Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Photo by Thomas Rankin. Blackbird Archive.
(1923-2013) Rubin was born in Charleston, SC, the son of Louis D. Rubin and Janet Weinstein. Rubin would live his first nineteen years in Charleston, attending the College of Charleston from 1940 to 1942. He never resided permanently in the city after 1942; but he would return to it for setting and inspiration in his novels The Golden Weather (1961), Surfaces of a Diamond (1981), and The Heat of the Sun (1995), and in evocative nonfictional works such as Small Craft Advisory (1991), Seaports of the South (1998), and My Father’s People (2002).
After serving in the United States Army during World War II, Rubin received his B.A. in history from the University of Richmond, and he went on to earn a Ph.D. in aesthetics of literature from Johns Hopkins. He was an instructor in English and editor of the Hopkins Review from 1950 to 1954 and assistant professor of American civilization at the University of Pennsylvania from 1954 to 1956. During the years Rubin pursued his graduate studies, he also worked in newspapers as an editor and staff writer, and from 1956 to 1957 he served as associate editor of the Richmond, Virginia, News-Leader. Years later he would publish a vivid account of these work experiences in An Honorable Estate: My Time in the Working Press (2001).
In 1957 Rubin turned permanently to teaching. For ten years he served on the faculty of Hollins College in Virginia. At Hollins he chaired the English department, taught the future writers Annie Dillard and Lee Smith, and continued his impressive scholarship and editing with works such as Southern Renascence (1953) and Thomas Wolfe: The Weather of His Youth (1955). In 1967 he joined the English faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He taught at North Carolina for twenty-two years, guiding students and future teachers of southern literature and culture; mentoring noted southern writers such as Clyde Edgerton, Jill McCorkle, and Kaye Gibbons; and continuing an impressive academic career that would result in his authoring or editing more than fifty books. He retired from teaching in 1989 and continued to live in Chapel Hill with his wife, Eva Redfield Rubin, whom he married on June 2, 1951.
Rubin left teaching in order to concentrate all of his energies on Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a press that he had founded in 1983 to encourage talented young writers. By any measure Rubin’s publishing house has been an impressive success, launching the careers of McCorkle and Edgerton as well as Larry Brown, Dori Sanders, and many other authors.
Rubin’s distinguished career as teacher, scholar, editor, and novelist has brought him numerous awards and honors, including honorary degrees from the University of Richmond, the College of Charleston, and Clemson University. He has been named to the South Carolina Academy of Authors and has received the North Carolina Award for Literature and the R. Hunt Parker Memorial Award for his lifetime contributions to the literary heritage of North Carolina. These distinctions are appropriate for a man who during the course of a long and extraordinarily productive career has acquired, in the words of the critic Leonard Rogoff, “a cultural mantle . . . as Dean of Southern Literature.”