William Childress (born in Hugo, Oklahoma, February 5, 1933) is an American writer, author, poet, and photojournalist. Childress has received numerous awards, prizes, and accolades for his writing and poetry, and is regarded as one of the foremost poets of the Korean War by at least two critics.
Born the oldest son of a poor family of migrant sharecroppers, Childress joined the Army at age 18, serving in the Korean War as a demolitions specialist in 1952. After the war he reenlisted as a paratrooper, making 33 jumps, and twice narrowly escaping death from parachute malfunctions.
Three honorable discharges later, Childress attended Fresno State College in California, studying English and Journalism, and set a record as the only undergraduate to publish poetry, fiction and photojournalism in national magazines (Display World, Mademoiselle, and Poetry).
During his 45-year photojournalism career, Childress has published some 4,000 articles in various magazines and other publications, including National Geographic, Country Living, The Saturday Evening Post, McCall's, Playboy, Ladies' Home Journal, Smithsonian, Sports Afield, TV Guide, Air & Space Smithsonian, The Nation, and The New Republic, as well as approximately 6,000 magazine and newspaper photos ("...more magazine sales, I’m guessing, than any writer alive," according to author/photographer Richard Menzies).
For 14 years (from 1983 to 1997), Childress wrote a regular column for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called "Out of the Ozarks." His column became so popular that in 1988 Childress wrote a book, also titled Out of the Ozarks, which was published by Southern Illinois University Press, and became a regional bestseller. Childress was also nominated (twice) for the Pulitzer Prize, in the Commentary category.
Poetry and short stories
Childress has published some 350 poems, in such journals as Poetry Magazine, Poet Lore, The Southern Review, North American Review, Harper's, Kenyon Review, Hearse, Georgia Review, and Northwest Review, as well as the anthologies Old Glory, The Hundred Years War, The Orvis Anthology, University of Columbia American War Poetry Anthology (2007), Tall Tales & Short Stories, and The Madness of It All. He has published dozens of short stories, including "Uncle Roman," which won the prestigious STORY award in 1970. He has published three books of poetry: Burning the Years (1970, Barlenmir House), the Devins Award-winning Lobo (1972, Barlenmir House), and Selected Poems (1986, Essai Sea Press). His fourth poetry book, "Cowboys & Indians", has been completed but not yet published; roughly half of its poems have appeared in various magazines over the years.
Non-fiction, memoirs, and novels
In 2006, Childress' autobiographical memoir An Ozark Odyssey was published by Southern Illinois University Press. An ex-paratrooper and Korean War demolitions expert, Childress has also written a Korean War memoir, Working Man's War, which is due to be published soon. In addition, Childress has written a novel, The Taro Leaf Murders, and co-authored (with Frank Oberle) the photographic anthology Missouri on My Mind (1990, Falcon Press).
Literary awards and other accolades
In addition to his two Pulitzer Prize nominations, Childress' literary awards and achievements include the Joseph Henry Jackson Poetry Award, the State of Illinois Literary Award, the Poetry Society of America Award, and the above-mentioned Devins Award. In 2004, Childress was awarded a $5,000 fellowship to the exclusive Millay Colony for the Arts, a prestigious writer's retreat in upstate New York. Childress was also awarded the "Maxwell Medal" by the Dog Writers Association of America in 2003, for his story "Bonnie's Big Break."
Childress' work has been read on BBC radio, as well as featured in a 2003 Canadian Korean War documentary, "The Unfinished War." Childress has appeared on American television and radio numerous times.
In the mid-1980s, Childress was being considered (together with a number of other journalists) as a candidate for the Civilians in Space program, which aimed to put a journalist aboard the U.S. Space Shuttle. However, the tragic 1986 death of teacher Christa McAuliffe in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster put an end to the Civilians In Space program.
- Randolph, Donald A. (1986), "Death's Aesthetic Proliferation in Works of Hinojosa", Confluencia, pp. 42–43
- Erhart, W.D. (2001), "Burning the Years: The Korean War Poetry of William Childress" (PDF), Revista de Estudiandos Norteamericanos, pp. 77–103
- Burning the Years (1970)
- Lobo (1972)
- Selected Poems (1986)
- Out of the Ozarks (1988)
- Missouri On My Mind (1990)
- An Ozark Odyssey (2006)