Gore Vidal ( /ˌɡɔər vɪˈdɑːl/; born October 3, 1925) is an American author, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, and liberal political activist. Early in his career he wrote The City and the Pillar (1948), which outraged mainstream critics as one of the first major American novels to feature unambiguous homosexuality. He also ran for political office twice and served as a longtime political critic.
Vidal was born Eugene Luther Gore Vidal in West Point, New York, the only child of 1st Lieutenant Eugene Luther Vidal (1895–1969) and Nina Gore (1903–1978). He was born in the Cadet Hospital of the United States Military Academy, where his father was the first aeronautics instructor, and was christened by the headmaster of St. Albans preparatory school, his future alma mater. According to "West Point and the Third Loyalty", an article Vidal wrote for The New York Review of Books (October 18, 1973), he later decided to be called Gore in honor of his maternal grandfather, Thomas Gore, Democratic senator from Oklahoma.
Vidal's father, a West Point football quarterback and captain, and an all-American basketball player, was director of the Commerce Department's Bureau of Air Commerce (1933–1937) in the Roosevelt administration, was one of the first Army Air Corps pilots and, according to biographer Susan Butler, was the great love of Amelia Earhart's life. In the 1920s and 1930s, he was a co-founder of three American airlines: the Ludington Line, which merged with others and became Eastern Airlines, Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT, which became TWA), and Northeast Airlines, which he founded with Earhart, as well as the Boston and Maine Railroad. The elder Vidal was also an athlete in the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics (seventh in the decathlon; U.S. pentathlon team coach).