Beaufort’s Conroy Connection

“When I came to Beaufort I had struck upon a land so beautiful I had to hunt for other words that ached with the joyous, carnal charms of the green marshes that seemed to be the source of all life.” (Pat Conroy)

A few years back, I considered Beaufort, South Carolina as merely a routine stopping point for a one night stay on the way I – 95 northbound on our road-trips. But in that first time drive eastward from the Interstate into a vast swampy region fittingly labeled as “Low Country”, I discovered to my surprise a pedestrian friendly “Old Town district relatively unchanged from its antebellum Civil War heyday in the past. Other historic tidbits soon further engaged my interest as I began to explore beyond the town center as well. Notably, I learned that Hollywood in the early 1990s chose “sleepy town” Beaufort and surrounding waters as the main filming locale of the film Forrest Gump. It also became important for me to know that during the Civil Rights era of the 1970s, Martin Luther King once wrote his famous “I Have A Dream” speech nearby Beaufort on. St. Helena Island. So you might say that I’ve learned to feel quite comfortable in Beaufort precisely by witnessing such vestiges of its historic past on that first tourist “go-around”

But then I happened to gain a fresh tourist perspective about the Beaufort experience from its celebrated home author of late, Pat Conroy. For I’d been inspired after reading some excerpts from his novel “The Water Is Wide” to take a more intimate look at this author’s time spent growing up and later experiencing literary success as a novelist in Beaufort. So my latest quest for Beaufort understanding began with an intimate look inside the Pat Conroy Literacy Center to begin our latest road trip this week. As I walked around the various halls showcasing authentic mementos from his Beaufort past, I discovered two places around the town that seemed of utmost importance to him while living there. So as Conroy once did, we first ventured to the southerly tip of Old Beaufort along Bay Street, to spend some quiet time under some massive oak trees and magnificent mansions lining the tranquil shores of the Beaufort River swamplands beyond. After dinner, we took an inviting walking tour of nearby Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park overlooking a spectacular sunset which further enlightened us to the Conroy’s love of Beaufort as expressed through his novels. Enjoy the photos.

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