Born in 1945, Conroy wrote best-selling novels and memoirs as well as poetry, essays, screenplays, and even a cookbook. The Archive was acquired in 2014 with the generous support of the Smith Family in memory of Dorothy Brown Smith.
Conroy's works are primarily autobiographical in nature. His experience as the oldest of seven children born to an abusive Marine father inspired his works The Great Santini (1976) and The Death of Santini (2013). He attended and played basketball at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, inspiring his works The Boo (1970), Lords of Discipline (1980), and My Losing Season (2002). His time teaching African American students in a two room school house on Daufuskie Island, South Carolina in 1970 was the basis for his work The Water is Wide (1972). His other works are also informed by his lived experiences, including his marriages, parenthood, the loss of his own parents and sibling, familial strife (The Prince of Tides, 1986 and My Reading Life, 2010) and his sense of place (South of Broad, 2009), which is also apparent in his writings about his adopted home town of Beaufort, SC and his time spent in Rome, Italy (Beach Music, 1995).
The collection contains manuscript material from each of Conroy’s works, including unpublished works. Conroy was unable to type and wrote each draft in long-hand and sent these drafts out to a typist. These typed drafts are also included. Professional and personal correspondence and personal journals kept by Conroy are also included.
The collection also contains correspondence, journals, financial and legal information, photographs and clippings and documents relating to Pat Conroy’s life and the lives of his immediate family.
Also within the archive are the papers of Eugene Norris, Conroy’s high school English teacher and mentor. Norris’s papers contain material relating to his relationship with Conroy as well as papers relating to the early Civil Rights Movement and the desegregation of Beaufort schools. Of particular note are the papers of Reuben G. Holmes, a businessman and inventor in Civil War Beaufort, SC. Holmes’s papers are included within the Norris papers.
Of further note, the archive contains the papers of Donald Conroy, Pat Conroy’s father. Don Conroy was the inspiration for the title character in The Great Santini, and his abusive relationship with his children is a major theme in Conroy’s works. A large portion of Don Conroy’s papers relate to his military career; however, of particular note are the scrapbooks kept by Don Conroy as the Conroy family archive, referred to as the “Arcs.”