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Losing Pat Conroy

The Prince of Tides passes away in Beaufort, South Carolina. 

First Harper Lee and now Pat Conroy. It’s been a sad year for Southern literature so far. Beloved author of The Prince of Tides lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on Friday, March 4. He was 70 years old and leaves us with 11 books and so many authors he supported and mentored throughout his career.

Conroy was known as a champion of other writers, never giving bad reviews, so much so that the Southern Independent Booksellers Association renamed their book awards for him last week. Conroy’s own work is based on his abusive childhood, dysfunctional family and the beautiful marshlands of Beaufort, South Carolina, where he made his home.

The movie version of “The Prince of Tides” was filmed there, and you can see Tom Wingo’s mother’s house from the film on Bay Street and the oak tree where Robert Duvall passed out in “The Great Santini” in The Point neighborhood. Conroy lived in the same neighborhood when he wrote most of his earlier works, and you can picture him writing from the double porches of the tree-shaded home.

His favorite spot for lunch was Griffin Market, which he called “the best Italian food ever served in South Carolina,” and the place to get a signed first edition of one of his books is McIntosh Book Shoppe. More recently, Conroy made his home on Fripp Island just over Woods Memorial Bridge, and Daufuskie Island, which inspired his second novel The Water is Wide, is due south down the coast.


To describe our growing up in the lowcountry of South Carolina, I would have to take you to the marsh on a spring day, flush the great blue heron from its silent occupation, scatter marsh hens as we sink to our knees in mud, open an oyster with a pocketknife and feed it to you from the shell and say, ‘There. That taste. That’s the taste of my childhood.'” – Pat Conroy

Conroy’s memory will live on through his treasured books, the stories he inspired and the lowcountry of his home state that he brought to life for the rest of the country.

Read author Billy Coffey’s account of his 5 Minutes With Pat Conroy.

Photo Credit: Marsh and shrimp boats courtesy of Visit Beaufort.

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  • Sharon Bryson / September 24, 2021

    My very favorite author; I have read all his books. Such a storyteller!