Raymond Andrews (1934-1991)
Raymond Andrews was a widely acclaimed novelist and chronicler of the African American experience in north central Georgia. His first novel, Appalachee Red, won the James Baldwin Prize for fiction in 1979. In 2009 he was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.
The fourth of ten children of sharecropping parents,
Andrews's first national publication was a description in Sports Illustrated of the first time
After moving to a home near Athens in 1984, Andrews published a memoir, The Last Radio Baby (1990), which described his childhood years when his family lived on the same property with their black grandmother and white grandfather. Noted newsman and author Charles Kuralt called this book "one of the truest and best pieces of writing I've ever come across."
Andrews's last book, Jessie and Jesus and Cousin Claire (1991), consists of two novellas. It introduces two powerful African American women who are as unlike as night and day but are similarly determined to have their way. His final manuscript, Once upon a Time in Atlanta, was published in a single issue of the Chattahoochee Review in 1998. All of Andrews's books were illustrated by his brother, the nationally known artist Benny Andrews.
An expansive, engaging man who made friends effortlessly, Andrews was known for his encyclopedic knowledge of old movies and sports, especially football and baseball, from the 1940s through the 1970s. His modesty and sense of humor, along with a real warmth, made him one of the most widely loved southern writers of his era. He took his art very seriously and laboriously printed his work on yellow legal pads in the mornings, then rewrote and typed the results in the afternoon. He famously enjoyed literary parties and traveled widely to read from his works.
The books of Raymond Andrews have received considerable critical acclaim from numerous critics and other writers. Novelist Richard Bausch aptly described Andrews's writing as having "a smiling generosity of spirit." The San Francisco Chronicle called Andrews's first book "an auspicious beginning for a fine talent," and the Los Angeles Times said Rosiebelle Lee Wildcat Tennessee had the "infectious exuberance and soul-satisfying warmth of a folk tale."
In 1989 the Robert W. Woodruff Library of Emory University in Atlanta purchased Andrews's papers. The Raymond Andrews papers are available for research and include correspondence, photographs, clippings, and drafts and manuscripts of his novels.
Andrews died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Athens on November 25, 1991.
Jeffrey J. Folks, "'Trouble' in Muskhogean County: The Social History of a Southern Community in the Fiction of Raymond Andrews," Southern Literary Journal 30 (spring 1998): 66-75.
Philip Lee Williams, Athens
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