Born January 15, 1955, Grooms was raised and educated in rural Louisa County, Virginia, 120 miles south of Washington, D.C. The eldest of six children, he grew up among an extended African American family that also claimed Native American and European heritage. His parents—Robert E. Grooms, a refrigeration mechanic, and Dellaphine Scott, a textile worker and housewife—encouraged his education. In 1967, as a preface to the forced racial integration of Virginia’s public school system, his parents enrolled him in the Freedom of Choice plan that brought about limited integration of the white public schools. Though he notes that many of his attitudes about race and class in the United States were formed before 1967, the school integration experience was, nonetheless, a landmark event in his life, contributing to a perspective that is evident in many of his writings. Grooms graduated from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1978 with a B.A. degree in theatre and speech. His focus was playwriting, and student theater groups produced several of his plays. Later he studied at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, where he developed a professional interest in creative writing and graduated in 1984 with an M.F.A. degree in English. After graduate school, he married Pamela B. Jackson, an administrative judge, and moved to Atlanta in 1988 to teach, where he found a subject for his writings in the American civil rights movement of the 1960s. In 1994 Grooms cofounded the Georgia Writers Association with writer Geri Taran and literary agent Susan L. Graham.