More than 420 attended the annual luncheon, which recognizes outstanding work and contributions to the humanities in Alabama.
Groom, who grew up in Mobile and now lives in Fairhope, is probably best known for his 1986 novel, Forrest Gump, a 21-week New York Times bestseller that spurred a movie adaptation starring Tom Hanks.
Groom talked about his mother, who graduated from The University of Alabama in 1929 and was an aspiring actress who traveled to New York to fulfill her dreams. She did have some small parts, but the Depression era took its toll, and she became a teacher.
Years later, as she was dying, she told her son, “I guess I’ve led a humdrum life.” Quite the contrary, he told her, reminding her of the lives she touched through teaching and the parts she played on stage.
He, too, had dreams to fulfill, but the war in Vietnam put plans on hold for a bit. After the war, he became a reporter for the Washington Star, but he aspired to write a book. After eight years, he resigned to do just that, noting that it was an all or nothing approach.
Old reporters in the newsroom, he reasoned, inevitably had three things tucked away in their desk drawer — a pack of Lucky Strikes, a brown paper bag with a bottle of VO in it and an unfinished manuscript. “I didn’t want that to be me,” he said.
He fulfilled his own successful prophecy, penning 18 novels, including Forrest Gump. The book got its name from an incident in 1967, when he came home from the Vietnam War, a lieutenant in uniform. The uniform wasn’t all that attractive to the ladies in that rebellious time, he said, so he went to a store to buy a new suit of clothes. The name of the store? Gump’s.
He also borrowed from another personal experience for the last line in the book, where Forrest is talking. “I can always look back an say, at least I ain’t led no hum-drum life.”
If you missed the luncheon, no need to worry, here’s a video recording of the event:
View photos from the Luncheon below: