Winston Groom, the writer whose novel “Forrest Gump” was made into a six-Oscar winning 1994 movie that became a soaring pop cultural phenomenon, has died at age 77.
Mayor Karin Wilson of Fairhope, Alabama, said in a message on social media that Groom had died in that southern Alabama town. A local funeral home also confirmed the death and said arrangements were pending.
“While he will be remembered for creating Forrest Gump, Winston Groom was a talented journalist & noted author of American history. Our hearts & prayers are extended to his family,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement.
“Forrest Gump” was the improbable tale of a slow-witted but lovable man who was a participant or witness to key points of 20th-century history.
It was the best known book by Groom, who grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1965, according to a biography posted by the university.
Groom served in the Army’s Fourth Infantry Division from 1965 to 1969, the university said. His service included a tour in Vietnam — one of the settings for “Forrest Gump.”
He wrote 16 books, fiction and nonfiction. One, “Conversations with the Enemy,” about an American prisoner of war in Vietnam, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, according to the university.
It was “Forrest Gump” — and the success of the 1994 movie starring Tom Hanks in the iconic role of Gump, as well as Sally Field and Gary Sinise — that earned him widespread fame.
The novel is considerably different from the film.
Don Noble, University of Alabama professor emeritus of English and a 40-year friend of Groom’s told the Tuscaloosa News that the novel is “darker” and “richer” than the movie.
“You can make a lot of money as a comic writer, but you can’t get no respect,” Noble said.
“But ‘Forrest Gump’ is really actually quite a fine novel. It’s more subtle and more complicated … richer than the movie.”
The movie has remained an enduring television staple and huge cultural phenomenon since.
“It touched a nerve,” Groom told the Tuscaloosa News in 2014.
The film dominated the 1995 Academy Awards, winning six Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director for Robert Zemeckis and Best Actor for Hanks.
It was 1994’s No. 2 grossing film at the box office, second only to “The Lion King.”
Groom also wrote nonfiction on diverse subjects including the Civil War, World War I and Alabama’s Crimson Tide football.
In 2005, Groom released “1942: The Year That Tried Men’s Souls,” which chronicled the first year of U.S. involvement in World War II.
In 2009 he released “Vicksburg 1863,” an account of the Union siege that brought a novelist’s touch to historical figures like Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman and Jefferson Davis.
His most recent novel, “El Paso,” was published in 2016.
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