On this day in 1944, novelist Richard Ford is born in Jackson, Mississippi. The son of a traveling salesman, Ford lost his father when he was 16. He graduated from Michigan State University, where he met his wife, Kristina, who became a city planner.
After a stint at law school, Ford dropped out and took a master's degree in English. He published his first novel, A Piece of My Heart, about the journey of two men in the South, in 1976. In 1981, he published a second novel, The Ultimate Good Luck. Meanwhile, he taught at Williams College and Princeton University, but when neither of his novels met with great success, he became a sportswriter at age 37. He turned his experiences into his breakthrough novel, The Sportswriter (1986). In 1996, he won the Pulitzer Prize for The Sportswriter's sequel, Independence Day.