Kevin McCarthy, Florida Writer
A trip to the Florida shelf at the local bookstore will most likely turn up more titles by Kevin McCarthy than any other writer. Kevin has produced in excess of than 50 books over the years, and to him all who are interested in Florida studies owe a debt of gratitude. I never tire of saying Florida is a young state. Our state may have occupied a place in the American consciousness from the first--in grammar school we learned about Ponce del Leon and the fountain of youth and St. Augustine as the oldest city--but until fairly recently it was not much studied.
The photo on the left may not look much like a Florida studies enthusiast. And indeed, Kevin hails from the Philadelphia area and is not really an outdoorsy type, but he told me he got into Florida studies back in the 1970s when he bought a tent and visited Florida state parks. He enjoyed the lifestyle and that lead to his interest in Florida studies. By profession, Kevin was a professor of English at the University of Florida. He taught there for 33 years before retiring in the middle of the last decade. We met because we both were sponsors of the student English honor society. Among his interests was Zora Hurston.
I invited Kevin to give the keynote talk at a Hurston conference I was
sponsoring way back in the late 80s or so. Late in the evening prior to
the conference, Kevin showed up at the hotel, all apologetic for putting
me on pins and needles. He said his wife had just been diagnosed with an
extremely serious disease and that had thrown his life into confusion. I
think this story is sort of the paradigm for Kevin McCarthy. He's a
man with a ferocious sense of duty and a tremendous work ethic. He has
been an inspiration for me, and I imagine many other writers in the
University of Florida and around the state also have been influenced by
his work and example.
For the record, let me say Kevin graduated from LaSalle College in 1963 and holds a Phd in linguistics from the University of North Carolina. Long ago, he was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkey and he has been a Fulbright scholar in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Since his retirement in 2005, he has been active giving writing workshops in Hanoi, teaching English as a second language in Spain, giving lectures on cruise ships, and continuing to produce Florida books. You can find more information about Kevin at http://kevinmccarthy.us.
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