Winson Groom, the Mobile-born author of perhaps the greatest tale based in Alabama since “To Kill A Mockingbird,” died at his Point Clear home Sept. 17, following a brief illness.
Beginning his writing career after a combat tour in Vietnam as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Groom was best known for his 1986 novel “Forrest Gump,” which was adapted into a feature-length film starring Tom Hanks. It won five Academy Awards in 1995 including Best Picture.
Born in 1943, Groom graduated from University Military School (now UMS-Wright) and then The University of Alabama in 1965 with a degree in English. In a five-decade writing career, he primarily focused on historical nonfiction of military campaigns and officers, and The University of Alabama football program.
He recently completed “The Patriots,” a study of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and expected it to be released in November. His last novel, “El Paso,” was released in 2016 to favorable reviews.
Groom was the winner of the 2020 Nappie Award for “Quintessentially Baldwin County” and when he last spoke to Lagniappe in June, he lamented the illness of his former colleague and friend Pete Hamill, the lauded columnist and former editor of the New York Post.
“We’re all getting old, and every time I go back to [New York], there are fewer friends to visit,” he said. Hamill died the next day. Groom also counted among his friends the writers Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Willie Morris, Irwin Shaw, James Jones, Joseph Heller and William Styron.
Plain spoken, but a reserved journalist, Groom sometimes spoke in expletives but preferred they not be quoted. In addition to his books, an obituary published by Wolfe-Bayview Funeral Home noted he wrote for numerous publications, including Smithsonian, Conde Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest, New York Times Magazine and the Washington Post. He was also a contributing editor for Garden & Gun.
Groom received numerous awards, literary prizes, honorary doctorates, doctorates of humane letters and other recognitions. Special among them was The University of Alabama, College of Communication Clarence Cason Award, which he received in 2006.
“Groom was also a husband, a father and a friend to many,” the obituary reads. “He was a raconteur who could hold court for hours telling tales and spinning yarns. He loved Alabama Crimson Tide football, barbeque, boats and bluegrass music. As his friend Forrest once said, he ‘didn‘t lead no humdrum life.’”
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made to The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collection, P.O. Box 870266, Tuscaloosa, AL, 35487, or the Gary Sinise Foundation, P.O. Box 368, Woodland Hills, CA, 91365.
A graveside service will be held Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 11 a.m. at Pine Crest Cemetery, located at 1939 Dauphin Island Parkway in Mobile.
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