Tennessee Williams (March 26, 1911 – February 25, 1983), born Thomas Lanier Williams,
was an American playwright who received many of the top theatrical awards for
his works of drama. He moved to New Orleans in 1939 and changed his name to
"Tennessee", the state of his father's birth.
was born in Columbus, Mississippi, in the home of his maternal grandfather, the
local Episcopal priest. He was of Welsh descent.
His father, Cornelius Williams, a hard drinking traveling salesman, favored
Tennessee's younger brother Dakin, perhaps because of Tennessee's weakness and
effeminacy as a child. His mother, Edwina, was a borderline hysteric. Tennessee
Williams would find inspiration in his problematic family for much of his
was close to his sister Rose, a slim beauty who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age. As was common then,
Rose was institutionalized and spent most of her adult life in mental hospitals.
When therapies were unsuccessful, she showed more paranoid tendencies. In an
effort to treat her, Rose's parents authorized a prefrontal lobotomy, a drastic treatment that was thought to help
some mental patients who suffered extreme agitation. Performed in 1937 in Knoxville,
operation incapacitated Rose for the rest of her life. Her surgery may have
contributed to his alcoholism and his dependence on various
combinations of amphetamines and barbiturates often prescribed by Dr. Max (Feelgood) Jacobson.
worked extremely briefly in the renowned Gotham Book Mart in Manhattan, lasting less than a
relationship with Frank Merlo lasted from 1947 until Merlo's death from cancer
in 1963. With that stability, Williams created his most enduring works. Merlo
provided balance to many of Williams' frequent bouts with depressionand the fear that, like his sister
Rose, he would go insane.