Horton Foote Biography

Lifetime of Artistic Achievement and Excellence

On December 20, 2000, President Bill Clinton conferred the National Medal of Arts on Texas dramatist, Horton Foote, and noted that Foote's six-decade-long, award-winning career established him as the nation's most prolific writer for stage, film, and television.

Clinton mentioned Foote's many awards including two Academy Awards, an Emmy, a Burkey Award and the Screen Laurel Award from the Writers Guild of America, the Lucille Lortel Award, and his induction into both the Theatre Hall of Fame and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Before placing the medal around Foote's neck, the President observed: "Believe it or not, the great writer Horton Foote got his education at Wharton--but not at the Wharton Business School. He grew up in the small town of Wharton, Texas. His work is rooted in the tales, the troubles, the heartbreak, and the hopes of all he heard and saw there. As a young man, he left Wharton to become an actor and soon discovered the easiest way to get good roles was to write the plays yourself. And he hasn't stopped since. Among other things, he did a magnificent job of adapting Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird for the silver screen, and writing his wonderful The Trip To Bountiful and so many other tales of family, community, and the triumph of the human spirit. Today, we honor him for his lifetime of artistic achievement and excellence."

Without question, Horton Foote enriched American literature with his unique writing style and his truthful examinations of the human condition. Besides To Kill A Mockingbird and The Trip To Bountiful, Foote wrote a score of notable plays, teleplays, and films such as The Chase, The Traveling Lady, Tender Mercies, The Habitation of Dragons, Night Seasons, The Roads to Home, Tomorrow, The Orphans' Home Cycle, Talking Pictures, Dividing the Estate, Of Mice and Men, Alone, Vernon Early, Laura Dennis, and The Young Man from Atlanta (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize), to name only a few. These works represent a remarkable career. In January 2001, his play The Last of the Thorntons received its world premiere at New York's Signature Theatre and in June, 2002 his drama, The Carpetbagger's Children premiered at Houston's Alley Theatre before traveling to the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, the Hartford Stage in Connecticut, and the Lincoln Center in New York. In March 2002, Foote's play, Getting Frankie Married . . . and Afterward, premiered at the South Coast Repertory in California. Recently the 50th anniversary production of The Trip To Bountiful was performed at the Hartford Theatre and then at the Alley in Houston.

(Text written by Marion Castleberry)