Proud Products of Texas Public Schools
Graduate of Wharton High School
Horton Foote, one of America’s leading dramatists, received his first Academy Award in 1962 for his screenplay of the Harper Lee novel To Kill a Mockingbird. His second Oscar came in 1983 for “Tender Mercies,” which also earned Robert Duvall an Oscar for Best Actor. Foote also received the Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for “The Young Man From Atlanta,” the story of an older couple attempting to cope with a son’s death and the possibility of his homosexuality. The play earned Shirley Knight a Tony nomination for Best Actress.
Foote’s early career in writing for the stage led him into writing television drama. He wrote plays for Playhouse 90, Philco Playhouse, and U.S. Steel Hour. The next step in his career led to Hollywood, where he wrote the adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Foote’s most recent work is the book Farewell: A Memoir of a Texas Childhood, an account of life in Wharton, where he was born in 1916. Wharton provided the model for the fictional town of Harrison, Texas, the setting for many of Foote’s plays.
In 1989, Foote was the recipient of The William Inge Award for Lifetime Achievement in the American Theatre. More recent honors include a Gold Medal for Drama from the Academy of Arts and Letters in 1998, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writers Guild of America in 1999, and the Master American Dramatist Award of the Pen American Center in May 2000.
Of Foote’s impressive body of work, The Los Angeles Times wrote: “What seems remarkable about Foote’s career is that across all media and amid all the conflicts of art versus commerce . . . he has produced a coherent body of work . . . an intimate, loving, perceptive exploration of ordinary people and their extraordinary resilience.”
“I went to public school for 11 years and graduated in 1932 from Wharton High School. At the age of 12, I decided—I have no idea why—to become an actor. I kept my secret to myself until a young woman who had just graduated from college appeared in Wharton as our speech teacher. She began doing plays with the students, and I found the courage to tell her of my ambition. She took it seriously and found a way from then on to keep me busy doing plays. When I announced I wasn’t going to college to my parents but wanted to go to a dramatic school, she found a way to explain to them that this decision might not be the end of the world. In other words, her encouragement from the word ‘go’ gave me the courage to embark on what would seem a ridiculous ambition. I think my life would be very different without this teacher, Eppie Murphree Davidson.”