A Kentucky-born poet, Tate became while at Vanderbilt University part of a group of writers known as the Southern Agrarians. Married for a time to novelist Caroline Gordon, Tate converted to Catholicism in 1950. His relationship with the Church was tenuous, as reflected in his subsequent divorces and remarriages. He contributed essays to a wide range of publications, including The Nation, The New Republic, National Review, and The American Review. Following residences in New York and Princeton, NJ, he died in Nashville.