Born in Halifax County, Virginia, on March 23, 1898, Thomas Murrell Edmunds was the son of John Richard and Willie Thurman Murrell Edmunds. He graduated from Lynchburg High School (now E. C. Glass High School) and earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in 1917. After serving in the United States Army during World War I (1914–1918), he returned to Charlottesville to study law. He served on the editorial board of the prestigious Virginia Law Review and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1921.
As if uncertain of his choice of a career, Edmunds taught English and coached basketball and football at Episcopal High School in Alexandria for a year. He began his law practice in 1922, clerking in the circuit courts and earning an appointment as an assistant commonwealth's attorney. He possessed everything a Virginian could desire—impeccable ancestry, degrees from the University of Virginia, powerful friends, and a potential place in the political structure. His future was assured, but in 1926 Edmunds abandoned it all for an uncertain career as a writer.
His first novel, The Music-Makers, appeared in 1927, followed by a steady stream of other works, each with that biting irony that became his hallmark. Perhaps his finest effort was Moon of My Delight: A Play in Three Acts. Published in 1960, it dealt honestly with the hypocrisy and potential for tragedy that characterized race relations in the post–Civil War South. A collection of his poems, entitled Dim Footprints Along a Hazardous Trail, appeared in 1971. It was his valedictory.
Edmunds died in New Orleans on August 15, 1981. He was buried with his family in Lynchburg's Presbyterian Cemetery, his graveside service receiving only the briefest of notices in the Lynchburg News. The bulk of his papers, including his unfinished manuscripts, are in the Murrell Edmunds Collection at the University of Virginia.
- Poems (1923)
- The Music-Makers (1927)
- Earthenware (1930)
- Sojourn Among Shadows (1936)
- Between the Devil (1939)
- Not Many—But Free (1943)
- Red, White, and Black (1945)
- Time's Laughter in Their Ears (1946)
- Behold Thy Brother (1950)
- Moon of My Delight (1960)
- They Don't Cost a Thin Dime; or, Songs for Nothing (1961)
- Passionate Journey to Winter (1962)
- Laurel for the Undefeated (1964)
- Beautiful Upon the Mountains (1966)
- Shadow of a Great Rock (1969)
- Dim Footprints Along a Hazardous Trail (1971)
- Reservoir (1977)
March 23, 1898 - Thomas Murrell Edmunds is born in Halifax County, Virginia.
1917 - Murrell Edmunds earns his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
1921 - After graduating from the University of Virginia's law school, where he served on the editorial board of the Virginia Law Review, Murrell Edmunds is admitted to the Virginia bar.
1922 - After teaching English at Episcopal High School in Alexandria for a year, Murrell Edmunds begins to practice law, clerking in circuit courts and earning an appointment as an assistant commonwealth's attorney.
1923 - Murrell Edmunds publishes his first book, Poems.
August 15, 1981 - Murrell Edmunds dies in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Potter, C. W., Jr. Murrell Edmunds (1898–1981). (2014, May 28). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Edmunds_Murrell_1898-1981.
- MLA Citation:
Potter, Clifton W., Jr. "Murrell Edmunds (1898–1981)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 28 May. 2014. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: August 10, 2009 | Last modified: May 28, 2014
Contributed by Clifton W. Potter Jr., a professor of history at Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Virginia.