Texas Originals

Texas Originals: Horton Foote

An award winning playwright and screenwriter who was known for the authentic characters he brought to life on stage and screen.

Albert Horton Foote Jr.
March 14, 1916–March 4, 2009


The quiet cotton-farming community of Wharton, Texas, is the touchstone for the career of playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote.

Born in 1916 and raised in Wharton, Foote first dreamed of becoming an actor. But he soon discovered that his true genius lay in writing, not performing.

He began writing plays about everyday people living in small Texas towns like his boyhood home, and his work was praised for its authenticity. One critic compared him to Faulkner, noting Foote’s “ability to make his own corner of America stand for the whole.”

In 1953, Foote’s television drama “The Trip to Bountiful” aired on NBC to great acclaim. The story — about an elderly woman’s determined journey back to the Texas town where she was born — was a Broadway hit and, later, a popular film.

Foote went on to win Academy Awards for his adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird and for his original screenplay for the film “Tender Mercies.” In 1995, Foote received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

But no matter how wide an audience his work reached, Foote continued to write about the kind of people he knew from his childhood. “I believe very deeply in the human spirit,” he once said. “I’ve known people that the world has thrown everything at … And yet something about them retains a dignity. They face life and they don’t ask quarters.”

Horton Foote on 1918 set
Horton Foote and actors with car and camera on set of film “1918.” (1985).
Image rights belong to Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library



Selected Bibliography

Franco, Cynthia. “Foote, Horton Jr.,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffomk), accessed August 18, 2012.

Hampton, Wilborn. Horton Foote: America’s Storyteller. New York: Free Press, 2009.

Hampton, Wilborn. “Horton Foote, Chronicler of America in Plays and Films, Dies at 92.” New York Times, March 9, 2009 (http://theater.nytimes.com/2009/03/05/theater/05foote.html), accessed October 15, 2012.

Horton Foote Society (http://hortonfootesociety.org/), accessed August 27, 2012.

Leonard, Frances and Ramona Cearley. Conversations with Texas Writers. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 2005.

Watson, Charles S. Horton Foote: A Literary Biography. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 2003.