(Sept. 17) MOBILE, Alabama — At the very end of the novel bearing his name, the character Forrest Gump says, “At least I ain’t lived no hum-drum life.”

Gump’s creator, Winston Groom, certainly could say the same. Groom, the journalist-novelist-historian who died on Thursday at age 77, was a tall man with a very big personality. He leaves behind a massive body of work and an indelible imprint on the memory of those who knew him.

Groom, of course, knew that it was Gump who made him famous when the movie became a cultural touchstone, and he certainly appreciated it, but Groom also thought that novel was literarily among his slighter contrivances. He wrote seven other novels and 14 nonfiction books, including superb histories related to the War of 1812, the Civil War (three of them), World War I, World War II (three), the Vietnam War, the opening of the American West, the early heroes of human flight — and the history of the University of Alabama football, to boot.

Groom’s histories were tremendously accessible works, briskly paced and with a storyteller’s flair. His novels varied in style and tone, but most were irreverent in some ways, with flashes of humor ranging from sly to picaresque. And, before he decided to became a full-time book author, he was a well-regarded reporter for the great old Washington Star newspaper, making marks both with vivid reportage and through a yen for large-living escapades that spawned tales other journalists recounted to young reporters decades later.

“Winston was just an incredible character,” said my Washington Examiner colleague Fred Barnes, another Star veteran and longtime friend of Groom. “He was very interested in writing and in writing well. More than that, Winston made friends like crazy all over the newsroom, even with people as different as one could imagine.”

[The full column is at this link.]

 

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