Alexander Murray Palmer Haley, better known as Alex Haley, was a celebrated author whose books centered around African American heritage. He was born on August 11, 1921 in Ithaca, New York to Simon and Bertha Palmer Haley. For the first few years of his life he lived in Tennessee with his mother and grandparents, while his father was at Cornell University studying agriculture. Haley always recalled his father and his accomplishments with immense pride, stating that he worked extremely hard to overcome racial and economic hurdles and achieved success despite all odds. Simon rejoined his family after finishing his studies and became a university lecturer.
Alex himself was a bright and intelligent student, who finished high school at the age of 15 and then enrolled at Alcorn State University in Mississippi. After a year, he transferred to Elizabeth City State Teachers College in North Carolina but he soon quit that as well in order to pursue a career in the Coast Guard. Because his job as a mess attendant was very boring, Alex bought a typewriter and would fill the time by writing short stories and typing letters on behalf of his fellow officers. He would often mail these stories to publishers in the United States but he mostly met with rejection. The few that got accepted, however, were enough encouragement for him to keep going.
He applied for the post of journalist and got accepted, and was soon promoted to the rank of Chief Journalist of the Coast Guard. He held this position until his retirement in 1959. Haley served for 20 years in the Coast Guard, during which time he received numerous awards and honors including the Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and United Nations Service Medal. He was also posthumously awarded the War Service Medal by the Republic of Korea. After retirement, he took up journalism as a freelancer and eventually became a senior editor for Reader’s