BETTY SMITH OF CHAPEL HILL
Frederick Koch was head of the drama
department. Paul Green already had won
a Pulitzer Prize for his play and hosted
writing groups at his house. In this slice
of time between the Great Depression
and World War II, few had money, but
stories were plentiful. The movement,
at least among playwrights, was to write
the stories you’d lived. In that one
respect, says biographer Yow, Betty
Smith fit right in.
Joe Jones ’ 31 and editor Louis Graves (class
of 1902) at The Chapel Hill Weekly; Smith
and Jones in Switzerland. (Jones was associate editor of the Alumni Review in the ’60s.)
took a train to Norfolk to meet him in
person, he had made up his mind to propose. Their accounts of the event differ,
but the fact is she married him a few days
later without telling anyone, even her
daughters. All of it happened three weeks
before her book came out.
Bob Finch, Pfieffer says, was the love of
her mother’s life. But when he was gone,
Jones was by her side.
“She was alone, terribly alone,” she said.
“She had no one to share any of this with.
My mother was a very complicated person.”
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn sold 300,000
copies in the first six weeks. Fame hit with
speed and fury. Her daughters, no longer