Born: March 31, 1932
Ohio connection: Former Resident
John William Jakes, son of John Adrian and Bertha Retz Jakes, was born in 1932 in Chicago, Illinois. He was the only child of parents who were in their forties when he was born. While growing up, he shared many of their pastimes, including reading, movies, and theater. Though interested in an acting career, he focused on writing after he sold his first science-fiction story at age eighteen, while a freshman at Northwestern University. He transferred to DePauw University for his sophomore year, graduating with a degree in creative writing in 1953. He went on to earn an M.A. in American literature from Ohio State University in 1954. He married Rachel Ann Payne in 1951, and they have four children and eleven grandchildren. Jakes is a prolific writer, commenting in an interview that he lost track with his seventy-eighth book. Many of his early titles were published as ephemeral, and are difficult to find in libraries; some have disappeared. He has many popular titles which have endured, such as The Bastard, The Rebels, The Seekers, The Furies, The Titans, The Warriors, and The Americans. Many of his most popular books are from various series, including Brak the Barbarian, American Bicentennial (also published as the Kent Family Chronicles) and The North and South Trilogy. Jakes is also the author of a number of plays, including musical comedies. Some of his plays are Dracula, Baby; Wind in the Willows; A Spell of Evil; Violence; Stranger with Roses; Gaslight Girl; Doctor, Doctor!, and Shepherd Song. Jakes has also written books under the pseudonyms Jay Scotland, Alan Payne and William Ard. John Jakes and his wife Rachel divide their time between homes in Florida and South Carolina.
LL.D., Wright State University, 1976; Litt.D., DePauw University, 1977; Porgie Award, 1977, for best books in a series; Ohioana Book Award for fiction, 1978, for “American Bicentennial” series; Friends of the Rochester Library Literary Award, 1983; Citizen-Celebrity Award for library advocacy, White House Conference on Libraries, 1995; Distinguished Alumni Award, Ohio State University, College of Humanities, 1995; Western Heritage Literature Award, National Cowboy Hall of Fame, 1995; D.H.L., Winthrop College, 1985, University of South Carolina, 1993, and Ohio State University, 1996; South Carolina Academy of Authors, 1996; Professional Achievement Award, Ohio State University Alumni Association, 1997; Career Achievement Award, South Carolina Humanities Association, 1998; Medal of the Thomas Cooper Society, University of South Carolina, 2002.