Jake Hemphill was born in Portland, Oregon, on May 27, 1988. He uses his mother's last name. Sheryl Hemphill single-handedly raised Jake and his older brother after their father walked out of their lives shortly before Jake was born. The identity of Jake's father remains unknown, and the Hemphills seem content to keep it that way, having made no effort to contact him since his disappearance.
During their childhood, Jake and his brother were frequently left to their own devices while their mother worked full-time as assistant manager of a bank. After finishing high school, Jake's brother began working as a pharmacy technician to supplement the family income. His brother's efforts provided Jake with the opportunity to attend the University of Oregon.
Jake graduated with dual degrees in English Literature and History. His perfect GPA and full academic honors earned him acceptance into the English Ph.D. program at UCLA, where he pursued specialized studies in American Literature and Contemporary Fiction. Upon the completion of his doctorate, Jake went to work for the University of Mississippi as an adjunct lecturer.
He was promoted to assistant professor after only two years for his background and expertise in the field of historical literary critique. By 2018, Jake was on the fast track to a tenured associate professorship until a newcomer by the name of Douglas Reed swooped in and claimed the spot.
Despite his years of faithful employment and steadfast research, Jake quickly proved to be no match against his charismatic and politically savvy contender. What began as a friendly rivalry stemming from their similar ages and backgrounds soon turned into resentment as Douglas Reed seemed intent on besting Jake at every turn. In addition to the professorship, Jake has lost a conference guest-speaker invitation, two research grants, and several potential girlfriends to Douglas.
True to the expectations of the English Department, the infamous rivalry between the two came to a head during the planning stages of the 2022 Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference. A small victory for Jake came in the form of a much-coveted collaboration with renowned Faulkner scholar Andrew Carlson. With both Jake and Douglas acting as committee chairs, tensions were running high—until Douglas Reed's untimely death.