Earl Hamner Jr. Biography

Earl Hamner Jr., an American television writer, novelist, and producer, is best known for his work on the long-running television series ‘The Waltons’ in the 1970s. Despite a tough childhood, Hamner always had a passion for writing, publishing his first poem in a local newspaper at the age of six. After serving in World War II, he pursued his education, studying broadcast communications at the University of Cincinnati. Hamner’s career took off when he submitted scripts to Rod Serling’s TV series ‘The Twilight Zone’. Inspired by his own childhood memories, he went on to write scripts for various TV series and films, including ‘The Homecoming’ and ‘The Waltons’. Hamner married Jane Martin in 1954 and had two children. He passed away in 2016 in Los Angeles, California, after battling bladder cancer.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Earl Henry Hamner Jr.
  • Died At Age: 92
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Jane Martin (m. 1954)
    • Father: Earl Henry Hamner Sr.
    • Mother: Doris Marion (née Giannini)
    • Siblings: Audrey Hamner Hankins, Bill Hamner, Clifton Hamner, James Hamner, Marion Hamner Hawkins, Nancy Hamner Jamerson, Paul Hamner
  • Born Country: United States
  • Novelists
  • American Men
  • Died on: March 24, 2016
  • U.S. State: Virginia
  • Cause of Death: Cancer
  • More Facts
  • Education: University of Cincinnati, University of Richmond

Early Career and Military Service

Earl Hamner Jr. began his career in the army in 1943 while he was a sophomore at the University of Richmond during World War II. Initially trained to diffuse landmines, his typing abilities led to his transfer to the Quartermaster Corps in Paris. He served in France after the invasion of Normandy. In March 1946, he left the army and returned to Virginia, where he secured a job as a trainee in the program department at the country music radio station WMBG in Richmond. However, he soon left this job to complete his studies.

Entry into Writing and Television

After graduating, Hamner worked as a writer for WLW radio station in Cincinnati. During this time, he also began writing his first novel, titled ‘Fifty Roads to Town’. Eventually, he left his job and moved to New York, where he was hired by the NBC network as a radio writer. In 1953, his novel ‘Fifty Roads to Town’ was published by Random House. Hamner then transitioned to television and wrote episodes for the legal drama ‘Justice’, including ‘Highway’ and ‘Hit and Run’ in 1954.

In 1961, Hamner achieved his first major success when he sold two scripts to the science fiction series ‘The Twilight Zone’. Over the following months, he wrote and contributed a total of eight episodes to the show. During this time, he also worked on his second novel, titled ‘Spencer’s Mountain’ (1961). Hamner also wrote eight episodes for the CBS series ‘Gentle Ben’ (1967–1969) before writing ‘Heidi’, which was broadcast in November 1968 and earned him a ‘Writer’s Guild Award’.

The Waltons and Later Career

In 1970, Hamner wrote another novel titled ‘The Homecoming: A Novel About Spencer’s Mountain’, which was inspired by his own childhood experiences and memories. The novel was later broadcast by CBS as a Christmas special in 1971. This show served as the foundation for the creation of the popular TV series ‘The Waltons’, which debuted in 1972. Along with writing for the show, Hamner also provided voice-over narration at the beginning and ending of each episode. He also wrote scripts for the 1973 animated film ‘Charlotte’s Web’. Later in his career, Hamner wrote for the television series ‘Falcon Crest’ (1981–1990).

Family and Personal Life

Earl Hamner Jr. was born on July 10, 1923, in Schuyler, Virginia. He was the oldest of eight children, with four brothers and three sisters. His family was involved in tobacco farming before relocating to Schuyler. His father worked in a soapstone mine until it closed during the Great Depression, after which he worked as a machinist at a factory in Waynesboro. Hamner published his first poem at the age of six and went on to graduate from Schuyler High School in 1940. He received a scholarship to the University of Richmond but left in 1943 to join the army. After leaving the army in 1946, he attended Northwestern University and later graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1948 with a degree in broadcast communications.

On October 16, 1954, Hamner married Jane Martin, and they had two children together. He passed away on March 24, 2016, in Los Angeles, California, due to bladder cancer.

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