Donald Patrick "Pat" Conroy (October 26, 1945 – March 4, 2016) was
an American author who wrote several acclaimed novels and memoirs. Two
of his novels,
The Prince of Tides
The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, were made
into Oscar-nominated films. He is recognized as a leading figure of
late-20th century Southern literature.
1 Early life
2 Writing career
3 Military brat cultural identity and awareness movement
3.1 Conroy's essay on military childhood
3.2 Conroy's writings and comments in documentary on the lives of
4 Personal life
8 See also
10 External links
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, he was the eldest of seven children (five
boys and two girls) born to Marine Colonel Donald Conroy, of Chicago,
Illinois and the former Frances "Peggy" Peek of Alabama. His father
was a Marine Corps fighter pilot, and Conroy moved often in his youth,
attending 11 schools by the time he was 15. He never had a hometown
until his family settled in Beaufort, South Carolina, where he
finished high school. His alma mater is The Citadel, The Military
College of South Carolina.
Conroy has said his stories were heavily influenced by his military
brat upbringing, and in particular, difficulties experienced with his
own father, a US Marine Corps pilot, who was physically and
emotionally abusive toward his children, and the pain of a youth
growing up in such a harsh environment is evident in Conroy's novels,
particularly The Great Santini. While living in Orlando, Florida,
Conroy's 5th grade basketball team defeated a team of 6th graders,
making the sport his prime outlet for bottled-up emotions for more
than a dozen years. Conroy also cites his family's frequent
military-related moves and growing up immersed in military culture as
significant influences in his life (in both positive and negative
Conroy was a graduate of The Citadel, The Military College of South
Carolina and his experiences there provided the basis for two of his
best-known works, the novel
The Lords of Discipline
The Lords of Discipline and the memoir My
Losing Season. The latter details his senior year on the school's
underdog basketball team, which won the longest game in the history of
Southern Conference basketball against rival Virginia Military
Institute in quadruple overtime in 1967.
His first book, The Boo, is a collection of anecdotes about cadet life
centering on Lt. Colonel Thomas N. Courvoisie, who had served as
Assistant Commandant of Cadets at The Citadel from 1961 to 1968
(Courvoisie appears as the fictional character Colonel Thomas
Berrineau, a.k.a. "The Bear", in The Lords Of Discipline). Conroy
began the book in 1968, after learning that Lt. Colonel Courvoise had
been removed from his position as assistant commandant and given a job
in the warehouse; he paid to self-publish the book, borrowing the
money from a bank.
After graduating from The Citadel, Conroy taught English in Beaufort,
South Carolina; while there he met and married Barbara Jones, a young
widow of the
Vietnam War who was pregnant with her second child. He
then accepted a job teaching children in a one-room schoolhouse on
remote Yamacraw Island, South Carolina.
Conroy was fired at the conclusion of his first year on the island for
his unconventional teaching practices, including his refusal to use
corporal punishment on students, and for his lack of respect for the
school's administration. He later wrote The Water Is Wide based on his
experiences as a teacher. The book won Conroy a humanitarian award
National Education Association
National Education Association and an Anisfield-Wolf Book
Award. It was also made into a feature film, Conrack, starring Jon
Voight in 1974. Hallmark produced a television version of the book in
In 1976, Conroy published his first novel, The Great Santini. The main
character of the novel is Marine fighter pilot Colonel "Bull" Meecham,
who dominates and terrorizes his family. Bull Meecham also
psychologically abuses his teenage son Ben. The character is based on
Conroy's father Donald. (According to My Losing Season, Donald Conroy
was even worse than the character depicted in Santini.)
The Great Santini
The Great Santini caused friction within the Conroy family, who felt
that he had betrayed family secrets by writing about his father.
Members of his mother's family would picket Conroy's book signings,
passing out pamphlets asking people not to buy the novel. The friction
contributed to the failure of his first marriage. However, the
book also eventually helped repair Conroy's relationship with his
father, and they became very close. His father, looking to prove that
he was not like the character in the book, changed his behavior
According to Conroy, his father would often sign copies of his son's
novels, "I hope you enjoy my son’s latest work of fiction." He would
underline the word “fiction” five or six times. "That boy of mine
sure has a vivid imagination. Ol’ lovable, likable Col. Don Conroy,
USMC (Ret.), the Great Santini." The novel was made into a film of
the same name in 1979, starring Robert Duvall.
The Lords of Discipline
The Lords of Discipline in 1980 upset many of his
fellow graduates of The Citadel, who felt that his portrayal of campus
life was highly unflattering. The novel was adapted for the screenplay
of a 1983 film of the same name, starring
David Keith as Will McLean
Robert Prosky as Colonel "Bear" Berrineau. The rift was not
healed until 2000, when Conroy was awarded an honorary degree and
asked to deliver the commencement address the following year. In 1986,
The Prince of Tides
The Prince of Tides about Tom Wingo, an unemployed
South Carolina teacher who goes to New York City to help his sister,
Savannah, a poet who has attempted suicide, to come to terms with
their past. Again, the novel was made into a film of the same name in
In 1995, Conroy published Beach Music, a novel about an American
ex-patriate living in
Rome who returns to
South Carolina upon news of
his mother's terminal illness. The story reveals his attempt to
confront personal demons, including the suicide of his wife, the
subsequent custody battle with his in-laws over their daughter, and
the attempt by a film-making friend to rekindle old friendships which
were compromised during the days of the Vietnam War.
Pat Conroy Cookbook, published in 1999, is a collection of
favorite recipes accompanied by stories about his life, including many
stories of growing up in South Carolina. In 2009, Conroy published
South of Broad, which again uses the familiar backdrop of Charleston
following the suicide of newspaperman Leo King's brother, and
alternates narratives of a diverse group of friends between 1969 and
In May 2013, Conroy was named editor-at-large of Story River Books, a
newly created fiction division of the University of South Carolina
Press. In October 2013, four years after being first
publicized, Conroy published a memoir called The Death of Santini,
which recounts the volatile relationship he shared with his father up
until his father's death in 1998.
Conroy was inducted into the
South Carolina Hall of Fame on March 18,
Military brat cultural identity and awareness movement
Conroy was a major supporter of the research and writing efforts of
Mary Edwards Wertsch in her identification of the hidden
subculture of American Military Brats, the children of career military
families, who grow up moving constantly, deeply immersed in the
military, and often personally affected by war.
Conroy's essay on military childhood
In 1991, Wertsch "launched the movement for military brat cultural
identity" with her book Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood inside
the Fortress. In researching her book, Wertsch identified common
themes from interviews of over 80 offspring of military households,
including the special challenges, strengths and also the unique
subculture experienced by American "military brats". While this book
does not purport to be a scientific study, subsequent research has
validated many of her findings.
Conroy contributed a now widely circulated ten-page essay on American
military childhood, including his own childhood, to Wertsch's book,
which was used as the introduction. It included the following:
Her book speaks in a language that is clear and stinging and instantly
recognizable to me [as a brat], yet it's a language I was not even
aware I spoke. She isolates the military brats of America as a new
indigenous subculture with our own customs, rites of passage, forms of
communication, and folkways .... With this book, Mary [Wertsch]
astonished me and introduced me to a secret family I did not know I
Conroy's writings and comments in documentary on the lives of military
Conroy also authorized the use of his work in the award-winning
documentary Brats: Our Journey Home directed by Donna Musil, that
endeavors to bring the hidden subculture of military brats into
greater public awareness, as well as aiding military brat
self-awareness and support.
The documentary ends with a quote of Conroy about the invisibility of
the military brat subculture to the wider American society. Conroy
wrote, "We spent our entire childhoods in the service of our country,
and no one even knew we were there."
Conroy was married three times. His first marriage was to Barbara
(née Bolling) Jones on October 10, 1969, while he was teaching on
Daufuskie Island. Jones, who had been Conroy's next door neighbor
in Beaufort, South Carolina, had been widowed when her first husband,
Joseph Wester Jones III, a fighter pilot stationed in Vietnam, had
been shot down and killed. Jones already had one daughter, Jessica,
and was pregnant at the time of her husband's death with their second
child, Melissa. He adopted both girls after he married their mother,
and then they had a daughter of their own, Megan. They divorced in
Conroy then married Lenore (née Gurewitz) Fleischer in 1981. He
became the stepfather to her two children, Gregory and Emily, and the
couple also had one daughter, to whom he dedicated his 2010 book
My Reading Life, "This book is dedicated to my lost daughter, Susannah
Ansley Conroy. Know this: I love you with my heart and always will.
Your return to my life would be one of the happiest moments I could
imagine." Conroy and Fleischer divorced on 26 October 1995, Conroy's
50th birthday. Conroy married his third wife, writer Cassandra
King, author of four novels, in May 1998.
A friend of Conroy's, political cartoonist Doug Marlette, died in a
car accident in July 2007. Conroy and
Joe Klein eulogized Marlette at
the funeral. There were 10 eulogists in all, and Conroy called
Marlette his best friend, and said: "The first person to cry, when
he heard about Doug's death, was God".
Conroy lived in Beaufort with wife Cassandra until his death. In 2007,
he commented that she was a much happier writer than he was: "I'll
hear her cackle with laughter at some funny line she's written. I've
never cackled with laughter at a single line I've ever written. None
of it has given me pleasure. She writes with pleasure and joy, and I
sit there in gloom and darkness."
On February 15, 2016, Conroy stated on his Facebook page that he was
being treated for pancreatic cancer. He died on March 4, 2016 at
70 years old. Conroy's funeral was held on March 8, 2016 at St.
Peter's Catholic Church in Beaufort, South Carolina. Conroy was
buried at St. Helena Memorial Garden on Ernest Road on St. Helena
Island, South Carolina.
1970: The Boo
1972: The Water Is Wide
1976: The Great Santini
1980: The Lords of Discipline
1986: The Prince of Tides
1992: Essay on the Hidden Subculture of Military Brats at the Wayback
Machine (archived December 30, 2006) (Introduction to book, "Military
Brats: Legacies of Growing Up Inside the Fortress")
1995: Beach Music
Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life
2002: My Losing Season
2003: Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing up Global (contributing
2009: South of Broad
2010: My Reading Life
2013: The Death of Santini
2016: A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life
In 2005 Conroy received the Fitzgerald Award for Achievement in
American Literature award which is given annually in Rockville
Maryland, the city where Fitzgerald, his wife, and his daughter are
buried as part of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival.
Inspirational/motivational instructors/mentors portrayed in films
The Water is Wide
^ Folks, Jeffrey J.; Perkins, James A. (1997). Southern Writers at
Century's End. University Press of Kentucky. p. 1.
ISBN 9780813130972. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
^ Schudel, Matt (2016-03-04). "Pat Conroy, best-selling author of
'Great Santini' and 'Prince of Tides,' dies at 70". The Washington
Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
^ a b c Grimes, William (March 5, 2016). "Pat Conroy, Author of 'The
Prince of Tides' and 'The Great Santini,' Dies at 70." The New York
^ "Lt. Col. Thomas Nugent Courvoisie -
The Boo - passes away".
Retrieved July 7, 2007.
^ Robertson, Brewster Milton (March 4, 2016). "From the Archives: Pat
Conroy's books capture his personal pain, and 'Beach Music' is no
exception." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-03-05. Review of Beach
Music, originally published in The Times on June 27, 1995.
^ Conroy, Pat (May 3, 2006). "Pat Conroy's eulogy to Lt. Col. Thomas
Nugent Courvoisie." The Citadel Newsroom. The Citadel. Retrieved
^ Hoefer, Anthony D., Jr. (2008). "Conroy, Pat." The New Encyclopedia
of Southern Culture. Volume 9: Literature. Chapel Hill, NC: University
of North Carolina Press. p. 228-229.
^ Newsom, Jim. "Winter Reading", Port Folio Weekly, December 17, 2002.
^ O'Neill, Molly. "Pat Conroy's Tale: Of Time and 'Tides'", The New
York Times, December 22, 1991.
^ Barnes and Noble author biography page Archived 2009-04-08 at the
Wayback Machine.. Accessed 22 October 2009.
Pat Conroy interview, lcweekly.com; accessed March 4, 2016.
^ Conroy, Pat (2010). - My Reading Life (Chapter 6), Knopf Doubleday
Publishing Group; ISBN 9780385533843.
^ Crutcher, Paige (May 13, 2013). "
Pat Conroy Named Editor-at-Large
for USC Press". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
^ Minzesheimer, Bob (August 10, 2009). "
Pat Conroy returns to familiar
turf with 'South of Broad'". USA Today. Retrieved October 28,
Memoir About His Father Coming In October". Retrieved
October 20, 2013.
South Carolina Hall Of Fame: Pat Conroy". Archived from the
original on May 7, 2013. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
^ a b Podcast interview with Rudy Maxa, militarybrat.com; retrieved
January 28, 2007.
^ From the introduction to the book, but quoted from"TCK World's
Suggested Reading". Archived from the original on December 30, 2006.
Retrieved December 30, 2006. CS1 maint: Unfit url (link)
^ a b c Musil, Donna, Producer and Director, "Brats: Our Journey Home"
Documentary about Military Brats, Brats Without Borders Inc., Atlanta
^ Conroy, Pat (1987) The Water is Wide. - New York, New York: Random
House, p. 103; ISBN 978-0-553-26893-5.
^ a b Knadle, Charlene Babb (2006), Popular Contemporary Writers ("Pat
Conroy" section), p. 470; ISBN 978-0-7614-7601-6.
^ a b Knadle, p. 471.
^ Conroy, Pat (2002). My Losing Season, New York: Nan A. Talese, p.
10; ISBN 978-0-385-48912-6.
^ Independent Weekly, "Goodbye, Doug Marlette", indyweek.com, July 18,
^ "Friends Remember
Doug Marlette As Staunch Defender of Free
Speech"[permanent dead link], wral.com, July 14, 2007.
^ Klein, Joe (July 15, 2007). "In Memorium...and a Touch of Class".
Swampland. time.com. Archived from the original on December 24, 2007.
Retrieved March 4, 2016.
Pat Conroy to Publish 1st Book Since '95". washingtonpost.com. The
Associated Press. April 7, 2007. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
Pat Conroy - Hey out there, I celebrated my 70th birthday".
islandpacket.com. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
^ Deerwester, Jayme (March 8, 2016). "Nearly 1,200 turn out to say
goodbye to author Pat Conroy". USA Today. Retrieved April 27,
^ Lauderdale, David (March 13, 2016). "Lauderdale: Pat Conroy's last
days". The State. Retrieved 2016-10-24.
^ Random House LLC
Official Web site for Pat Conroy
Pat Conroy on IMDb
Excerpts from 1991 interview
Entry in New Georgia Encyclopedia
Write TV public television interview with Pat Conroy
New York Times book review of South of Broad
Works of Pat Conroy
The Boo (1970)
The Water Is Wide (1972)
The Great Santini
The Great Santini (1976)
The Lords of Discipline
The Lords of Discipline (1980)
The Prince of Tides
The Prince of Tides (1986)
Beach Music (1995)
Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life (1999)
My Losing Season
My Losing Season (2002)
South of Broad
South of Broad (2009)
The Death of Santini (2013)
The Great Santini
The Great Santini (1979)
The Lords of Discipline
The Lords of Discipline (1983)
The Prince of Tides
The Prince of Tides (1991)
The Water Is Wide (2006)
ISNI: 0000 0000 8088 5793
BNF: cb120641138 (data)