An American author of short stories and novels, he is best known for A Summons to Memphis. He was the 1987 recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
He studied at Rhodes College and Vanderbilt University.
His collection, The Old Forest and Other Stories, won the PEN/Faulkner Award.
He was married for fifty-one years to poet Eleanor Ross Taylor.
He was good friends with Robert Penn Warren.