Winston Groom: Author of ‘Forrest Gump’ Dies at 77


Chloe Wong, Staff Writer

Winston Groom, whose novel Forrest Gump became a six-Oscar winning movie and then a pop phenomenon, died at the age of 77. He passed away on Sept. 16, in Fairhope, Alabama, as confirmed by Mayor Karin Wilson on social media. 

“While we will remember him for creating Forrest Gump, Winston Groom was a talented journalist & noted author of American history,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement. “Our hearts & prayers are extended to his family during this time.” 

Groom was born on Mar. 13, 1943 to Ruth Knudsen and Winston Francis Groom in the city of Washington, D.C. He was raised in Mobile, Alabama, and attended the University Military School. Though his earliest ambition was to become a lawyer, he decided to be a writer after some experience as a literary editor in college. 

From 1965 to 1976, Groom served in the U.S. Army and went on a tour of duty during the Vietnam War. From then on, he worked as a reporter for the Washington Star before giving up a career in journalism to become a writer. He wrote three books in the following years; Better Times Than These, As Summers Die, and Conversations With The Enemy, the latter of which was a finalist for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. 

He wrote his most notable work in 1985. At that time, Groom moved back to Mobile so he could work on his fourth novel, Forrest Gump. The tale of a slow-witted man from Mobile, Forrest Gump sees the title character through various phases of American history, including the Vietnam War and the experience of segregationist Alabama, all while dealing with the themes of loss and childhood love.

Part of the novel’s charm comes from its setting, which sprawls through decades of history and interacts with several historical figures. But the protagonist, Forrest Gump, is an inextricably charismatic character, whose mathematical abilities and natural courage lead him into a variety of adventures. The heart of the book revolves around Gump’s childlike optimism and his overwhelming kindness. 

In 1994, screenwriter Eric Roth adapted Forrest Gump into an epic romantic comedy film starring Tom Hanks as Gump. The movie won praise and various accolades; that year, it won six Academy Awards, including best film and actor, plus three Golden Globes. The success of Forrest Gump advanced Groom’s career, although the film steered clear of some of the book’s more profane aspects—they “took some of the rough edges off,” as Groom told the New York Times in 1994. Regardless, the film became deeply ingrained into pop culture and remains one of the most iconic films in history. 

Although Forrest Gump was the largest success of his career, Groom went on to publish several books before his death, including a 1995 follow-up novel called Gump and Co and a non-fiction book on the American Civil War. His last book, The Allies: Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, and the Unlikely Alliance That Won World War II, was published in 2018. An upcoming novel, The Patriots: Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the Making of America, is set to be published posthumously in November. 


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