In Memoriam: Writer and former UD English professor dies of sudden illness

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Steven McDowell
Contributing Writer

Former University of Dallas professor Thomas H. Landess, aged 80, passed away of a sudden illness on Jan. 8. Landess was a member of UD’s English department during the late-1960s and ‘70s.
Born in 1931 in Sarasota, Fla., Landess taught creative writing and literature at various universities, including Vanderbilt University, Converse College and Furman University. Over his 24-year academic career, Landess published three books and over 100 articles, poems and reviews for scholarly publications. At the University of Dallas, Landess was a full-time professor, and he also served as Academic Dean.

Dr. Landess reads poetry beside Lake Koshkonong in Southern Wisconsin at the Rockford Institute in 2006.

Landess was a founding faculty member of Yorktown University, where he developed a course titled “Writing as a Small Business.” In 1982, Landess left academia to devote more time to his writing.

While living in South Carolina and the Washington, D.C., area, Landess served as a ghostwriter for major political figures and organizations. Many of Landess’ ghostwritten works garnered national attention, including one national best seller and several book club selections. He was also a longtime contributor to “Chronicles” magazine, a publication of the conservative Rockford Institute.

In addition, Landess served in the U.S. Department of Education under Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Landess passed away in South Carolina in the company of his family and is survived by his wife of over 50 years, his three children and his grandson.

The Southern Agrarian movement, whose members contributed to the revival of literature in the American South during the 1920s and ‘30s, influenced much of Landess’ life and work. In particular, Southern writer Andrew Lytle, for whom Landess wrote a moving obituary titled “Andrew Lytle, RIP,” influenced Landess’ distinctive literary style.

According to Richard J. Bishirjian, a former colleague of Landess’ at the University of Dallas, “Southern literature explored the human condition, probed it, exposed it, and experienced reality in light of the experience of transcendence.”

Landess helped to fashion “a body of scholarship that illuminated the writings of these Southern writers” and to preserve the writings of the Southern Agrarians for future generations of scholars. Bishirjian wrote that Landess “shall be remembered by thousands of admirers, fellow writers, scholarly colleagues and students” for his brilliant storytelling, his Southern philosophy and his unfailing kindness.

Landess’ funeral was held on Jan. 13 in Columbia, S.C.

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