The selection committee for the 7th annual Truman Capote Prize for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of Literary Non-Fiction or the Short Story is delighted to announce that Rheta Grimsley Johnson has been chosen as recipient for 2022.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson is an award-winning reporter, columnist, and travelogue and memoir writer whose subject matter includes seemingly average southern people whose stories she elevates to the universal. Johnson writes compassionately about the often overlooked and rapidly disappearing contemporary rural South.
Born in Colquitt, Georgia; she grew up in Montgomery. She recognized by the eighth grade that she wanted to become a journalist and began working on her school newspaper at Robert E. Lee High School. She attended Auburn University, where she won the National Pacemaker Award, an award for excellence in student journalism, in 1974, while editor of The Auburn Plainsman. She moved to Monroeville in 1975 to work at The Monroe Journal – a launching pad for a career at some of the South’s largest papers: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, and Scripps Howard News Service.
One of the longest-running female syndicated columnists in the nation, Rheta Grimsley Johnson wrote a weekly essay for King Features Syndicate of New York that was distributed to about 50 newspapers nationwide. Her words are, in turn, fiery or poignant, touching on people, places and life predicaments, often on subjects not found elsewhere. In 1989 she wrote Good Grief, the authorized biography of Charles Schulz. In 2008 she published the book Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana and in 2010 came Enchanted Evening Barbi and the Second Coming: A Memoir. Her work up to that point was recognized and she received the 2010 Clarence Cason Award in Nonfiction Writing. Rheta’s latest book, The Dogs Buried Over the Bridge, uses a parade of beloved dogs to take readers on a colorful journey. It’s not really a dog book in the Old Yeller sense; it’s a personal story that uses dogs as metaphors for love, loss and life.
Johnson has made her home and creative home base in a remote hollow near the Tennessee River in Northeast Mississippi. From this unlikely perch – and front porch – she has written about politics, Paris, people and two donkeys that one day wandered into the yard. Her latest creative venture was a play about the childhood of Hank Williams, Hiram Becoming Hank,produced in 2016 by the Pell City (Alabama) Players and at the Monroe County Museum in Monroeville by a local cast in 2021.
The Truman Capote Prize will be presented to Rheta Grimsley Johnson during the 25th annual Monroeville Literary Festival, to be held on March 4th and 5th, 2022 at the Monroe County Museum in Monroeville, Alabama. Please visit the website monroevilleliteraryfestival.com for additional information. Monroeville Literary Festival is made possible in part by a grant from Alabama State Council on the Arts.