Thomas Douglas Jones was born in Aurora, Illinois, on January 26, 1945, the son of Joseph Thomas Jones and Marilyn Faye (Carpenter) Graham. His father was a boxer, and Jones took up the sport as a teenager. He said in a 1995 interview in Poets & Writers Magazine that he had conflicts with his father and later his stepfather and did not take kindly to people pushing him around, and this fact contributed to his interest in boxing. He also reported that he had been fired from various jobs because he refused to take orders.
Jones joined the U.S. Marine Corps and trained as a Recon Marine. But in 1963, before he was sent overseas, he was honorably discharged after sustaining an injury in a boxing match, which led to his developing epilepsy. He was hospitalized on various occasions with epilepsy and even spent some time in a mental ward.
Only one of the twenty Marines Jones trained with survived the Vietnam War. In 1968, Jones married Sally Laverne Williams, the former girlfriend of one of Jones's friends who had been killed in Vietnam.
Jones had resumed his education, and he graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor of arts in 1970. He then enrolled in the prestigious writing program at the University of Iowa. In the interview mentioned above, he said all he had ever wanted to do was write. At the University of Iowa, Jones's teachers suggested that he take a mentally undemanding job while he was writing....
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