Earl Henry Hamner, Jr
Earl Henry Hamner, Jr. (July 10, 1923 – March 24, 2016) was an American television writer and producer (sometimes credited as Earl Hamner), best known for his work in the 1970s and 1980s on the long-running CBS series The Waltons and Falcon Crest. As a novelist, he was best known for Spencer’s Mountain, which was inspired by his own childhood and formed the basis for both the film of the same name and the television series The Waltons, for which he provided voice-over narration.
Earl Hamner, Jr. was born July 10, 1923 in Schuyler, Virginia to Doris Marion (née Giannini) and Earl Henry Hamner, Sr. The oldest of eight children, Hamner’s family siblings consisted of five boys and three girls. After Hamner, the boys, from youngest to oldest, were James Edmund, Willard Harold, Paul Louis, and Clifton Anderson. The girls, from youngest to oldest, were Nancy Alice, Audrey Jane, and Marion Lee.
The family of Hamner’s mother, the Gianninis, were immigrants who came to the United States from Lucca, Italy in the 1700s. His father’s family came to Virginia from Wales, where his ancestors, the Spencers and the Hamners, had been for more than a thousand years before immigrating. Until the 1900s, the Hamners were tobacco farmers near James River, Virginia, when they moved to Schuyler located on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
A company town where the economy was based in soapstone mining by New Alberene Stone, Schuyler was hit hard by the Great Depression, and thus the company and its mines were forced to close. Hamner’s father worked in the mines from the time his oldest son was born until the company’s closing. After losing his job, Earl, Sr. could only find work as a machinist at the DuPont factory in Waynesboro, Virginia, about 30 miles away. Due to the distance between home and work, Earl, Sr. lived at a boarding house in Waynesboro during the week and travelled back to Schuyler and his family on the weekend. Taking a bus from Waynesboro to Charlottesville and another stop along the way, Hamner’s father would walk six miles to the family home at the end of his weekly journey. Taking that walk on a snowy Christmas Eve in 1933 was the inspiration for “The Homecoming”, Hamner’s 1970 novel, which became a Christmas special and the pilot for The Waltons in 1971.
In 1954, Hamner wrote “Hit and Run”, an episode of the NBC legal drama Justice, in which guest star E.G. Marshall played a man haunted for his crime of striking a newsboy on a bicycle and fleeing the scene of the accident. He reprised the theme in the 1964 “You Drive” episode of The Twilight Zone.
Hamner contributed with eight episodes, in the early 1960s, to the CBS science fiction series The Twilight Zone. His first script acceptance for the series was his big writing break in Hollywood. He also wrote or co-wrote eight episodes of the CBS animal series Gentle Ben (1967-1969) and four episodes of the ABC sitcom Nanny and the Professor (1970).
He created two less successful series, Apple’s Way (1974–1975) and Boone (1983–1984). Hamner used family names to title his projects: Spencer (Spencers Mountain) is the maiden name of his paternal grandmother Susan Henry Spencer Hamner. The Waltons derives from his paternal grandfather Walter Clifton Hamner and great-grandfather Walter Leland Hamner.
List of works
- Fifty Roads to Town (1953)
- Spencer’s Mountain (1961)
- You Can’t Get There From Here (1965)
- The Homecoming: A Novel About Spencer’s Mountain (1970)
- The Avocado Drive Zoo (a memoir) (1999)
- Good Night, John Boy (2002; reminiscences of making The Waltons TV series)
- Generous Women (2006; collection of memoirs)
- Highway (1954)
- for The Twilight Zone :
- Heidi (1969)
- Appalachian Autumn (1969)
- Aesop’s Fables (1971)
- The Homecoming (1971; for CBS)
- Where the Lilies Bloom (1972)
- The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story (1983)
- Earl Hamner, Jr. “Official Website of Earl Hamner, Jr.”. Earl Hamner, Jr. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
- Earl Hamner Passes Away at 92
- “Justice“. ctva.biz. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
- darrenpearce111 (January 21, 2014). “”Twilight Zone” You Drive (TV Episode 1964)”. IMDb. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
- Palm Springs Weekend at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Official Earl Hamner website
- Earl Hamner, Jr. at the Internet Movie Database
- Earl Hamner – The creator of The Waltons All About The Waltons
- Works by or about Earl Hamner, Jr. in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- The Hamner Theater The Hamner Theater in Nelson County, VA.
- Write TV Public Television Interview with Earl Hamner
- Earl Hamner, Jr. A biography of Earl Hamner, Jr. by Brandy Davis
- Earl Hamner, Jr. interview video at the Archive of American Television