Tom Franklin wins prestigious Harper Lee Award

Published 4:40 pm Friday, February 16, 2024

Author, English professor to be honored in March at Alabama festival

By Edwin Smith
University communications

Tom Franklin has appeared at the Monroeville Literary Festival in Alabama four times, but the next time he attends, he’ll be at center stage as the recipient of this year’s Harper Lee Award.

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The annual award recognizes the lifetime achievement of a writer either born in Alabama or strongly connected to the state. The University of Mississippi English professor is a native of Clarke County, north of Mobile.

“I grew up about 45 minutes from Monroeville, in Dickinson, Ala., and first read Harper Lee’s novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in my early 20s,” Franklin said. “I couldn’t believe she was from Monroeville. I love that book, and the movie of it, and I love coming to Monroeville whenever I can.

“This will be an especially exciting trip. I’m such a fan of the writers who’ve won this before.”

Franklin, who teaches creative writing in the Ole Miss master’s program in creative writing, is the bestselling author of “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter,” which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger Award. His previous works include “Poachers,” “Hell at the Breech” and “Smonk.”

He will receive the award March 1 at the Monroe County Museum, which organizes the festival. He and other award winners will be honored at a reception and dinner that evening.

Besides Franklin, this year’s featured writers include Kim Cross, James Braziel, Ethel Morgan Smith, Kelsey Barnard Clark, Barbara Barcellona Smith, Robert Bailey, Tina Mozelle Braziel and Jennifer Horn.

“We have an exciting lineup of authors this year, and attendees can expect a full weekend of captivating readings, enlightening discussions, amusing conversations and Monroeville’s famous brand of hospitality,” said Tracey Dean of the Monroe County Museum. “Our courtroom is one of the South’s most celebrated literary destinations, and hearing authors read there is pure magic.”

Caroline Wigginton, UM chair and professor of English, said Franklin’s latest honor is just one more proof of his brilliance as a novelist. “Professor Franklin is an acclaimed fiction writer renowned as an originator of a subgenre called Southern Grit Lit,” she said.

“A mainstay of our creative writing programs, his reputation as a teacher and author brings undergraduates and graduate students to our university to learn from him, even as his fiction delights and enriches his readers. Through his creative writing, he has transformed our community, our students and Southern literary culture.”

The award is funded by Harper Lee LLC and is one of the top Southern literature awards. Previous winners include E.O. Wilson, Winston Groom, Rick Bragg and Fannie Flagg.

A full schedule of events and registration details can be found at or by email at