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William Clark Falkner (July 6, 1825 or 1826 – November 6, 1889) was a soldier, lawyer, politician, businessman, and author in northern Mississippi. He is most notable for the influence he had on the work of his great-grandson, author William Faulkner.


Although born in Knox County, Tennessee, Falkner lived with his family in Missouri and Pontotoc, Mississippi before settling at the age of 17 in Ripley, Tippah County, Mississippi. He served in the Mexican-American War and, when the American Civil War broke out, he raised a company of men and was made colonel in the Second Mississippi Infantry of the Confederate Army. Later, he was demoted in an election of officers; he subsequently formed a unit known as the 1st Mississippi Partisan Rangers. [1] He never regained a prominent role in the Confederate Army, but he was forever known as "Colonel Falkner" or just "The Old Colonel" after the war.

During Reconstruction, he was active in rebuilding northern Mississippi and founded the Ship Island, Ripley, and Kentucky Railroad Company. The first and only station on the line was located in what is now the community of Falkner. On November 5, 1889, he was shot by Richard Simon Thurmond, a former business partner, after having just been elected to serve in the Mississippi legislature. He died the next day.

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The White Rose of Memphis was reissued in 1953 with an introduction by Robert Cantwell

Falkner was also an author, writing novels, poems, a travelogue, and at least one play. His most famous work was a novel entitled The White Rose of Memphis, a murder mystery set on board a steamboat of the same name. This work was popular enough to be reprinted several times in the late 19th and early 20th century.

As a child, Falkner's great-grandson William Faulkner is reported to have said, "I want to be a writer like my great-granddaddy." Whether or not young William actually said this, the elder Falkner served as the model for the character of Colonel John Sartoris, who appeared in the novels Sartoris (1929) (reissued in an expanded edition as Flags in the Dust (1973)) and The Unvanquished (1938) as well as a number of short stories. Thus, Colonel Falkner is the inspiration for an integral part of the history of Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County.


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