William Clark Falkner

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William Clark Falkner (July 6, 1825 or 1826 – November 6, 1889) was a soldier, lawyer, politician, businessman, and author in northern Mississippi. He is most notable for the influence he had on the work of his great-grandson, author William Faulkner.


Although born in Knox County, Tennessee, Falkner lived with his family in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri and Pontotoc, Mississippi before settling at the age of 17 in Ripley (Tippah County, Mississippi). He served in the Mexican–American War and, when the American Civil War broke out, he raised a company of men and was made colonel in the Second Mississippi Infantry of the Confederate Army. Later, he was demoted in an election of officers; he subsequently formed a unit known as the 1st Mississippi Partisan Rangers.[1] He never regained a prominent role in the Confederate Army, but he was forever known as "Colonel Falkner" or just "The Old Colonel" after the war.[citation needed]

During Reconstruction, he was active in rebuilding northern Mississippi and founded the Ship Island, Ripley, and Kentucky Railroad Company. The first station on the line north of Ripley was located in what is now the community of Falkner.[citation needed]

Falkner was also an author, writing novels, poems, a travelogue, and at least one play. His most famous work was a novel entitled The White Rose of Memphis (New York, G. W. Carleton & co.; 1881), a murder mystery set on board a steamboat of the same name. This work was popular enough to be reprinted several times through the early 20th century, selling over 160,000 copies.[2][3]

On November 5, 1889, he was shot[why?] by Richard Jackson Thurmond, a former business partner, after having just been elected to serve in the Mississippi legislature. He died the next day.[2]


As a child, Falkner's great-grandson William (who later changed his surname to Faulkner) reportedly said, "I want to be a writer like my great-granddaddy." The elder Falkner served as the model[citation needed] for the character of Colonel John Sartoris, who appeared in the novels Sartoris (1929; reissued in an expanded edition as Flags in the Dust, 1973) and The Unvanquished (1938) as well as a number of short stories. Thus, Colonel Falkner is the inspiration for an integral part of the history of Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County.[2][3]


  1. ^ Rowland, Dunbar. Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898. and Howell, H. Grady. For Dixie Land, I’ll Take My Stand. cited by "1st Regiment, Mississippi Partisan Rangers (Falkner's), aka 7th Regiment, Mississippi Cavalry". Unit Histories - Mississippi CSA. Mississippi Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Hagood, Taylor (June 2003). "Falkner, William Clark". Mississippi Writers Page. University of Mississippi. Retrieved September 15, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Family and Early Life". Faulkner Site. University of Michigan. August 1998. Archived from the original on April 19, 2009. Retrieved 15 September 2015.

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