Native Alabamian Oxford Stroud (1924-2002) spent most of his life in the state of his birth. His local reputation as a superb raconteur and writer was realized more widely when at age 67, eight years after his retirement from the English Department at Auburn University, his novel Marbles was published by a major national publisher.
Stroud was born on June 14, 1924, in Demopolis, Marengo County, to Oxford Stroud and Viola Goode Liddell, herself a writer of note. In 1933, Stroud and his mother, a high school English teacher by then divorced from Stroud's father, went to live in Camden, Wilcox County, where she had been born. Stroud spent his later boyhood and youth in Camden, where his mother married Will Liddell in 1934. The couple had two more children. Stroud graduated from high school in Camden in 1943 and for the latter part of World War II served with the U.S. Eighth Army Air Force in England.
After the Pacific war ended, he enrolled in a special informal course on English literature at Oxford University. After returning to the states, he first attended Southwestern Presbyterian University in Clarksville, Tennessee, but soon transferred to Alabama Polytechnic Institute (present-day Auburn University). There, he earned a bachelor of science degree in English Education in 1949. He and Mary Anne Porter were married in 1950 and had three sons and two daughters. Stroud was awarded a master's degree in English, also from Alabama Polytechnic, in 1953. After having worked for the Alabama Department of Public Welfare in Wilcox County for a year, Stroud joined the faculty of the English Department of API. Teaching there for the next 30 years, he made his advanced composition classes a popular class among the students. He retired in 1983.
Prior to its publication as a novel, the first chapter of Marbles (1991), which describes a small-town boy's personal account of praying God into a Prince Albert Tobacco can, appeared four times in print. Its final appearance in 1986 in the National Forum: The Phi Kappa Phi Journal, captured the attention of a New York producer and literary agent. Reminiscent of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Marbles is a highly autobiographical coming-of-age novel about Silas O'Riley Simeon of Deen, Alabama, a lovable, engaging first-person narrator. Reviewers found the story, with its fascinating collection of characters, humorous anecdotes, and a haunting bittersweet tone, entertaining and amusing.
Stroud died in Auburn on March 12, 2002, after battling melanoma and is buried in Camden, Wilcox County. His second novel, To Yield a Dream, was published posthumously; it is also at least in part a coming of age novel. He was working on a sequel to Marbles at the time of his death.
Works by Stroud
"Me and God and Reverent Dudley." Georgia Review (1955)
"Baptism." Alabama Life (January/February 1979)
Writing Prose That Makes a Difference (1979)
To Yield A Dream: A Novel (2002)
Allen, Bob. "Novel Reading" [review of Marbles]. The Washington Post, November 3, 1991, page X10.
Jacobson, Marcia. Review of Marbles. Southern Humanities Review 27 (Summer 1993): 296-97.
Land, Mike. "Colorful 'Marbles' Echoes Author's Life." Montgomery Advertiser, December, 15, 1991: 1A, 8A.
McGowen, Dru. "Stroud on Writing: Prose That Makes A Difference." Auburn Alumnews 34.5 (June 1979): 7.
Pearson, Anne. "Former AU Professor Publishes Novel." Opelika-Auburn News, October 20, 1991, C-2.
Pool, Penny. "A Student Looks at an Intriguing Professor." Auburn Alumnews 33.3 (April 1978): 22-23.