American writer (1862-1910). Born William Sydney Porter in Greensboro, North Carolina. His mother died in childbirth when he was just three, and he and his father moved in with his paternal grandmother. He worked in his uncle's drugstore and was licensed as a pharmacist when he was 19 years old. At 20, he decided to move to Texas, hoping to alleviate a persistent cough he'd developed. 

In Texas, he worked as a shepherd, ranch hand, cook, and babysitter on a sheep ranch owned by a friend's father in La Salle County. His health improved, and he moved to Austin, where he worked as a pharmacist and as a clerk at a cigar store. He also began writing and became known around the city for his storytelling and musical talents, including singing and playing the guitar and mandolin

Porter eloped with a local girl, Athol Estes in 1887 -- her mother objected because her daughter was sickly, though they both continued to perform in musical and theater groups. She gave birth to a son in 1888 who died soon after his birth, and then a daughter in 1889. Porter was appointed to a political position in the Texas General Land Office, but resigned when his political patron lost a campaign for governor

Porter then went to work as a teller and bookkeeper at the First National Bank of Austin. In 1894, he was accused by the bank of embezzlement; he lost his job, but wasn't charged. He then moved to Houston where he continued to write for a self-published weekly publication called "The Rolling Stone" and at the Houston Post. And then the bank in Austin was audited by the feds, and Porter found himself indicted on a federal charge of embezzlement. 

Porter ran. He fled to New Orleans and then to Honduras, which didn't have an extradition treaty with the United States. He'd planned for his wife to join him in Honduras, but soon learned she was dying of tuberculosis. He returned to the United States and was arrested only months before his wife died. 

After Porter's conviction, he was incarcerated in the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio. As a licensed pharmacist, he was able to work in the prison hospital as the night druggist. He actually got 14 stories published while he was in prison, using various pseudonyms, including O. Henry. He was let out of prison two years early for good behavior and reunited with his now 11-year-old daughter, Margaret, in Pittsburgh, where his late wife's parents had moved. 

He then moved to New York City in 1902 to be closer to his publishers. He became remarkably prolific while in the Big Apple, writing a story a week for over a year for the New York World Sunday Magazine. In 1907, he married Sarah Lindsey Coleman, a childhood sweetheart he'd reconnected with during a trip back to North Carolina. But his heavy drinking started affecting his writing in 1908. His wife left him in 1909, and Porter died in 1910 from cirrhosis, diabetes, and an enlarged heart. His funeral service was held in New York, but he was buried in Asheville, North Carolina

Over the course of his career, Porter 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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