Athens, Ga. -The first Georgian to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, a physician and best-selling novelist, a beloved newspaper columnist, a novelist whose works focus on the Atlanta of her youth, and a cardiologist turned poet and essayist were inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame at the University of Georgia, April 12.
Authors Ferrol Sams, Anne Rivers Siddons and John Stone attended the ceremony. Also honored were the late Caroline Miller and Celestine Sibley.
The UGA Libraries established the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2000 to recognize Georgia writers, past and present, whose work reflects the character of the state. Although there are award programs in the state that recognize specific books, the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame is the first to honor Georgia writers for their overall contribution to state culture.
The selection of Hall of Fame honorees from among the nominees is made by a board of judges composed of at least 12 Georgians with an interest and/or career-related experience in literature and letters.
Physician, story-teller and best-selling novelist, Ferrol Sams is the author of seven books. Most notable is his trilogy of novels in which an eccentric and quixotic hero, Porter Osborne Jr., mirrors Sams’ own Georgia boyhood in Fayette County. All of his works are rooted in the oral traditions of southern humor and folklore. Sams was awarded the Townsend Prize for Fiction in 1991 for When All the World Was Young, the final installment of the trilogy. In 2006 Run with the Horsemen was selected by Atlantans as the inaugural text in the Atlanta Reads: One Book, One Community program.
Though all of her 18 books have been set in Georgia or concern southerners living elsewhere, Anne Rivers Siddons is best known for books about Atlanta and its environs. Two novels, Homeplace (1987) and Nora, Nora (2000), take place in a fictionalized version of her hometown, Fairburn, southwest of Atlanta. She is also the author of two books of nonfiction, Go Straight on Peachtree (1978), a McDonald City Guide to Atlanta, and John Chancellor Makes Me Cry (1975), a series of essays patterned around the changing seasons in Atlanta. Most important, her novel Downtown (1994) recreates her early career as a writer and editor for Atlanta magazine where she worked as a writer and editor with its renowned founder Jim Townsend. Her most commercially successful book, Peachtree Road (1989), portrays modern Atlanta’s white elite on the eve of the civil rights era. Her two most recent novels, Islands (2004) and Sweetwater Creek (2005), are both set in the low country of South Carolina, where she moved in 1988.
A poet, essayist, cardiologist and lecturer, John Henry Stone is a former professor of medicine, associate dean, and director of admissions at the Emory University School of Medicine. A frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine, Journal of the American Medical Association, and Discover, Stone has achieved popularity and success as a teacher and writer who explores the link between medicine and literature. Now retired, Stone was named Emory’s best clinical professor three times and received awards from the Georgia Writers Association, the Council of Authors and Journalists, and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. Stone’s witty, insightful, and sensitive poetry examines the common threads between literature and medicine. In the tradition of another physician-poet, William Carlos Williams, Stone believes his duty as a writer is to prepare for “a good death.” It is in his role as an essayist that Stone best chronicles the relationship between the poet’s sensitivity and the doctor’s clinical examination of the human condition. Stone’s latest project, A Bridge Across the Dark, chronicles his responses to the sudden illness and death in 1991 of his wife of 30 years, Sarah Lucretia Crymes.
Caroline Miller published her first novel, Lamb in His Bosom, in 1933 and became the first Georgian to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The 30-year-old housewife and author produced one of the most critically acclaimed first novels of the Southern Renaissance period. In addition to the Pulitzer, the novel earned France’s Prix Femina in 1934 and became an immediate best-seller. A native of Waycross, Miller died on July 12, 1992, knowing that she had received what she once declared to be the true reward of a novelist-“the knowledge that after he dies he will leave the best part of himself behind.”
Also inducted posthumously was Celestine Sibley, a renowned southern author, journalist and syndicated columnist, who reported for the Atlanta Journal Constitution from 1941 to 1999. Over her long career, she wrote more than 10,000 columns and many news stories of astonishing range, dealing with such varied topics as politics and key lime pie. Sibley was one of the most popular and long-running columnists for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and her well-written and poignant essays on southern culture made her an icon in the South. Regarded by her colleagues as a reporting legend, Sibley was also the accomplished author of nearly thirty books published between 1958 and 1997. In 1982 her novel Children, My Children won the first Townsend Prize for children’s fiction. In 1990 she received the Ralph McGill Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism. A few months before her death in 1999, Sibley was awarded the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Lifetime Achievement Award.
The preceding biographical information on the honorees was excerpted from the New Georgia Encyclopedia, housed at the UGA Libraries. For more information, see: www.georgiaencyclopedia.org. The website for the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame can be found at: www.libs.uga.edu/gawriters/.