Shelby Foote the young years
Shelby Foote was born in Greenville, Mississippi and lived there until he left for college at the University of North Carolina. He was the only child of Lillian Rosenstock Foote and Shelby Dade Foote, Sr. The Rosenstock and Foote were leading families from the Mississippi Delta in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries but lost their fortunes to gambling and the depression. In a 1989 interview, Foote described his grandfathers:
“Though they were both extremely rich in the course of their lifetimes, they barely had the money at their deaths to pay for the shovel that buried them" 1
Working for Armour Meats, the Chicago meat-packing giant, Shelby Sr. quickly climbed up the corporate ladder, moving his family from Jackson, Mississippi, to Vicksburg, Mississippi, and then to Pensacola, Florida. In 1922, the Footes relocated to Mobile, Alabama, where Foote served as supervisor for all regional Armour Meats operations, but just weeks after their arrival, Shelby Sr. died of septicemia. A simple operation to remove a wart from his nose had gone awry after Foote failed to tell the surgeon that a few days before he had had an invasive measure done on a tooth.
When Shelby Sr. died, Shelby Jr. was five years old and he left his wife to raise their son alone. She moved with Shelby Jr. back to Greenville where she spent the rest of her life.
1. John Carr, “It’s Worth A Grown Man’s Time: An Interview with Shelby Foote,” Conversations with Shelby Foote, Ed. William C. Carter, (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1989) 38.