American writer (1862-1910). Born William Sydney Porter in Greenboro, North Carolina, he left school at the age of 15 to work at a variety of jobs in Texas--he worked as a ranchhand, a bank clerk, and a reporter and columnist for the Houston Post. He also became a heavy drinker. In 1894, he was accused of embezzling money from the bank and fled to Honduras. He returned the next year because his wife was dying and was convicted of embezzlement in 1897.

While in prison in Columbus, Ohio, he started writing short stories to support his daughter. His first story, "Whistling Dick's Christmas Stocking", was published in McClure's Magazine in 1899. After serving three years of his five year sentence, he was released from prison in 1901 and officially changed his name to O. Henry. He moved to New York City and began writing a story a week for the New York World. A number of collections of his stories were published, but his final years were plagued by alcoholism, poor health, and financial troubles. He died of tuberculosis on June 5, 1910.

O. Henry wrote an astounding 600 short stories. His stories are best known for their ironic twist endings, and he also preferred to write about the everyday lives of ordinary people, especially New Yorkers and rural Texans. Some of his best known stories are "The Gift of the Magi", "The Furnished Room", "The Last Leaf", and "The Ransom of Red Chief".

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