Born in Corinth in Alcorn County in northeastern Mississippi, Phillips graduated in 1943 with a Bachelor of Science degree from Mississippi State College. He served in the United States Navy during World War II. In 1948, he earned a master's degree in writing at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He then taught at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and wrote books. In 1959, he was appointed by Democratic Governor James P. Coleman to the Mississippi Public Service Commission to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Phillips' younger brother, attorney Rubel Phillips. In 1963, Hal Phillips managed his brother's unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial campaign against the Democrat Paul B. Johnson, Jr.
His first novel The Bitterweed Path was a best seller in its first paperback edition from Penguin Press. The novel was first published in an almost underground way, as a very small, limited run in hardback in 1950 by Rinehart & Co., Inc., and advertised, at the time, as "something new in the literature dealing with man's love for man.........in a period when even psychologists knew little of such matters, and people in small towns new nothing." The book, The Bitterweed Path depicts the struggles of two gay men in the Southern United States at the turn of the century, and how an unconventional love triangle involving these two men, and one of their fathers, impacts their three marriages in small-town, deep South.
After returning to the US from service in France in World War II, where he was stationed and fought as a Captain in the US Navy, he began a successful career in Hollywood. His screenplay career continued through the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. He died in Kossuth, Mississippi.
The Bitterweed Path: A Rediscovered Novel (Chapel Hill Books) by Thomas Hal Phillips
Series: Chapel Hill Books
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (May 22, 1996)
Amazon: The Bitterweed Path: A Rediscovered Novel
This long out-of-print and newly rediscovered novel tells the story of two boys growing up in the cotton country of Mississippi a generation after the Civil War. Originally published in 1950, the novel's unique contribution lies in its subtle engagement of homosexuality and cross-class love. In The Bitterweed Path, Thomas Hal Phillips vividly recreates rural Mississippi at the turn of the century. In elegant prose, he draws on the Old Testament story of David and Jonathan and writes of the friendship and love between two boys--one a sharecropper's son and the other the son of the landlord--and the complications that arise when the father of one of the boys falls in love with his son's friend. Part of a very small body of gay literature of the period, The Bitterweed Path does not sensationalize homosexual love but instead portrays sexuality as a continuum of human behavior. The result is a book that challenges many assumptions about gay representation in the first half of the twentieth century.
More LGBT History at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Gay Classics
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