News | June 4, 2014

Pat Conroy’s Papers Acquired by the University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina has acquired the complete literary archive of best-selling author Pat Conroy. Covering everything from his earliest high school literary efforts through his most recent books, the collection is a complete documentary record of one of America’s most lyrical fiction writers.

Conroy took a poetry class at the University of South Carolina in the early 1970s with author-in-residence James Dickey. “I thought he was the greatest poet that ever lived,” Conroy says. “He changed my life.” That notebook, along with the manuscripts and drafts of Conroy’s 11 books, his personal journals and diaries, screenwriting work, correspondence, and extensive family photo albums and scrapbooks, are now housed in the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library and will be open to research next year.

“My papers belong here. I wanted them here, I am happy they’re here, I am proud that they’re here,” Conroy says. “And I will try to add to them for the rest of my writing life.”  

Conroy’s books include “The Great Santini,” “The Prince of Tides,” and “Beach Music,” all set in South Carolina. The archive comprehensively chronicles the work and life of the writer who has spent his career telling the rich stories of South Carolina and its people. “There is no state that produces stories like this state,” Conroy says. “I did not know when I crossed into South Carolina, I was passing into my literary territory.”

The collection comes to the university as a gift from Richard and Novelle Smith in memory of Dorothy Brown Smith, a longtime supporter of the University Libraries and a fan of Conroy’s writing. “My mother believed in the value of education and the central role the library plays. She enjoyed reading, literature, and especially the writings of Pat Conroy,” Richard Smith says. “I know she would be very excited about this opportunity.”

The Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is housed in the newly-built Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library, a LEED Gold certified facility. The department is responsible for the care of more than 175,000 volumes and attendant archival collections, from its core collection of the antebellum South Carolina College Library to major research collections in: Milton, Robert Burns and Scottish Literature, Hume, Carlyle, Garibaldi, Darwin, natural history, nineteenth century American Literature (Emerson, Whitman, Margaret Fuller and Transcendentalism), World War I, children’s literature, astronomy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway. The department houses the papers of Joseph Heller, John Jakes, James Ellroy, and Kaye Gibbons, among other substantial literary collections.