|Oxford Stroud of Wilcox County, Ala.|
Today – June 14 – marks the birthday of one of the most remarkable men to ever call Wilcox County home, novelist Oxford Stroud.
Stroud was born Oxford Simeon Stroud Jr. in Demopolis on June 14, 1924 to Oxford Stroud and Viola Goode Liddell, who also became a well-known Alabama writer. After living briefly in New Mexico and Linden, Stroud moved to Camden in 1932, when he was just seven or eight years old. Stroud spent his formative years in Camden and went on to graduate from high school in 1943.
Like thousands of young American men in the 1940s, Stroud soon found himself involved in World War II. Stroud ended up in the U.S. Army Air Corps, now known as the U.S. Air Force, and went on to serve in the Eighth Air Force in England. (If you visit Stroud’s grave in Camden today, you’ll see that it bears a special bronze marker denoting his World War II service.)
After the war, Stroud briefly attended Oxford University in England before going on to attend Southwestern University, now known as Rhodes College, in Memphis, Tenn. From there, he transferred to the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, which is now known as Auburn University. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Auburn in 1949 and a master’s degree in 1953.
That same year, he began teaching English composition and literature at Auburn and continued to do so for the next 30 years before officially retiring in 1983. During his time at Auburn, Stroud wrote a wide variety of poems and short stories, and students far and wide knew him for his recipes for kudzu tea. He also wrote a textbook in 1979 called “Writing Prose That Makes a Difference and the Grammar Minimum.”
Stroud is arguably best known for his two novels, which were both published after his retirement from Auburn. His first novel, “Marbles,” was published in 1991. This novel, which was based on a short story called “Baptism,” is said to have been inspired by Stroud’s childhood experiences in Camden.
Stroud’s second novel, “To Yield a Dream,” was published three days after Stroud passed away from melanoma in March 2002. While I have not read it, I’ve been told that “To Yield a Dream” is very different than “Marbles.” I’ve also been told that Stroud was working on a sequel to “Marbles” at the time of his death, but that book, as yet, remains unpublished.
I also think it’s significant that while Stroud lived in Auburn from the late 1940s all the way through 2002, his remains were returned to Camden for burial. His mother often described herself as “geophagistic,” that is, she was deeply tied to the land that she came from, and perhaps, as they say, the apple did not fall far from the tree. If you go to the Camden Cemetery today, you’ll find Stroud’s grave there near his mother’s and a host of other relatives.
In the end, I’d be interested to hear from any readers with more information about Stroud’s writings, his early years in Camden and his military exploits. I’d also like to hear from anyone with more information about his recipe for kudzu tea. I’ve never had kudzu tea, but if someone will send me the recipe, I’ll whip some up and let everyone know how it turns out.