Himes, Chester B., 1909-1984

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1909-07-29
Death 1984-11-12
Americans
English, French, Spanish; Castilian

Biographical notes:

Chester Bomar Himes was born in Jefferson City, Missouri on July 29, 1909 to Estelle Bomar Himes and Joseph Sandy Himes. In 1926 he enrolled at Ohio State University to study medicine, but was expelled in 1928 and shortly afterward was arrested, convicted for armed robbery, and sentenced to a twenty-five year term in prison. Himes served only part of that sentence, from 1928 to 1936, at the Ohio State Penetentiary in Columbus, during which time he became a published and somewhat well-known writer. Inspired to begin writing by a 1930 prison fire in which 300 inmates were killed, while in prison he published a number of articles and short stories in newspapers and magazines, most notably in Esquire. Released from prison, he married Jean Lucinda Johnson in 1937, and from 1938 to 1941 he worked for the Cleveland Daily News and the Ohio Writers' Project, for which he wrote a history of Cleveland for the WPA Guide Series. Himes moved to California in 1941, where with the help of a Rosenwald Fellowship he completed his first novel, If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945). Himes moved to Paris in the early 1950s, and wrote the first book of his hard-boiled detective fiction series, For Love of Imabelle (1957), which features two African American detectives from Harlem, Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones. Himes spent the rest of his days living and writing in Europe, including stints in France, Germany and England, but primarily in Moraira on the southern coast of Spain with his second wife, Lesley Packard Himes. He published many other works, including a two-volume autobiography. He died in Moraira, Spain, on November 12, 1984.

From the description of Chester Himes papers, 1936-1980. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702193114

African American novelist; d. 1984; full name: Chester Bomar Himes.

From the description of Correspondence, 1955-1956. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70941231

  • 1909 July 29: Born in Jefferson City, Missouri
  • 1913: Family moved to Cleveland, Ohio
  • 1926 January: Graduated from high school
  • 1926 Sept.: Entered Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio
  • 1928 - 1935 : Served a seven and one-half prison term for armed robbery
  • 1934: First short story, published in Esquire Magazine
  • 1945: Published his first novel If He Hollers Let Him Go
  • 1947: Published The Lonely Crusade
  • 1952: Published Cast the First Stone.
  • 1953: Sailed to France and befriended by Richard Wright
  • 1954: Published The Third Generation
  • 1955: Published The-Primitive
  • 1965: Published Pinktoes
  • 1966: Published Cotton Comes to Harlem, foreign edition
  • 1968: Published The Big Gold Dream, foreign edition
  • 1969: Published All Shot Up, foreign edition
  • Published Blind Man with A Pistol
  • 1970: Published Hot Day, Hot Night

From the guide to the Chester Himes Letters, 1955-1956, (Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University)

Chester Bomar Himes was born in Jefferson City, Missouri on July 29, 1909 to Estelle Bomar Himes and Joseph Sandy Himes. He had two brothers, Edward and Joseph. Throughout his adolescent years Himes lived in Missouri, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and Ohio, mainly because his father, Joseph, was a teacher who worked in these locations. Himes graduated from East High School in Cleveland, Ohio in 1926 and spent the early part of his adult life in Cleveland and Columbus, where he enrolled at Ohio State University to study medicine. He was expelled from Ohio State University in 1928 and shortly afterward was arrested, convicted for armed robbery, and sentenced, at the age of nineteen, to a twenty-five year term in prison. Himes served only part of that sentence, from 1928 to1936, at the Ohio State Penetentiary in Columbus, during which time he became a published and somewhat well-known writer. Evidently inspired to begin writing by a 1930 prison fire in which 300 inmates were killed, while in prison he published a number of articles and short stories in newspapers and magazines, most notably in Esquire .

Released from prison in 1936, he married Jean Lucinda Johnson in 1937. From 1938 to 1941 he worked for the Cleveland Daily News and the Ohio Writers' Project, for which he wrote a history of Cleveland for the WPA Guide Series. Himes moved to California in 1941 and continued writing and working at shipyards until 1944, all the while trying with little success to secure a publisher for his novel Black Sheep (later published, in 1952, as Cast the First Stone ). With the help of a Rosenwald Fellowship he was able to complete his first book, If He Hollers Let Him Go, which was published in 1945. His second book, Lonely Crusade, was published in 1947. Himes moved to Paris around 1953, and in 1955 published The Primitive . The first book of his now famous hard-boiled detective fiction series, For Love of Imabelle, which features two African American detectives from Harlem, Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, was released in 1957. Himes spent the rest of his days living and writing in Europe, including stints in France, Germany and England, but primarily in Moraira on the southern coast of Spain with his second wife, Lesley Packard Himes. He published many other works including his two volume autobiography, The Quality of Hurt (1973) and My Life of Absurdity (1976). He died in Moraira, Spain on November 12, 1984.

From the guide to the Chester Himes papers, 1936-1980, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

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Subjects:

  • Authors and publishers
  • Authors--20th century--Archives
  • African American authors

Occupations:

  • African American novelists

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)