"Interested more in the process of learning than in earning an actual degree, Foote was not a model student. He often skipped class to explore the library and once he even spent the night among the shelves." (Wikipedia)
Before Ken Burns' civil War series debuted on PBS, Shelby foote was a relative unknown. However, as soon as the series aired, Foote started selling 1000 copies a week of his massive work The Civil War: A Narrative.
Shelby Foote was born in the Mississippi Delta in 1917, the only child of Shelby Dade Foote and Lillian Foote. Foote claimed that having no siblings had its advantages: "Getting close to books, and spending time by myself, I was obliged to think about things I would have never thought about if I was romping around with a brother and sister." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shelby_Foote) Foote lost his father at the age of five, perhaps making him retreat even more into books.
Foote was accepted at the University of North Carolina by the skin of his teeth. There he was "interested more in the process of learning than in earning an actual degree, Foote was not a model student. He often skipped class to explore the library and once he even spent the night among the shelves."
After two years, Foote returned to greenville Mississippi where he started writing for The Delta Democratic Times with a side job in construction. In 1946, he had a piece titled Flood Burial published in the Saturday Evening Post. He quit his job to write fulltime.
Foote's first nove, Tournament, was published in 1949. He said he was heavily influenced by his literary hero, William Faulkner. By the mid-1950's, he started working on a massive volume called The Civil War: A Narrative with grant money from the Guggenheim Fellowships and Ford Foundation. Volume 1, Fort Sumter to Perryville, was first published in 1958. Volume 2, Fredericksburg to Meridian, debuted in 1963. Volume 3, Red River to Appomattox, first appeared in print in 1974. Foote always maintained that President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate General Forrest, were the "two authentic geniuses of the war," a conflict that his great-grandfather participated in.
In the late 1980's, Ken Burns came calling. He did several interviews with the author. When Burns' Civil War series debuted in September of 1990, "Foote's drawl, erudition and quirk of speaking as if the war were still going on made him a favorite". In one week at the end of September, Foote's The Civil War: A Narrative sold 1000 copies a day. Foote told Burns: "Ken, you've made me a millionaire."
Foote passed away in 2005 and is buried next to the family plot of General Forrest.