Born on February 8, 1955, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, John Grisham worked as an attorney and Mississippi legislator before becoming a best-selling novelist with works like The Firm, The Pelican Brief and A Time to Kill, all of which were turned into hit films. Grisham has continued to publish an array of titles, such as Bleachers and The Litigators, and has also worked in screenwriting, as seen with the 2003 baseball film Mickey.

Background and Early Career

John Grisham Jr. was born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The second-oldest of five siblings, he developed a love for books early on. Grisham and his family moved around for a while, due to job opportunities for his father, who worked in construction, eventually settling in Southaven, Mississippi. Initially thinking of a pro baseball career and working a variety of jobs before college, Grisham went on to study accounting at Mississippi State University and then law at the University of Mississippi, graduating in 1981.

Grisham wed Renee Jones in May of that year, with the couple going on to have two children. After starting his law career as a tax attorney, Grisham set up a practice doing personal injury and criminal defense work in Southaven, and in 1983 he earned a seat in the state legislature on the Democratic ticket, serving through the rest of the decade.

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Signs to House with ‘The Firm’

During a trial in 1984, Grisham heard the horrifying details of a young girl recounting her experience of surviving rape. This catalyzed the attorney to start writing a novel that examined the issue, focusing on the actions of a fictional father and an attorney. The finished book, A Time to Kill, would initially get a 5,000-copy printing from Wynwood Press.

After leaving politics in 1990 and closing his law practice, Grisham moved to Oxford, Mississippi with his family and devoted himself more completely to his new calling. The galley of his next novel, The Firm, ended up being circulated in Hollywood, and the film rights to the book were bought by Paramount for more than half a million dollars. The novel was sold to Doubleday. The Firm (1991) was on The New York Times best-seller list for nearly 50 weeks, becoming the top-selling book of the year. The film version was released in 1993 and starred Tom Cruise, Holly Hunter and Gene Hackman. A Time to Kill would later be picked up as a paperback by Dell Publishing and became a best seller as well.

Array of Best Sellers

While writing his next novel, The Pelican Brief, Grisham took the words of a retail chain executive to heart and made the commitment to complete a book a year. The Pelican Brief was published in 1992 and became a No. 1 New York Times best seller. In the coming years, Grisham followed with an array of hit titles, including The Client (1993), The Runaway Jury (1996), Bleachers (2003), Playing for Pizza (2007) and The Litigators (2011), among many others. His Time to Kill sequel, Sycamore Row, was released in 2013. More recent titles include Gray Mountain (2014), Rogue Lawyer (2015) and The Whistler (2016).

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Grisham has worked in other literary genres outside of the adult novel as well, as seen with his nonfiction work The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town (2006), the short-story collection Ford County and the young adult series Theodore Boone.

Hit Film Adaptations

Besides The Firm, numerous other Grisham books have been turned into major big-screen ventures, including Pelican Brief (1993), The Client (1994), A Time to Kill (1996), The Chamber (1996), The Rainmaker (1997), Runaway Jury (2003) and Christmas with the Kranks (2004), which was based on Grisham’s 2001 novel Skipping Christmas. With a changing movie-industry climate, over time Grisham has increasingly turned to the world of television, with The Firm becoming a NBC series in 2012.

Grisham has continued to nurture his love for baseball, overseeing the construction of multiple baseball fields around his home and becoming a Little League commissioner. He has also provided funding for the Southern publicationOxford American.

John Grisham photo via Getty Images

(Photo: J. Countess/WireImage via Getty Images)


  • Name: John
  • Birth Year: 1955
  • Birth date: February 8, 1955
  • Birth State: Arkansas
  • Birth City: Jonesboro
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: John Grisham is a best-selling author known for many of his legal thrillers, such as ‘The Firm,’ ‘The Pelican Brief,’ ‘A Time to Kill’ and ‘The Runaway Jury.’
  • Industries
    • Writing and Publishing
  • Astrological Sign: Aquarius
  • Schools
    • University of Mississippi
    • Mississippi State University
  • Occupations
    • Author

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  • Article Title: John Grisham Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/authors-writers/john-grisham
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: April 16, 2019
  • Original Published Date: March 2, 2015
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  • [Writing] was more difficult than laying asphalt, and at times more frustrating than selling underwear. But it paid off. Eventually, I was able to leave the law and quit politics. Writing’s still the most difficult job I’ve ever had — but it’s worth it.
  • My name became a brand and I’d love to say it was the plan from the start. But the only plan was to keep writing books. And I’ve stuck to that ever since.
  • I wanted to be Tom Sawyer. I loved that romanticized view of a kid’s life. It wasn’t until a lot later that I realized there was more going on with Tom and Huck than just an adventure.
  • After you write 10 or 12 books in a certain genre, you think, ‘OK, can I write something else, or am I locked in here?’
  • …if I can take the wrongful execution of a man in Texas to make people stop and think about this rush to execute people that we have in this country, I will. If I have access to a soapbox, then the least I can do is occasionally use it.