Wayne Greenhaw loved to write and to tell stories. Each morning he was eager to get to his keyboard and dive in. Each evening nothing pleased him more than to meet with friends, often writers but sometimes retired army officers, executives or politicians, and swap tales. He enjoyed listening as much as talking. It was all material.
His writing brought him acclaim. His gift for friendship made him one of Alabama’s most beloved figures.
The author of over 20 books in several genres, Greenhaw published popular novels like The Golfer (1967), The Long Journey (2002), and King of Country (2007), based on the life of Hank Williams. He wrote volumes of short fiction such as The Spider’s Web which dealt with his months in a body cast at the age of 15, recovering from a spinal operation necessitated by polio, and essays such as “Alabama on My Mind.” His nonfiction subjects ranged from studies of Lt. William Calley and the My Lai massacre to Flying High: Inside Big-Time Drug Smuggling (1984) to Elephants in the Cotton Fields (1982), chronicling the rise of the Republican Party in the South.
Greenhaw also wrote plays, one based on Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and a volume of poems, Ghosts on the Road (2007).
Through a series of books on Montgomery—especially Montgomery: The River City (2002) and The Thunder of Angels (2006), written with Donnie Williams about the bus boycott, Greenhaw became recognized as that city’s premier historian. His last book, Fighting the Devil in Dixie, focusing on courageous civil rights attorneys’ struggle with the KKK, is thought to be his best.
His writings on the civil rights movement are passionate and informed, as he knew most of the principals—politicians, lawyers—on both sides, personally. They will serve as reference volumes for scholars for generations to come.
Except for a year as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, 1972-73, an award based primarily on his writings on Lt. William Calley, and frequent stays at his beloved San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Greenhaw was rooted in Alabama. He loved his native state, its history, natural beauty and literary tradition, but examined it and analyzed it with unswerving honesty, the better to understand it himself and explain to his readers.
Raised in Tuscaloosa, Greenhaw graduated from Tuscaloosa High School and then studied at the University of Alabama under the renowned writing teacher Hudson Strode.
After graduation, Greenhaw wrote for The Alabama Journal in Montgomery, covering among other events the student unrest on the UA campus in the spring of 1970. Greenhaw went on to become editor and publisher of ALABAMA magazine, 1984-88. Besides his full-length books, Greenhaw published scores of pieces with newspapers and magazines including Time Magazine and The New York Times.
During 1993-94 Greenhaw served as director of the Alabama Bureau of Tourism, appointed by Governor James Folsom, Jr.
His books and articles won him the Clarence Cason Award in Nonfiction Writing in 2005, given by the journalism department at UA, and The Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer in 2006.
Greenhaw enjoyed a long and happy marriage with his wife, Sally, a Montgomery jurist.
Harold Wayne Geenhaw is a most deserving inductee into the College of Communication and Information Sciences Hall of Fame, class of 2013.