By Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
The death of author and controversialist Gore Vidal last week brought an end to one of America’s most gifted and flamboyantly offensive literary voices. Eugene Luther Gore Vidal was born in 1925 on the campus of the United States Military Academy at West Point. For decades, Vidal was one of America’s most outrageous men of letters. His life was marked by a long series of confrontations and he died as one of the nation’s most famous and infamous literary figures.
Like many in his literary generation, Vidal was born to privilege, but suffered from an unhappy childhood. His father, an aviation pioneer, was the head of civilian aviation in the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and later became a founder of TWA. His mother was a deeply troubled socialite who was the daughter of U.S. Senator Thomas P. Gore of Oklahoma. Most of Vidal’s childhood was spent in the Gore home in Washington, D.C. Vidal’s mother later married Hugh D. Auchincloss, stepfather to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and the young Vidal lived for some time on the Auchincloss estate in northern Virginia. He attended prominent private schools including St. Albans School in Washington and Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, from which he graduated.
At St. Albans, Vidal dropped his first two names and identified himself simply as Gore Vidal, believing even then that it would be a better name for a literary personality. At the same school, Vidal developed a romance with another boy, Jimmie Trimble, who was killed in the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II….
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