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Gregg, Jess Ashton


biographical statement

Jess Ashton Gregg was born to Edna and Dean B. Gregg in St. Paul, Minnesota, on March 21, 1919. His family moved to Los Angeles shortly thereafter, where Gregg cultivated his creative side. He drew pencil sketches and wrote short stories and plays. When it was time to go to college, his father reseached writing programs and decided on Rollins. Lured by the prospect of studying under Prof. Edwin Granberry, Gregg moved to the East Coast and began attending Rollins in 1937. While at Rollins, Gregg joined Kappa Alpha, wrote for the The Sandspur and the Tomokan, and was editor of the Flamingo. His first short story, "The Grand Finale," was published in Esquire while Gregg was still an undergraduate. After graduating from Rollins College in 1941, Gregg headed north to Yale for postgraduate studies. He lasted only one year at Yale, and then he returned to Los Angeles and became involved in the world of theater and movies. In the late 1940s, Gregg returned to the East Coast and settled in New York and Florida. He continued to work on his own novels and plays while he assisted such notables as Elia Kazan (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), Josh Logan (Fanny), and Gower Champion (Hello, Dolly! and I Do! I Do!, to name but a few). In 1953 Gregg's first novel, The Other Elizabeth, was published in the United States. Its success earned it publication in Great Britain and France as well. Gregg published several additional novels over the course of the next few years, including Baby Boy and The Glory Circuit. His passion, however, revolved around the theater. In 1958 Gregg's play A Swim in the Sea was performed at several locations in Florida. The production starred Peggy Wood, Inga Swenson, George Peppard, and Carol Stone; it was, however, not incredibly successful. The next year, The Seashell, the British counterpart to A Swim in the Sea, succeeded in England, where its cast included Dame Sybil Thorndike and Sean Connery. Some of his other plays were a bit more successful and produced off-Broadway (Shout From the Rooftops, The Men's Room, and The Organ Recital at the New Grand). He also wrote a musical comedy, Cowboy, that toured 11 western states in the late 1980s. Jess Gregg was a prolific writer who, in addition to his creative writings, also generated 50 years' worth of letters to family members. In an interview for the Flamingo while a senior at Rollins, Gregg said, "I'd rather write than be president." He died on March 8, 2009, leaving a lasting legacy of novels, plays, and memoirs.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Gregg, Jess Papers of American Plays and Fiction Writings

Identifier: PP-Gregg

This is the collection of the personal papers of Jess Gregg, American playwright, fiction author and Rollins alumnus (1941), including biographical information, his association with Rollins, correspondence, notebooks, and some of his literary manuscripts.

Dates: Created: 1937-2009; Other: Date acquired: 01/06/2009