Author Ann Waldron (1924-2010) wrote in a number of genres, including children's books, biographies, and mysteries for adults. Although Waldron spent much of her adult life outside the South, she grew up and attended college in Alabama, and southern culture and viewpoints have influenced most of her works. Some of her adult biographies focus on notable southerners, including authors Caroline Gordon and Eudora Welty and newspaperman Hodding Carter.
Ann Wood Waldron was born on December 14, 1924, in Birmingham, Jefferson County, to Earl Watson and Elizabeth Roberts Wood. She had one older sister, Mary Ella Roberts Chadbourne, who was born in 1915. She graduated from West End High School and then attended the University of Alabama, where she was editor of the Crimson White, the university's newspaper. While there, she took creative writing courses with Hudson Strode, an author and professor known for leading students to become successful writers. Wood graduated in 1945 with a bachelor's degree in journalism with minors in English and economics. That same year, she took a job as a reporter for the Atlanta Constitution. There, she met Martin Waldron, then a student at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), and they married on October 18, 1947. The couple would have four children.
Although Martin had originally been studying engineering at Georgia Tech, he turned his interests to newspaper reporting. The Waldrons began living in Birmingham while Martin finished school at Birmingham-Southern College and worked as a reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald. Ann worked for The Progressive Farmer, a magazine centered on rural life and farming. In 1961, Martin was hired by the Tampa Tribune and the family moved to Tampa, Florida. Ann also began working for the Tampa Tribune, writing a weekly feature on women in state government. In 1965, the New York Times hired Martin to open a bureau in Houston, Texas, and the family followed. Ann became book editor of the Houston Chronicle, and at this time she began writing. She composed two mystery novels and a memoir about moving to Texas. Without an agent and having no contacts in the publishing world, she was unable to get them published. Waldron turned to writing children's books several years later and sold the first one several years before it was finally published in 1975.
The first of her children's books, The House on Pendleton Block and The Integration of Mary-Larkin Thornhill, were published that year. The House on Pendleton Block centers on a young girl who moves from Georgia to Texas and spends much of her time investigating the mysterious mansion that her family has rented. The Integration of Mary-Larkin Thornhill is the story of a seventh grader who is one of only two white students in an all-black school during the time of integration. The work received a Notable Book citation from the American Library Association and a Best Book citation from the Child Study Association. The same year that Ann had her publishing success, the New York Times transferred Martin to New York, and the family moved again, settling in Princeton, New Jersey.
Between 1977 and 1981, Ann Waldron published four more children's novels: The Luckie Star (1977), Scaredy Cat (1978), The French Detection (1979), and The Bluebury Collection (1981).
In 1981, Martin Waldron died, and Ann began working full time as the editor of Princeton University's Campaign Bulletin, a publication distributed by the Office of Communications that aimed to raise funds for the university. Waldron continued writing for young people, switching to non-fiction, especially and art-related subjects. She published young adult biographies on Francisco Goya and Claude Monet, as well as a book about art forgeries between 1981 and 1992 . During this time, she also became interested in working on something other than children's books and began writing biographies for adults. Her first effort was a work on Caroline Gordon, a novelist and critic from Kentucky who was an important figure in the southern literary renaissance. The biography, Close Connections: Caroline Gordon and the Southern Renaissance, was published in 1987.
Once finished, she maintained her interest in figures from the South. When asked about this, Waldron said that despite living in the northern United States for much of her adult life, she still felt most connected with southern viewpoints and culture. She next turned her attention to a biography on William Hodding Carter II, a southern progressive who edited the Greenville, Mississippi, newspaper, the Delta Democrat-Times. In the biography, Waldron explores Carter's complicated relationship with civil rights issues in the 1940s through 1960s. Hodding Carter: The Reconstruction of a Racist was published in 1993.
While doing research in Mississippi for the Carter biography, Waldron met novelist and short story writer Eudora Welty, who lived in Jackson and was a renowned figure in southern literature. She decided that her next biography would be about Welty, whose life story had not been chronicled yet. The notoriously private Welty declined to authorize the project, and Waldron had to complete the book without her cooperation. Eudora: A Writer's Life was published in 1998. Reception of the work was mixed. Critics faulted the book for its lack of insight and "soul," a result of Welty's refusal to cooperate with the project.
Waldron decided to shift in her genre again and returned to her early interest in writing mystery novels. She set her mysteries on the campus of Princeton University. Her first, The Princeton Murders, was published in January of 2003. This was followed by Death of a Princeton President (2004), Unholy Death in Princeton (2005), A Rare Murder in Princeton (2006), and The Princeton Imposter (2007).
Waldron died on July 2, 2010, in Princeton, New Jersey.
Works by Ann Waldron
The House on Pendleton Block (1975)
The Integration of Mary-Larkin Thornhill (1975)
The Luckie Star (1977)
Scaredy Cat (1978)
The French Detection (1979)
The Bluebury Collection (1981)
True or False?: Amazing Art Forgeries (1981)
Close Connections: Caroline Gordon and the Southern Renaissance (1987)
Claude Monet (1992)
Francisco Goya (1992)
Hodding Carter: The Reconstruction of a Racist (1993)
Eudora: A Writer's Life (1998)
Pearl S. Buck: Compassion for Two Worlds (1998)
Rachel Carson: Perseverance to Save the Planet (1998)
The Princeton Murders (2003)
Death of a Princeton President (2004)
Unholy Death in Princeton (2005)
A Rare Murder in Princeton (2006)
The Princeton Imposter (2007)
Published January 19, 2010
Last updated October 21, 2010