Sad news in the literary world is coming in today as Winston Groom, the American author best known for penning the original Forrest Gump novel, has passed away. The news was confirmed by Karin Wilson, the mayor of Groom's hometown of Fairhope, Alabama, who says that the family shared the news of Groom's death with the mayor's office. Groom was 77 years old, and a cause of death has not yet been revealed for the accomplished writer.
"I don't have any details right now, but he did die (Wednesday) night," Wilson told CNN in a statement. "We are extremely sad to hear this. He is definitely an icon here."
In a tweet on Thursday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey also addressed Groom's passing with a touching tribute message.
"Saddened to learn that Alabama has lost one of our most gifted writers," Ivey writes. "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."
Winston Francis Groom Jr. was born in Washington D.C., though he was raised in Mobile County, Alabama. This would also be where Forrest lived in the original Forrest Gump novel. Also like Forrest, Groom served for the United States Army and even had a tour of duty in the Vietnam War. After his time in the military, Groom chose to pursue a career as a novelist, publishing his first novel Better Times Than These in 1978.
With a continued interest in the military, Groom would also pen many nonfiction books on various historical topics, including the Civil War, the Battle of New Orleans, the generals of World War II, and a book on Ronald Reagan. He also wrote the sports book The Crimson Tide: The Official Illustrated History of Alabama Football, National Championship Edition.
Published in 1986, Forrest Gump is Groom's most celebrated work. Its story follows a man recalling adventures from his incredibly bizarre life, which includes serving in the Vietnam War, working on shrimp boats, and participating in a ping pong championship. Tom Hanks famously played the titular role when the Forrest Gump story was adapted as a movie by screenwriter Eric Roth and director Robert Zemeckis in 1994. The immense success of the movie brought even greater fame to Groom.
Although a movie sequel was never made, Groom actually wrote a followup novel to Forrest Gump. Titled Gump and Co., it was published in 1995 and directly continues to follow what happens next with Forrest's life after the events of the original story. For years, there were rumors that Paramount would bring back Hanks to turn Gump and Co. into a movie as well. The project wound up stalling in development hell, but fans of the original movie can always check out Groom's followup novel to see what became of Forrest Gump.
We thank Mr. Groom for his service and offer condolences to his family and friends at this difficult time. He was a master of his craft and he will always be remembered. May he rest in peace. This news comes to us from CNN.