Eugene Luther (Gore) Vidal, Jr., was born on October 3, 1925, in West Point, New York, where his father, Gene, was the first aviation instructor at the U.S. Military Academy. Gene later founded three of the first airlines and served as the director of the Bureau of Air Commerce in the FDR administration. Vidal’s mother, Nina, was the daughter of a career politician, Senator T.P. Gore of Oklahoma. Vidal’s parents divorced when he was ten, and Nina married the wealthy Hugh D. Auchincloss. In 1941, Nina divorced Auchincloss, who then married Jacqueline Bouvier’s mother. For better or worse, Vidal would be connected to political circles for the rest of his life. While Vidal did live for a time at his stepfather’s Virginia estate, “Merrywood,” he spent much of his childhood in the Gore house in Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park. In the attic library he devoured as many books as he could and spent countless hours reading to his blind grandfather. Vidal attended St. Albans School, where he met his “first and only” true love, Jimmie Trimble. He was then sent to Los Alamos School in New Mexico and Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. While away at school he dropped his given names and adopted his maternal family name as his first.
At seventeen, Vidal passed on admission to Harvard to enlist in the U.S. Army. He wrote his first novel during his appointment as first mate on a supply and passenger ship in the Aleutian Islands. Vidal did not see battle, but he discovered that Jimmie, whom he had seen only once since grade school, had been killed at Iwo Jima. In 1946 he left the army and while working as an editor for E.P. Dutton and Company convinced them to publish his first novel, Willawaw. During the next few years, he lived and wrote in Antigua, Guatemala, and toured Europe in the company of writers Tennessee Williams, Paul Bowles, and Christopher Ish-