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UIS Archives receives gift of James Jones letters

November 16, 2006

James Jones

SPRINGFIELD – The Archives/Special Collections unit of Brookens Library at the University of Illinois at Springfield has received a collection of letters written by Illinois-born novelist James Jones, author of the bestselling 1951 novel From Here to Eternity. The gift was made to UIS by Jones' daughter, Kaylie.

The collection includes eight letters sent by James Jones to his brother George between 1947 and 1952 that contain many references to From Here to Eternity, which was written and published during that time. Letters to Jones from an uncle and two editors, as well as a collection of newspaper clippings and a charcoal drawing of Jones, are also included in the gift.

From Here to Eternity won a National Book Award and the screen adaptation won the Academy Award for Best Film in 1953.

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Jones was born in 1921 in Robinson, Illinois, and graduated from Robinson High School in 1939. Enlisting in the army soon after graduation, he witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor and was wounded at Guadalcanal. On his discharge from the service he returned to Illinois, where he was taken in by Harry and Lowney Handy. The couple lent him financial and artistic support and the three jointly founded a writers' colony in Marshall, Illinois. This enterprise, which became known as the Handy Colony, operated from 1950 to 1964. Jones lived there until 1957. He died on Long Island, New York, in 1977.

In 1983, J. Michael Lennon and Jeffrey Van Davis of then-Sangamon State University produced a television documentary titled "James Jones: Reveille to Taps," which aired nationally on PBS. While conducting research for this documentary, Lennon and Van Davis discovered and acquired a large collection of material pertaining to James Jones and the Handy Colony; this material is now preserved in the UIS Archives as the Handy Colony Collection.

UIS Archivist Thomas Wood explained that the collection comprises hundreds of letters and pages of literary manuscripts written by Jones and others associated with the Handy Colony. This collection is open to researchers, and has been a resource for several books, articles, and papers. Wood said the new gift will be incorporated into the existing collection.

Kaylie Jones teaches literature and fiction writing at Long Island University and has published five novels. One of them, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, (Bantam, 1990), won a New York Public Library Young Adult Fiction Award and was the basis of the 1998 film starring Kris Kristofferson. She also chairs the James Jones First Novel Fellowship, administered by Wilkes University in Pennsylvania, which awards $10,000 each year to one writer of an outstanding, unpublished first novel.

For additional information, contact Wood by phone at 217/206-6520 or by e-mail at wood@uis.edu, or go to www.uis.edu/archives/.

    The University of Illinois at Springfield, one of three U of I campuses, is a small, public liberal arts university that offers 42 degree programs – 21 bachelor’s, 20 master’s, and the Doctorate of Public Administration. UIS has a special mission in public affairs and service and is known for extraordinary internships, a wireless campus, extensive online offerings, and a commitment to teaching.