In the mid-1980s, first- and second-generation members of Sherwood Anderson's family decided to use royalties from Sherwood Anderson's books to help writers. It was an obvious decision that followed a course that Anderson himself took during his lifetime. In order to do this, the family established the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, a non-profit trust.
Anderson helped both William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway get published when they were getting started. Faulkner reportedly asked Anderson to read his manuscript and Anderson replied, "Look, I'll send it to my publisher, as long as I don't have to read it." Joke or not, he knew talent when he saw it and wasted no time supporting it. It should be mentioned that both writers later parodied Anderson's work -- Faulkner with Mosquitoes and Hemingway with Torrents of Spring. Faulkner and Anderson were later reconciled.
Anderson continues to incur writer and reader interest. An August 1998 issue of Newsweek, in commenting on the recent list of the 100 best 20th Century novels in English, called the short stories that make up Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio (listed 24th) "our own favorite neglected masterpieces." Well-known writers when asked to lend their support to the foundation readily did so. Norman Mailer wrote back immediately, saying: "I would not hesitate to support something that was connected with Sherwood Anderson. Winesburg Ohio was one of the most important books in my developing life." Studs Turkel said something similar, and so it went.
The founding members of the foundation were Anderson's daughter Marion Anderson Spear, first secretary-treasurer; and grandchildren Michael M. Spear, first president; David M. Spear, first vice president; and trustees Karlyn Spear Shankland, Elizabeth Anderson, Margaret Anderson Stuart. Charles Modlin and Hilbert Campbell, scholars at Virginia Tech at the time, also lent early support to the effort.