Despite his ability and accomplishments, however, De Leon had the reputation of being difficult and imperious. He lost his eyesight in 1903 and was thereafter referred to as “The blind laureate of the Lost Cause.”
Author, editor, publisher. De Leon was born in Columbia on May 21, 1839, the youngest of six children of Dr. Mardici Heinrich De Leon, a surgeon and sixty-year resident of the capital, and Rebecca Lopez-y-Nu├▒ez, from an old Charleston family. Educated at Rugby Academy in Washington, D.C.; Portland, Maine; and at Georgetown College (now University), De Leon worked as an audit clerk in the bureau of topographical engineers in Washington, D.C., from 1858 to 1861, when he resigned and joined the Confederate government. During the war he worked as a civil servant in Montgomery and Richmond. After the war he moved to Baltimore, where he edited the Cosmopolite Magazine for a year, and then to New York, where he wrote for newspapers and magazines.
In 1868 De Leon relocated to Mobile, Alabama, where he lived until his death. He was the managing editor of the Mobile Register until 1877, when he became chief editor. In addition to his active publishing career, De Leon managed a Mobile theater, supervised competitive militia drill teams, and coordinated Mardi Gras activities in Pensacola and Mobile. One fellow newspaperman, Erwin Craighead, described him as “so quick of thought, so well informed, so resourceful and capable, that it was natural for him to take leadership and command.”
Despite his ability and accomplishments, however, De Leon had the reputation of being difficult and imperious. He lost his eyesight in 1903 and was thereafter referred to as “The blind laureate of the Lost Cause.” Throughout his life he was an indefatigable novelist, playwright, poet, editor, and translator. Among his many works are South Songs (editor, 1866); Hamlet, Ye Dismal Prince (1870, alleged to be the first American play to run one hundred nights); The Soldier’s Souvenir (a guide to National Guard units, 1887); Creole and Puritan (a novel, 1889), Society as I Have Found It (1890); Four Years in Rebel Capitals (1890); Belles, Beaux and Brains of the ’60s (1907); and Old Vets’ Gossip (1910). His writing is characterized by an easy, graceful familiarity and a puckish wit. A lifelong bachelor, De Leon died on March 14, 1914, and was buried in Mobile’s Magnolia Cemetery.
De Leon, Thomas Cooper. Belles, Beaux and Brains of the ’60s. 1907. Reprint, New York: Arno, 1974.