Waltons’. He married Jane Martin in October 1954, and had two children with her. He died in 2016, in Los Angeles, California, due to bladder cancer.
Earl Hamner Jr. started working in the army in 1943 in his sophomore year at the University of Richmond during World War II. He was first trained to diffuse landmines before being transferred to Quartermaster Corps in Paris because of his typing abilities. He served in France after the invasion of Normandy. In March 1946, he left the army and returned to Virginia where he got a job in the country music radio station WMBG in Richmond as a trainee in the program department. He soon left his job to complete his studies.
After graduation, he worked for WLW radio station in Cincinnati as a writer and also started writing his first novel ‘Fifty Roads to Town’. Soon, he quit his job and moved to New York where he was hired by the NBC network as a radio writer. In 1953, ‘Fifty Roads to Town’ was published by Random House. He then moved to television and wrote the episodes ‘Highway’ and ‘Hit and Run’ of the legal drama ‘Justice’ in 1954.
In 1961, he got his first big break when he successfully sold two scripts to the science fiction series ‘The Twilight Zone’. He wrote and contributed a total of eight episodes to the show in the ensuing months while also working on his second novel titled ‘Spencer's Mountain’ (1961). He also wrote eight episodes for the CBS series ‘Gentle Ben’ (1967–1969) before writing ‘Heidi’ which was broadcast in November 1968 and earned him a ‘Writer's Guild Award’.
In 1970, he wrote another novel named ‘The Homecoming: A Novel About Spencer's Mountain’ that was inspired by his own childhood experiences and memories. In 1971, ‘The Homecoming’ was broadcast by CBS as a Christmas special. This show led to the creation of the series ‘The Waltons’. After debuting in 1972, it became one of the most popular TV shows of the 1970s. Along with writing, he also provided voice-over narration at the beginning and ending of each episode. He also wrote scripts for the 1973 animated film ‘Charlotte’s Web’. He then wrote another major television series, ‘Falcon Crest’ (1981–1990).
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Family & Personal Life
Earl Hamner Jr. was born on July 10, 1923, in Schuyler, Virginia, to Doris Marion (née Giannini) and Earl Henry Hamner Sr. His mother’s ancestors were immigrants from Lucca, Italy, who had come to USA in the 1700s, and his father’s family came to Virginia from Wales. He was the oldest among eight children and had four brothers and three sisters, all redheads. His brothers were Clifton Anderson, Paul Louis, Willard Harold, and James Edmund, and his sisters were Marion Lee, Audrey Jane, and Nancy Alice. His family was involved in tobacco farming near James River, Virginia, until the 1900s before relocating to Schuyler, where his father worked in New Alberene Stone Company’s soapstone mine which closed during the Great Depression Era, forcing him to work as a machinist at the DuPont factory in Waynesboro which was 30 miles away from his home. He stayed at the boarding house and returned home every weekend by changing two buses and walking six miles. One such walk on a snowy Christmas Eve in 1933 became the inspiration for his novel ‘The Homecoming’.
At the age of six, he published his first poem in the ‘Children's Page’ of the ‘Richmond Times-Dispatch’. In 1940, he graduated from Schuyler High School and received a scholarship at the University of Richmond. He left in 1943 to join the army. In March 1946, he left the army and attended Northwestern University. He later graduated from University of Cincinnati in 1948 with a degree in broadcast communications.
On 16 October 1954, he married Jane Martin and had two children with her: a son named Scott, born in 1956, and a daughter named Caroline, born in 1958.
He died on March 24, 2016, due to bladder cancer, in Los Angeles, California, USA.