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W.J. Cash

Joseph Wilbur Cash was one of the most respected writers ever associated with Charlotte. He was born in Gaffney, S.C., and attended North Carolina’s Wake Forest University. He used his initials, in reverse, and became known as W.J. Cash.

Cash wrote for The Charlotte Observer, then moved to Chicago. He returned to North Carolina and worked for The Charlotte News, and also as a freelance writer. In 1941, what would become his best known work was published. The book was titled The Mind of the South and it has never been out of print since its release.

Upon completion of The Mind of the South, Cash married Mary Ross Northrup on December 25, 1940. In May of 1941, Cash was recognized for his brilliant and insightful examination of Southerners when he was presented with a Guggenheim Fellowship. Cash had long dreamed of writing a novel and the fellowship would enable him to fulfill that ambition.

In the summer of 1941, Cash and his wife traveled to Mexico City. On July 1, 1941, W.J. Cash was found hanging by his necktie in a hotel room. Over the years, a number of theories regarding his death have emerged. Although biographers have speculated on the circumstances surrounding his death, the exact cause of Cash's death will probably never be determined.


Clayton, Bruce. W.J. Cash: A Life. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991.

Morrison, Joseph L.W.J. Cash: Southern Prophet-A Biography and Reader. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967.

Powell, William. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography Vol. I. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1979, p. 339.

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