William E. Palmer

It was on the porch of the house built by his grandfather William E. Palmer (1867–1928)¸ known as Will, a prominent businessman (he operated a profitable lumber business and mill) of Henning, Tennessee, that Alex Haley heard his grandmother tell stories about enslaved family and friends, which inspired him to write his 1976 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family (1976). Will and his wife, Cynthia, built the ten-room house, complete with library and music room, in 1918 and 1919, just two years before Alex Haley came to live with them, from 1921 through 1929, while his father completed his graduate studies at Cornell. The house, called the Alex Haley Boyhood Home, is now part of the Alex Haley State Historic Site. Alex Haley, who died in 1992, is buried in the front yard of the house.

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