The Conroys, including Pat and six other children, moved around based on military postings. After high school, Pat attended The Military College of South Carolina, also known as The Citadel, in Charleston. It would greatly impact his work.
After graduation, Conroy moved to nearby Beaufort to work as a high school teacher. In 1969, he moved to remote Daufuskie Island, where he taught underprivileged students in a one-room schoolhouse.
Conroy married Barbara Bolling Jones and adopted her two daughters. Another child followed soon after. But only one year after moving to Daufuskie, he was fired for conflict with the school’s administration.
In 1970, Conroy published his first book, The Boo, followed in 1972 by The Water is Wide, based on his experiences on Daufuskie Island.
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In 1973, Conroy and his family moved to Atlanta where he wrote The Great Santini. Its semi-autobiographical depictions caused fractures in the relationships of both Conroy and his parents.
He continued to publish bestsellers and was married once more. In 2016, Pat Conroy died of pancreatic cancer. An archive of his work can be found at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
Pat Conroy Locations in the South
While Conroy was born in Atlanta, he spent much of his upbringing moving around. He moved back in 1973 to work on The Great Santini, inspired by his relationship with his father, who lived for many years in the Buckhead neighborhood.
Charleston, South Carolina
Pat Conroy was recruited to play basketball for The Citadel, which he wrote about in his book My Losing Season. The notoriously rigorous school was also the inspiration for his book The Lords of Discipline, which caused conflict with the school.
Beaufort, South Carolina
Conroy’s formative years were in Beaufort, where he moved after graduation from The Citadel and taught high school English. He lived in a house at 403 Hancock Street in The Point neighborhood.
After living in Atlanta and Fripp Island for a time, Conroy and his wife Cassandra returned in 2012, where he lived until his death. His funeral was at St. Peter’s Catholic Church.
His legacy is honored in Beaufort at the Pat Conroy Literary Center, which hosts author events and writing retreats along with an annual festival.
Learn more about the author’s influence on the Pat Conroy’s Beaufort Tour by Golf Cart.
Daufuskie Island, South Carolina
After his time teaching in Beaufort, Pat Conroy taught underprivileged students in a one-room schoolhouse, the Mary Fields School, on Daufuskie Island.
Conroy was fired for disagreements with the school administration and later wrote about the racial disparities in education in South Carolina.
Learn more about Conroy’s time on the island and its history on the Daufuskie Island Guided History Tour from Hilton Head.
St. Helena Island, South Carolina
St. Helena Island, a barrier island outside of Beaufort, was also influential in Conroy’s career. It was here that a teenage Conroy met Martin Luther King Jr. at the Penn Center, where he was working on his “I Have a Dream” speech.
The Penn Center was founded by Quakers and Unitarian missionaries to educate former slaves in 1862. It’s now a historic landmark.
Pat Conroy is buried nearby at St. Helena Memorial Gardens Cemetery. Visitors leave shells, coins, flowers, and other mementos.