On September 30, 1955, at 5:59 in the afternoon, James Byron Dean, famously known as James Dean, was killed in a tragic car accident while driving near Cholame, California. While he died 63 years ago, his legacy continues to live on. Let us look back at his short but highly regarded life as an actor and a cultural icon of youth social estrangement and disillusionment.
James Byron Dean was born on February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana. He was the only child of Winton and Mildred Marie Wilson Dean. Dean’s father left farming to become a dental technician, so he moved his family to Santa Monica, California, where Dean attended Brentwood Public School.
As a child, Dean was very close to her mother and the only person capable of understanding him. Her mother had dreams of Dean being a performer, and so she enrolled him in a tap dance lesson and taught him on playing the violin. However, in 1938, Dean’s mother became ill. She later died of uterine cancer. James was only nine years old when her mother passed away.
When his mother died, James Dean’s father sent him back to Indiana, and their relationship as father and son broke apart. Dean had issues with his father. He rarely talked to him.
Dean lived with Marcus and Ortense Winslow (Winton Dean’s brother-in-law and sister) on their farm in Fairmont, Indiana. Dean helped with his aunt and uncle’s farm while enjoying his carefree existence. He enjoyed cars, ice-skating, swimming, basketball, debate and drama when he was in high school. In 1949, after he graduated from Fairmont High School, Dean went back to California and lived with his father and stepmother (Dean’s father remarried after serving World War II).
For quite some time, Dean attended Santa Monica City College and studied pre-law but later on transferred to University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he majored in theater. This change of career resulted again in an estranged relationship with his father.