Born: June 3, 1886
Ohio connection: Birth
Jim Tully was a vagabond, pugilist, and American writer. His critical and commercial success in the 1920s and 30s may qualify him as the greatest long shot in American literature. Born near St. Marys, Ohio to James Dennis and Bridget Marie Lawler Tully, an Irish immigrant ditch-digger and his wife, Tully enjoyed a relatively happy but impoverished childhood until the death of his mother in 1892. Unable to care for him, his father sent him to an orphanage in Cincinnati. He remained there for six years. What further education he acquired came in the hobo camps, boxcars, railroad yards, and public libraries scattered across the country. Finally, weary of the road, he arrived in Kent, Ohio, where he worked as a chain maker, professional boxer, and tree surgeon. He also began to write, mostly poetry published in the local newspapers. He moved to Hollywood in 1912, when he began writing in earnest. His literary career took two distinct paths. He became one of the first reporters to cover Hollywood. As a free-lancer he was not constrained by the studios and wrote about Hollywood celebrities (including Charlie Chaplin, for whom he had worked) in ways that they did not always find agreeable. For these pieces, rather tame by current standards, he became known as the most-hated man in Hollywood—a title he relished. Less lucrative but closer to his heart were the books he wrote about his life on the road and the American underclass. He also wrote an affectionate memoir of his childhood with his extended Irish family, as well as novels on prostitution, boxing, Hollywood, and a travel book. While some of the more graphic books ran afoul of the censors, they also garnered both commercial success and critical acclaim from, among others, H.L. Mencken, George Jean Nathan, and Rupert Hughes, who wrote that Tully “has fathered the school of hard-boiled writing so zealously cultivated by Ernest Hemingway and lesser luminaries.” Kent State University Press published Jim Tully: American Writer, Irish Rover, Hollywood Brawler in 2011. Tully died June 22, 1947.