Pat Conroy, South Carolina’s Most Popular Literary Son
Pat Conroy (1945-2016) is perhaps best known for his popular novels that became blockbuster feature films, such as The Prince of Tides, with Barbra Streisand, Beaches, starring Bette Midler, and The Great Santini, featuring Robert Duvall.
His first book, however, was his own true story of his year as a young teacher on Daufuskie Island, off the South Carolina coast. The Water is Wide became a seminal book in the field of education. The story explores inequity in education and its links to prolonged poverty and racism as the result of geography and history.
In 1974, Conroy’s story was released as a 20th Century Fox feature film entitled Conrack, starring Jon Voight, Paul Winfield, and Madge Sinclair, with music composed by John Williams. In 2006, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions made into a movie of the same title as the book, featuring Jeff Hephner, Frank Langella and Alfre Woodard, with the music score of Jeff Beal.
The Pat Conroy Literary Center in lovely Beaufort, South Carolina, relocated in 2021 to 601 Bladen Street. It offers programs and events to promote books, writing, and reading.
Our visit to the original location, before the move in 2021, included exhibits of Conroy’s interests and writings, a place to leave notes in his memory, and a sumptuous office featuring his actual writing desk and chair, as well as mementos from his personal life and professional achievements. In its new home, the Center continues to offer programs and events to cultivate and enjoy excellent work by today’s writers.
Pat Conroy’s website is at patconroy.com.
It is still possible to get a sense of what it was like to live on Daufuskie Island among the Gullah people. The island is accessed only by boat and on a limited schedule so plan ahead and allow plenty of time. (“Daufuskie” is a word in the Gullah language meaning “The First Key.”)
Along the rim of the water in Beaufort, visitors can enjoy numerous restaurants, art galleries, and souvenir shops, all showcasing local talent and craftsmanship.
On the Path
This is the final stop on our South Carolina Author Adventures Trail.