William Humphrey was very secretive about his life, saying once that he considered it bragging to fill out forms sent by Who’s Who and other dictionaries of biography. Therefore, the entries about Humphrey in such publications are limited to the kind of material found on dust jackets. In later years, he was slightly more forthcoming in interviews and published a memoir which covers the first thirteen years of his life, the years he spent in his native Clarksville, Texas. From notes, hints, and “slips” by the author, it is possible to reconstruct some parts of his life. He was the son of working-class parents (his father was an auto mechanic), and he suffered an affliction as a child that required braces for his legs. He and his mother left Clarksville never to return after his father was killed in a car wreck in 1937. Humphrey and his mother moved to Dallas, Texas. He attended Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Austin, apparently never taking a degree. He mentioned in an interview published in 1988 that he left Texas in 1943 during his last semester of college. He decided to leave while sitting in the middle of a German class, so he stood up and walked out, telling the professor that he was headed for Chicago. Where he went is not clear, but for most of the rest of his life he lived in the state of New York, residing in the city of Hudson beginning in the early 1960’s. Humphrey, apparently without benefit of a degree, lectured at several colleges, but for most of his life he supported himself, his wife Dorothy, and his daughter Antonia by his writing.
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