America lost an unsung hero on January 8 with the passing of Thomas H. Landess, Ph.D.
To say that Tom was an accomplished Southern academic would be like saying that Robert Goddard was a guy who liked to tinker with rockets in his backyard.
The reason you may not have heard of Tom Landess before is that he did much of his work behind the scenes in countless, selfless ways.
Tom taught literature and creative writing for 24 years, including posts at Vanderbilt University, Converse College and Furman University. He was full professor of English and Academic Dean at the University of Dallas, and recently was a professor for the online YorktownUniversity.com.
At the time of his death, at age 80, he was press secretary for South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, and was working on many projects, including several books and a script for a multi-media tutorial on the U.S. Constitution for the American Civil Rights Union.
An expert in Southern literature, Tom published hundreds of articles, poems and reviews for scholarly publications such as the Sewanee Review, the Southern Review, and the Georgia Review; newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal; co-wrote articles in peer-reviewed psychological journals, and wrote or ghost wrote more than 25 books. He also wrote for the Southern Partisan and Chronicles of Culture magazines.
In 2010, he edited Allen Wildmon’s colorful autobiography about the founding of the American Family Association, The Wildmons of Mississippi: A Story of Christian Dissent: “The Red Clay Hills of Tippah County.”
Over the years, he tried, gloriously and at least somewhat successfully, to get Yankee friends like me to acknowledge the Southern side of the War Between the States. But he had no sympathy for slavery or racism. In 1989, he ghosted the autobiography of Ralph David Abernathy, who succeeded Martin Luther King Jr. as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Tom was a friend when Abernathy came under attack for endorsing Ronald Reagan.
Tom often pointed out to me and others how liberal policies were racist to the core and designed to break up families and increase dependency. As for his allegiance to the South, he made a strong case that the victor gets to write history, and that the region to this day gets a raw deal, especially from Hollywood. Tom was so persuasive that a friend began to worry and bought me a bust of Lincoln as a totem to ward off Southern sympathies.
Nothing, however, could work as a defense against Tom’s generous spirit and remarkable storytelling.