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Agee, James Rufus (27 November 1909–16 May 1955), writer, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Hugh James Agee, a construction company employee, and Laura Whitman Tyler. The father’s family were poorly educated mountain farmers, while the mother’s were solidly middle class. Agee was profoundly affected by his father’s death in a car accident in 1916. He idealized his absent father and struggled against his mother and her genteel and (he felt) cold values. “Agee’s mother wanted him to be clean, chaste, and sober,” the photographer ...

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Siskel, Gene (26 January 1946–20 February 1999), film critic, was born Eugene Kal Siskel in Chicago, the son of Nathan W. Siskel and Ida Kalis. He grew up, until age nine, in Rogers Park, a middle-class neighborhood on the city's North Side. With the deaths of their parents in 1955, the Siskel children were raised by their maternal aunt, Mae Gray, and her husband, Joseph, in suburban Glencoe, Illinois. Siskel prepared for college at Culver Military Academy, a boarding school in Culver, Indiana, graduating in 1963. He enrolled at Yale University, where he won a Coro Foundation Public Affairs Scholarship and majored in philosophy, earning a bachelor's degree in 1967. An army reservist, Siskel was called to active duty the follow year. He took courses in writing and editing at the U.S. Department of Defense Information School and produced press material for the armed services. He enjoyed this first experience with practical journalism so much that he decided to attempt a career at it, putting aside plans to attend law school....