'Forrest Gump’ author Winston Groom dead at 77

'Forrest Gump’ author Winston Groom dead at 77
Winston Groom, whose novel "Forrest Gump" was adapted into a memorable movie, died Wednesday. He was 77. (Andrew Wardlow/News-Herald via AP)

Author Winston Groom, whose novel “Forrest Gump” was adapted into an Oscar-winning movie, died Wednesday. He was 77.

Groom died in Fairhope, Alabama, according to Karin Wilson, the city’s mayor, AL.com reported.

Groom’s 1986 novel attained iconic status after Tom Hanks' portrayal of the main character, The Tuscaloosa News reported. Hanks won an Academy Award for Best Actor in his role as the slow-witted Forrest Gump.

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The novel sold more than 1.7 million copies worldwide, the newspaper reported.

Groom was a historian and a University of Alabama graduate, the News reported.

Groom’s other novels include “Better Times Than These,” “As Summers Die,” “Only,” “Gone the Sun,” “Such a Pretty, Pretty Girl” and the 2016 “El Paso,” along with numerous nonfiction books, the newspaper reported.

Born March 23, 1943, in Washington, D.C., Groom grew up in Mobile County and attended UMS-Wright Preparatory School in Mobile and the University of Alabama before serving in Vietnam, AL.com reported.

“I got a job in Washington at the old Washington Star and, as the lowest-ranking reporter on the staff, had the duty on many occasions of going out to the demonstrations to do a ‘head count,'" Groom wrote in a 2000 piece for The Washington Post. “How you count the heads of 250,000 people in motion, I still do not know, but somehow we came up with the numbers.”

Groom’s 1982 book, “Conversations with the Enemy,” was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, AL.com reported.

Groom said he created the character of Forrest Gump after he and his father had enjoyed a weekend visit together, according to the website. His father, in his 80s, told him of a neighborhood boy who was called “slow” but could play the piano brilliantly.

He finished the first draft six weeks later, saying the book “wrote itself.” Groom said he wanted the character to have dignity, which contributed to Gump’s appeal, AL.com reported.

“There were times I would just laugh out loud while writing the book," Groom told AL.com in 1994. "It was great fun to write, and I grew to really love the character,” he said.

Groom opened the novel with Gump complaining about how poorly people treated him because he was “a idiot,” the News reported. However, Gump became a touted running back for the Crimson Tide, was an astronaut, a professional wrestler, a chess grandmaster and a Ping-Pong star. He also co-starred with Raquel Welch in a remake of “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” the newspaper reported.

Unlike the sanitized version played on film by Hanks, the Gump featured in Groom’s work smoked marijuana, enjoyed sex and played rock ‘n’ roll music.

“It’s a farce, and that’s hard to do. The French do it well, but we don’t,” Groom said in a 2014 telephone interview with the News. "If I could convince, persuasively, a reader that Coach Paul Bryant would take an idiot and put him on the football team, they’d believe anything.

“Once you hook your reader, they’ll go for the rest. And that’s, I think, where I hooked 'em.”