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‘Forrest Gump’ author Winston Groom dead at 77

Groom was a 1965 graduate of the University of Alabama, according to the university, which said it was saddened by the passing of what it called a “legend.”

In this 1995, file photo, Winston Groom, author of “Forrest Gump,” signs copies of the book’s sequel “Gump & Co.” at a New York City bookstore.
In this 1995 file photo, Winston Groom, author of “Forrest Gump,” signs copies of the book’s sequel “Gump & Co.” at a New York City bookstore.
AP

FAIRHOPE, Ala. — Winston Groom, whose novel “Forrest Gump” was made into a six-Oscar winning 1994 movie that became a soaring pop cultural phenomenon, has died at age 77.

Mayor Karin Wilson of Fairhope, Alabama, said in a message posted on social media that Groom had died in that south Alabama town. A local funeral home also confirmed the death and said arrangements were pending.

“While he will be remembered for creating Forrest Gump, Winston Groom was a talented journalist & noted author of American history. Our hearts & prayers are extended to his family,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement.

“Forrest Gump” was the improbable tale of a slow-witted man who was a participant or witness to key points of 20th Century history — from Alabama segregationist Gov. George Wallace’s “stand at the schoolhouse door,” to meetings with presidents.

“Forrest Gump” received six Academy Awards® including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Tom Hanks), Best Writing, Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects. In the film, Tom Hanks gives an astonishing performance as Forrest, an everyman whose simple innocence comes to embody a generation. A
“Forrest Gump” received six Academy Awards including best picture, best director, best actor (Tom Hanks, pictured in the title role), best writing, best film editing and best visual effects. In the film, Hanks gives an astonishing performance as Forrest, an everyman whose simple innocence comes to embody a generation.
Paramount

Groom grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1965, according to a biography posted by the university. He served in the Army’s Fourth Infantry Division from 1965 to 1969, the university said.

His service included a tour Vietnam — one of the many settings for “Forrest Gump.”

He wrote 16 books, fiction and nonfiction. One, “Conversations with the Enemy,” about a American prisoner of war in Vietnam accused of collaboration, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, according to the university.

It was “Forrest Gump” — and the success of the 1994 movie starring Tom Hanks, Sally Field and Gary Sinise — that earned him widespread fame and some financial success.

The novel is considerably different from the film. Don Noble, University of Alabama professor emeritus of English, and a 40-year friend of Groom’s told The Tuscaloosa News that the novel was “darker” and “richer” than the movie.

“You can make a lot of money as a comic writer, but you can’t get no respect,” Noble said. “But ‘Forrest Gump’ is really actually quite a fine novel. It’s more subtle and more complicated ... richer than the movie.”

The movie, which also starred Robin Wright and Mykelti Williamson, became deeply embedded in the American psyche and has remained a television staple and huge cultural phenomenon ever since.

“It touched a nerve,” Groom told the Tuscaloosa News in 2014.

The film dominated the 1995 Academy Awards, winning six Oscars including best picture, best director for Robert Zemeckis and best actor for Hanks.

It was 1994’s No. 2 grossing film at the box office, second only to “The Lion King.”

The basic outlines of Gump’s life are the same as they are in the book: Gump plays football under the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama, serves in Vietnam, starts a major shrimp business.

But the film made major departures. Gump was not a math savant as he was in the book, and was a more saintly soul. The film took away Gump’s size — Groom said he envisioned John Goodman playing him — his profanity, and most of his sex life.

They “took some of the rough edges off,” Groom told the New York Times in 1994.

In addition to novels, Groom wrote numerous non-fiction works on diverse subjects, including the Civil War, World War I and the Alabama’s Crimson Tide football.

In 2005, Groom released “1942: The Year That Tried Men’s Souls,” which chronicled the first year of U.S. involvement in World War II.

He also in 2009 released “Vicksburg 1863,” an account of the Union siege that brought a novelist’s touch to historical figures like Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman and Jefferson Davis, president of the confederacy.

His most recent novel, El Paso, was published in 2016.