Stanley F. Horn, historian, businessman, and editor, was born at Neeley's Bend in Davidson County on a farm that had been in his family since the eighteenth century. Horn's mother instilled in him an interest in history as she read to him and his brother from Sir Walter Scott, Shakespeare, and other classics. At Nashville's Hume-Fogg High School, Horn's work on the school newspaper and in the literary club stimulated his interest in writing. When he graduated in 1906, he was accepted for admission to Vanderbilt University, but since neither he nor his family could afford the one-hundred-dollar tuition, he took a job with the Cumberland Telephone Company.
In late 1908 Horn joined the Southern Lumberman, a young, but important, trade paper. His association with this paper continued for the next seventy-two years, sixty-three of those as editor, except for a brief period in 1914 as an editorial writer with the Philadelphia Evening Ledger. Under Horn's direction, the Southern Lumberman became the voice of the lumber business in the South. Horn became a major advocate of such progressive changes as reforestation and sustained yield management.
Increasingly, Horn turned his attention to state and Civil War history. From a lifelong admiration of Robert E. Lee came Horn's first book, Boy's Life of Robert E. Lee, which was published in 1935 by Harper's. In 1938, he published The Hermitage: Home of Old Hickory and Invisible Empire: The Story of the Ku Klux Klan in 1939. In 1941 Horn's classic, The Army of Tennessee: A Military History, was published in response to a recognized dearth of collected information on the topic. It became the standard history for the Western Theater and the Army of Tennessee. Six years later he published Gallant Rebel: The Famous Cruise of the CSS Shenandoah, and in 1949 The Robert E. Lee Reader appeared, a skillfully prepared “mosaic portrait” of General Lee. In 1956 Horn wrote The Decisive Battle of Nashville, which soon became the definitive work on Hood's campaign of 1864. As a feature of Tennessee's Civil War Centennial observance, Horn compiled and edited Tennessee's War, 1861-1865, a compendium of contemporary writings and speeches from civilians, soldiers, and politicians. In all, Horn wrote and published nine books dealing with the Civil War while at the same time overseeing his editorial and business enterprises.
Horn was the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Building Journalism Award of the National Lumber Manufacturers Association. He was honored by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with an honorary doctorate of literature degree. Vanderbilt University made him an honorary member of its Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the only person so elected who did not attend the university. He was an honorary member of the Chicago Civil War Roundtable, which selected him as the recipient of the special Nevins-Freeman Award just before his death in 1980.
A proud Tennessean, Horn delved deeply into the state's history, knew every detail, and could speak on any aspect of it. He was a life member of the Tennessee Historical Society, serving as president from 1942 until 1953, and again from 1961 to 1965. He served as chairman of the Tennessee Civil War Commission from 1961 to 1965. When he retired from the Tennessee Historical Commission, the governor appointed him state historian.
Horn was a renowned cultivator of irises and an accredited judge of the American Iris Association. He took an active role in the preservation of historical homes and sites and contributed to the survival of several important landmarks in Tennessee, including the old City Cemetery and the Carter House at Franklin. Horn's personal library was one of the finest and largest historical libraries in the South. After his accidental death in 1980, his collection was located in the Heard Library at Vanderbilt University.