Twain in his
honorary Oxford regalia


Mark Twain Journal
The Author and His Era

Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College * One Park Place * Elmira, NY 14901




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     54.1-MT Kills

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     55-Film Homage




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In Memoriam

Dr. Thomas A. Tenney

Dr. Thomas A. Tenney, second editor of the Mark Twain Journal (1983-2012), died of heart failure on February 1, 2012 after a brief stay in a Charleston hospital.

    Dr. Tenney was born on June 20, 1931 in New York City to parents who were both teachers. He worked in the Texas oil fields before serving in the U. S. Army in Germany in the 1950s. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina, his master’s degree from Columbia University (where he wrote his thesis on Mark Twain under the direction of Lewis Leary), and his doctoral degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania. His dissertation under Hennig Cohen examined Twain’s early travels.

     In 1957 he married Margaret Shannon Broughton, and they would have three sons: Robert, Charles, and William.

    Caught in the tightening academic job market of the 1970s, Tom Tenney never enjoyed a tenured position but nevertheless taught various English classes at the College of Charleston, Charleston Southern University, Limestone College, and the Citadel, as well as on Navy ships at sea and in ports.

   Without the benefits of institutional support, this independent scholar managed to assemble and publish Mark Twain: A Reference Guide (1977) to assist scholars in locating topics within the proliferating studies of this popular author. Over the years Dr. Tenney issued periodic supplements to update this work. He also became a co-editor of an important volume, Satire or Evasion? Black Perspectives on Huckleberry Finn (1992). For more than a quarter of a century his Mark Twain Journal provided a forum for scholars to discuss aspects of Twain’s life and writings.

   In addition to these activities, Dr. Tenney in the 1980s undertook a nationwide odyssey to find and disseminate Mark Twain letters and documents in public and private collections; persuading the owners to allow him to photocopy these items with a portable machine that accompanied his travels, he widely distributed the results. To bolster the Mark Twain Circle of America, Dr. Tenney in 1987 launched the Mark Twain Circular, a newsletter that James S. Leonard then went on to edit very ably.

   During his seventies Dr. Tenney came into several recognitions for his lifetime investments in Twain scholarship. In 2005, amid a standing ovation at the Fifth International Mark Twain Conference at Elmira College, he received the first John S. Tuckey Award for the enhancement of Twain studies. Subsequently he was given the Mark Twain Circle of America Award for Service. Yet as many scholars have remarked, it was impossible to repay this singular individual who had no equal in fostering and encouraging the study of Mark Twain.

Alan Gribben
Auburn University at Montgomery

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