Pat Conroy's papers

Welcome! It’s such a pleasure to be here with you in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library.  The beautiful architecture mirrors our collections – classic but also contemporary. The library itself comprises 50,000 square feet on three levels and is home to three departments of University Libraries: Digital Collections, the Irving Department of Rare Books and Special Collections and the South Carolina Political Collections. 

I could talk about this beautiful building for hours, but today we are here to share some incredible news about an author we might also call a “contemporary classic.”

The great Pat Conroy posed an interesting question in his memoir, "My Losing Season." He asked, “Do you think that Hemingway knew he was a writer at 20 years old? No, he did not … Hemingway didn’t know he was Ernest Hemingway when he was a young man. Faulkner didn’t know he was William Faulkner. But they had to take the first step. They had to call themselves writers. That is the first revolutionary act a writer has to make. It takes courage. But it is necessary.”

It is my great privilege and honor to announce that the University of South Carolina has acquired the archive of Pat Conroy. Soon scholars, students, writers, poets and dreamers will have access to his notes, letters and the handwritten drafts of his beloved novels.  

Readers worldwide are grateful that Pat Conroy also took that first step; that he found the courage to call himself a writer. And I believe that Conroy now knows that he is indeed, Pat Conroy, the wonderful storyteller who, we, as Southerners, or adopted Southerners, must share with the rest of the planet.

Today, you will see firsthand how committed Carolina is in sharing and preserving Pat Conroy’s great literary gifts. For it is my great privilege and honor to announce that the University of South Carolina has acquired the archive of Pat Conroy. Soon scholars, students, writers, poets and dreamers will have access to his notes, letters and the handwritten drafts of his beloved novels. 

The Pat Conroy archive comes to the university through the great generosity of Richard and Novelle Smith. This wonderful gift honors the life of Richard Smith’s mother, the late Dorothy Brown Smith. Dorothy loved reading a good Pat Conway novel! She was a great Gamecock supporter and a dear friend to Patricia and to me. Richard, this is an extraordinary tribute to your mother. She would be so pleased. Will you please stand and be recognized?

From the heartbreaking yet lyrical story of his days as a South Carolina schoolteacher on Daufuskie Island in "The Water Is Wide," to the volatile world of his childhood, revealed in "The Great Santini," to the often translated and popular "The Prince of Tides," Pat has linked us to a private world cloaked in fiction.  

I was ecstatic when I learned that Pat’s collection might come to the University of South Carolina. I constantly asked our Dean of Libraries, Thomas McNally, for updates. What would be in the collection? When would it arrive?  

Dean McNally has shared with me that he has never seen or heard of an author’s archive as complete as Pat’s. Writings in the collection go back to Pat’s youth. There are handwritten drafts of every novel, some 10,000 handwritten pages! Included within Pat’s collection are the archive of his father Don, the Great Santini, himself and the archive of Eugene Norris, Pat’s teacher and mentor. 

And the archive will continue to grow. We have just received the boxes for "The Death of Santini" and we must believe that there are many more novels to come. I have no doubt that Pat’s papers will become a magnet for the papers of other contemporary Southern writers. Of course we hope those include Pat’s wife’, Cassandra King.  

Pat has written, “The great teachers fill you up with hope and shower you with a thousand reasons to embrace all aspects of life.” We thank Pat for being one of the great teachers. It is only fitting that his work is now housed in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library with the work and letters of other great American writers like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Heller and more. All good company!