Pat Conroy, a bestselling South Carolina author whose work was adapted to the screen on several occasions, has died. Conroy—whose work was often autobiographical, taking elements from his own youth growing up in an army home, and later attending the prestigious military academy The Citadel—was 70.
A self-described “military brat,” Conroy attended 11 schools in the first 15 years of his life, before his family eventually settled in Beaufort, South Carolina. After graduating from The Citadel, he went on to teach English for a year to the Gullah communities on South Carolina’s isolated Daufuskie Island, an experience he later wrote up as The Water Is Wide. (Jon Voight starred in a film adaptation in 1974.)
In 1976, Conroy published his first bestselling novel, The Great Santini, a fictionalization of his strained relationship with his hard-drinking, military-loving father. Although the book estranged the author from his family—who reportedly showed up at book signings to distribute pamphlets asking people not to buy it—it earned Conroy wide acclaim, and was adapted into a 1979 film that gave Robert Duvall one of his most iconic roles, as the tyrannical Colonel Bull Meechum.
He followed Santini with 1980’s The Lords Of Discipline, about a malicious campaign of hazing hiding under The Citadel’s honorable exterior, and the 1986 family drama The Prince Of Tides. Both were adapted into films; David Keith and Bill Paxton starred in the former, while Barbra Streisand directed an Oscar-nominated film version of the latter in 1991.
Conroy died Friday night in his home in Beaufort, of pancreatic cancer. His wife, novelist Cassandra King, issued a statement yesterday, saying, “The water is wide, but he has now crossed over.”