USA Writer-in-Residence to Speak at Fall Commencement


Posted on December 10, 2018
Alice Jackson


Frye Gaillard, writer-in-residence at the University of South Alabama, will deliver the fall commencement address on Saturday, Dec. 15, in the Mitchell Center. data-lightbox='featured'
Frye Gaillard, writer-in-residence at the University of South Alabama, will deliver the fall commencement address on Saturday, Dec. 15, in the Mitchell Center.

Frye Gaillard, critically acclaimed author, journalist, historian, songwriter and writer-in-residence at the University of South Alabama, will deliver the fall commencement address at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 15, in the Mitchell Center.

South is scheduled to award 612 baccalaureate degrees, 674 master’s degrees and 143 doctoral degrees. Fall commencement is the graduation exercise for students who completed degree requirements in either the summer or fall terms.

USA will provide live streaming of the ceremony beginning at 2 p.m. on the University’s website, southalabama.edu. Recorded video of the entire commencement will be available at the same address following the live web cast.

Frye Gaillard

Frye Gaillard has lived through some of the most challenging and interesting history of our time, sharing his insightful observations and thoughts along the way.

The popularity of his latest book, “A Hard Rain: America in the 1960s, Our Decade of Hope, Possibility and Innocence Lost,” has resulted in a second printing with publisher New South Books. The book is a personal history that intertwines with the social justice changes and resulting turmoil of the turbulent 1960s. He recalls as a 16 year old, during a trip to Birmingham, he was within a few feet of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was being arrested. The sight of King’s dignity as he was roughly taken to jail stayed with Gaillard and focused his future as he “came of age” during the decade “in an area I loved very much, but it was also deeply flawed.”

Gaillard grew up in Mobile’s Spring Hill neighborhood on Old Shell Road in a little house next door to his grandfather. He left the area after high school to attend Vanderbilt University, coming home for summers to work as an intern at the Mobile Press Register. Before long, Gaillard landed a job covering race relations for the Charlotte Observer, where he wrote about Charlotte’s landmark school desegregation controversy and eventually covering social changes throughout the South, leading to the title of Southern editor for the newspaper. While he covered the demise of the Old South of the Lost Cause, he reported on the New South of the Sun Belt, including the funeral of Elvis Presley, the rise and fall of televangelist Jim Bakker and the campaign and presidency of Jimmy Carter.

In his 40s, Gaillard sensed changes in the news business – including the growing reluctance to commit resources to in-depth reporting – and his growing dislike of “the daily deadline grind.” As a result, he left to write a weekly column for an alternative newspaper and to write nonfiction books that utilized his varied experiences with Southern race relations, politics and culture.

He has written or edited more than 25 books, and his award-winning titles include “Go South to Freedom,” “Cradle of Freedom: Alabama and the Movement That Changed America,” “The Dream Long Deferred: The Landmark Struggle for Desegregation in Charlotte, North Carolina,” “Watermelon Wine: The Spirit of Country Music,” and “If I Were a Carpenter: Twenty Years of Habitat for Humanity.”

Gaillard returned to Mobile in 2004 and began teaching at South a short time later. As writer-in-residence, he teaches classes across a variety of disciplines, focusing on history, writing and Southern politics. He also serves as interdisciplinary faculty of the University’s Center for the Study of War and Memory, which studies the collective memory of war and its impact on society.

Recently, he has branched out into songwriting and participated in documentaries. One based on his book, “In the Path of the Storm,” won a regional Emmy for how Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 devastated the fishing village of Bayou La Batre in south Mobile County. 

USA Commencement Parking and Shuttle Information

The Mitchell Center will open for the general public at noon.

Guests should access the campus by USA South Drive or USA North Drive.

Directional signs will direct guests to parking lots.

Signs for shuttle service will designate specific parking areas. The shuttle service will run from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Shuttle pick-up and drop-off points will be in these parking lots:

  • University Commons
  • Gamma Residence Hall
  • Humanities Building
  • Whiddon Administration Building
  • East of the Computer Services Center

Limited handicapped parking will be available in the Mitchell Center parking lot for students, family and friends. Entrance to this lot will be only from Old Shell Road, located on the south side of the Mitchell Center. Proper handicapped tags must be visible on vehicles for admittance to this lot.

Graduating students should arrive well before the ceremony and park in the parking lot located behind the Mitchell College of Business on Jaguar Drive. Admittance to the Health, Kinesiology and Sport Building, where graduates line up for the event, will be limited to only graduating students. Graduates should not bring bags, purses or any “carry” item.


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