Lauded for his books on the Civil Rights Movement, Mobile native Frye Gaillard has joined the University of South Alabama as a Writer-in-Residence in the history and English departments. Through his course "History and Literature of the Civil Rights South," Gaillard is sharing his vast knowledge of the South and its history with USA undergraduates. He is also working on several book projects, offering guest lectures around the region, and participating in events to mark the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott.
Dr. G. David Johnson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said he is very pleased that Gaillard has joined the college as Writer-in-Residence. Gaillard's experience as a journalist, freelance writer, author and founder of a publishing house make him an ideal candidate to mentor students, Johnson said.
"Our Writer-in-Residence program is a wonderful addition to our academic offerings at USA," Johnson said. "It provides an opportunity for our students to spend extensive time with successful professional writers, which is a nice complement to the outstanding education they can receive studying with our regular faculty. We are pleased that we can offer this opportunity to our students, and very proud to have Frye Gaillard as our first Writer-in-Residence." Dr. Clarence Mohr, chair of USA's history department, said, "The wonderful thing about Frye is that he can't be pigeonholed into one academic area. He's a writer, historian and journalist. He will be an invaluable emissary for the University."
Gaillard began his career as a reporter for daily newspapers in the late 1960s, writing about the Civil Rights Movement as it unfolded across the South. As a reporter, and later editor for The Charlotte Observer, he covered the integration of that North Carolina city's schools by busing, Elvis Presley's funeral, former President Jimmy Carter, and the Praise the Lord network led by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
Since 1990, Gaillard has been a writer, author and editor for newspapers and books. He also was the founding editor of the Novello Festival Press in Charlotte, a national award-winning literary publishing company.
In 2000, Gaillard began a three-year research and writing project about the Civil Rights Movement that led to his book Cradle of Freedom: Alabama and the Movement that Changed America. The book won the 2005 Lillian Smith Award given by the Southern Regional Council in Atlanta. Previous winners include such luminaries as Alex Haley, Pat Conroy and Eudora Welty.
During interviews for Cradle of Freedom, Gaillard says he reexamined his home state and realized it was coming to terms with the racial divisions of its past.
"It was a wonderful reintroduction to Alabama for me," he said. "I saw how Alabamians were embracing their history."
During a speaking engagement for the book, Gaillard met Mohr and they began discussing a possible collaboration at USA. Gaillard said he was interested in a writer-in-residence opportunity in his hometown, after teaching and writing at other universities in North Carolina, including Johnson C. Smith University and Queens College. Plus, he never lost his fondness for Mobile culture, including the seafood and live oaks.
His course is full of students who were born well after the events of the Civil Rights Movement. Gaillard said he is encouraged by their interest in the subject and their lively discussions.
"I'm enjoying the teaching process," he said. "We have some great discussions."
Gaillard received his bachelor's degree in history from Vanderbilt University in 1968. He is the author of 19 books and was nominated for an Emmy in 1995. Gaillard's new book Cradle of Freedom: Alabama and the Movement That Changed America is available at the USA Bookstore.