James Street

Major WorksJames H. Street

  • Pride of Possession (1960)
  • James Street’s South 1955
  • The Revolutionary War (1954)
  • Good-Bye, My Lady (1954)  (made into a film twice)
  • The Velvet Doublet (1953)
  • Tomorrow We Reap (1953)  with James Childers
  • The Civil War:  An Unvarnished Account of the Late but Still Lively Hostilities, (1953)
  • The High Calling (1951)
  • Mingo Dabney (1950)
  • The Gauntlet (1945)
  • Short Stories (1945)
  • By Valour and Arms (1944)
  • Tap Roots (1942)  (made into a film)
  • In My Father’s House (1941)
  • Oh, Promised Land (1940)
  • The Biscuit Eater  published in Saturday Evening Post, May 13, 1939, made into a film in 1940 and again in 1972 by Disney
  • Nothing Sacred (1937) (also made into a film)
  • Look Away:  A Dixie Notebook (1936)

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James Street: A Biography

by Lindsay Roberts (SHS)

Best known internationally for his boy and dog story called The Biscuit Eater (made into a movie in 1940 and again in 1972 by Disney), James Howell Street was a hobo, soda jerk, butcher, reporter, and minister before he became a famous writer.  His stories grew out of his background and experience, primarily the country, boys, dogs, Mississippi, and ministers.  He considered himself a professional entertainer or craftsman rather than a literary writer.

James Howell Street was born in Lumberton, Mississippi,  on October 15, 1903, to John Camillus (a lawyer) and William Thompson Scott Street (that was his mother.)  Street’s  family moved to Poplarville and  then Hattiesburg before finally settling down in Laurel, Mississippi.  At the age of fourteen,  Street began working at the Laural Daily Leader, a local newspaper and became a reporter in Hattiesburg at nineteen.

In 1923 Street (nicknamed Jimmy) married Lucy Nash O’Briant, who was a Baptist minister’s daughter.  Surprisingly, Street (whose family was strictly Catholic) decided to to follow in the footsteps of his father-in-law and become a Baptist minister. He studied at Fort Worth’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and in 1924 became the minister of a church in St. Charles, Missouri.  He then preached at churches in Lucedale, Mississippi, and later Bayles, Alabama, while attending Howard College in Birmingham.  During his time in the ministry, his wife gave birth to their three children:  James Jr., John,  and Ann.  In 1926, after the third child was born,  Street decided  that the ministry was not what he wanted to do. When he left the ministry profession in 1926,  he started to write again, working first for newspapers and then writing novels. (See time line below).  He first became a reporter at the Pensacola Journal in Florida and then at the Arkansas Gazette as state editor in Little Rock.

Street  began working for the Associated Press in 1928 and moved to New York in 1933.  He had produced his first full-length work, Look Away! A Dixie Notebook in 1936.  It was  book of sketches of about life in Mississippi and was  published by the Viking Press. Street had written it while covering the trial of Bruno Hauptmann, the man convicted of kidnapping Charles A. Lindbergh’s son, for the New York American run by Randolph Hearst. In 1937 he went to work for the New York World Telegram.

Oh, Promised Land bu James StreetIn 1939, the Saturday Evening Post published Street’s short story about a boy and his dog, called The Biscuit Eater,  which was widely acclaimed. Street’s first novel appeared in 1940 and was called Oh,  Promised Land.  It was the first of five historical novels, Tap Root, By Valour and Arms, Tomorrow We Reap and Mingo Dabney are the others.  They tell the story of the Dabney family in Lebanon, Mississippi, from 1794 to 1896. Street wrote two novels about country boys and dogs:  The Biscuit Eater and Goodbye, My Lady (which was published under the title Goodbye, My Lady but was the same as the Saturday Evening Post story, Weep No More, My Lady.)  The book  rapidly became an American best-seller and was made into a film after the Second World War and later remade by Disney.

In 1945 Street moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and purchased a house and farm where he experimented with organic farming. He was an outspoken liberal who advocated social justice for Negroes. He also wrote two histories, The Civil War and The Revolutionary War, which debunked some popular myths about the wars.The Biscuit Eater by James H. Street

In 1945, Street wrote The Gauntlet, an autobiographical novel about a Baptist minister.  Its sequel is The High Calling.  In all, Street ended up writing thirty-five different short stories, seventeen novels and twenty magazine articles. Almost all of his novels were best sellers and those made into movies (Good-Bye My Lady,The Biscuit Eater, and Tap Roots)  were successful films. His success is measured primarily on his popular appeal rather than his literary talent.

James Street’s daughter Ann Street Bowring,  in an email to this project,  stated  that both her father James Street and her mother are “buried in the beautiful, pre-Civil War cemetery on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The family headstone is engraved with the simple STREET, but Dad’s foot stone is unique in that it provides his birth and date years and his name, James Street, engraved with his signature.”  She adds that her mother “had a difficult time with the granite engraver, but I’m glad she stuck to her guns, as it is appropriate and noteworthy.”   Another living relative, the actor Elliott Street also maintains the memory of James Street.

James H. Street died at the age of fifty of a heart attack on September 28, 1954, in Chapel Hill.

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Timeline

  • 1903- Born in Lumberton, Mississippi
  • 1923- Married Lucy Nash O’Briant
  • 1924- Became a Baptist minister in St. Charles, Missouri
  • 1926– Decided that he wasn’t suited for ministry and was hired at as a reporter for the Pensacola Journal
  • 1928– Moved to work for Associated Press
  • 1933- Transferred to New York
  • 1936– Produced his first full-length work Look Away: A Dixie Notebook (sketches of life in Mississippi)
  • 1937– Left the Press to work for the New York World Telegram
  • 1939- The Biscuit Eater published in Saturday Evening Post, May 13.
  • 1940– First novel published called Oh, Promised Land (long historical narrative), Dedicated to his family including Harold Matson (18th printing in May 1967) main character is Sam Dabney.
    – Street moved to Natchez, Mississippi
  • 1940-The Biscuit Eater made into movie by  filmmaker Stuart Heisler ( first solo work as director), said to be the first talking feature  filmed entirely on location (in Albany, Georgia), the story of  white boy and his black friend who train a dog to hunt despite their fathers’ objections.
  • 1941 In My Father’s House was produced
  • 1942Tap Roots  published
  • 1945– settled down in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    The Gauntlet was published
  • 1954Good-Bye, My Lady was published, Street died in Chapel Hill, N.C.

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Reviews

A Review of Good-bye, My Lady

Lindsay Roberts, SHS Researcher

Lindsay Roberts, SHS Researcher

by Lindsay Roberts (SHS)

Goodbye, My LadyGood-bye, My Lady by James Street is a novel about a boy named Skeeter. The original story was published in the Saturday Evening Post as “Weep No More, My Lady.”  In the story Skeeter’s mother died when Skeeter was very young. Therefore, Skeeter’s Uncle Jessie takes the boy in. One day when the two are out hunting together, they find a dog that can cry, laugh, and whine. The dog is  just like a human, but in form it is a dog. When Uncle Jessie sees her for the first time,  he calls her a Yankee dog because he has never seen a dog like that in the South before.

Skeeter has a hard time trying to find a name for the dog. He thinks of names like Dixie, Pal, Tray, and Gertrude. Finally,  he thinks of the name Lady.  Lady impresses Uncle Jessie because she can smell a partridge that is over sixty yards away. Everything goes well,  and then the Lady’s owner Mr. Grover shows up. Uncle Jessie and Mr. Grover talk over who should be able to keep Lady. To find out who gets her,  you must read this book. This book is a very good book for dog lovers. It will make you cry and laugh. I would strongly encourage you to read it.

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Related Websites

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Bibliography

  • Abbott, Dorothy (1985). Reflections of Childhood and Youth. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi.
  • Cox, James L.(1997). Mississippi Almanac 1997-1998. Tallahassee, Florida: Rose Printing Company.
  • H. W. Wilson Company (1947). Current Biography 1946. New York: New York.

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