by Paula Gail Benson
Pat Conroy Literary Center
For those of us who live in South Carolina, Pat Conroy is simply one of our own. He wasn’t born here, but his military family was stationed in Beaufort, and that became the place he adopted as his hometown. Conroy spoke of the pluff mud with love: “I don’t know of any place that smells like this. It’s a magnificent smell. It’s the smell of where all life comes from. I love that all shrimp, all crab, all oysters are born in the marsh.”
I feel incredibly fortunate to have been surrounded by connections to Pat Conroy. My historian friend Alexia Helsley attended high school with him. Pat’s sister-in-law, Terrye, worked as a law librarian at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Her husband, Tim, was Pat’s youngest brother, an extraordinary poet, and a former member of my local writing group.
At one of the last South Carolina Book Festivals, the Conroy brothers and a sister gathered on stage to reminisce about their life experiences. They spoke genuinely and sincerely before a packed ballroom of listeners.
|2014 S.C. Book Festival featuring Conroy panel|
of our former WWK blogging partners, Carla Damron, had her book The Stone Necklace, published under the
University of South Carolina Press’ Pat Conroy imprint, Story River. Another
former blogging partner, Sam Morton, wrote about attending the Citadel. His
work appeared with one of Pat’s essays in the University of South Carolina
Press’ Places in the Heart. Sam
shared with pride that Pat said he wished he had Sam’s experience at the
|Sam Morton and Pat Conroy|
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit earlier this year. Gina Baker, my tour guide, provided a masterful presentation, telling me about Pat’s life as well as showing me the collection. I had the benefit of being the only tourist and took full advantage with many questions.
|"Tell me a story."|
|Gina Baker, my tour guide|
In the hallway, a bulletin board contains notes and letters that admirers still send, talking about Pat’s influence on their lives. The Center operates a summer program to encourage young writers and offers programs throughout the year for writers and readers of all ages. The Center’s Executive Director is Jonathan Haupt, who worked with Pat at the University Press.Are you familiar with Pat Conroy’s work? Check out the Pat Conroy Literary Center and you’ll experience the joy he found in writing and gave to so many dedicated readers.