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Robert Ruark

Born in Wilmington, NC, on December 29, 1915: journalist, author, world traveler, sportsman, and syndicated columnist Robert Chester Ruark.  He entered college at the age of 15 at the University of North Carolina, graduating with an A.B. in journalism in 1935.  He worked as a reporter for the Hamlet News Messenger and later transferred to the Sanford Herald

During the next few years, Ruark worked as an accountant with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in Washington, D.C., enlisted in the Navy as an ordinary seaman, and worked at the Washington Post and the Star before settling down at the Washington Daily News.  In 1938, he married Virginia Webb, a Washington interior decorator.

During World War II, Ruark joined the Navy as a gunnery officer and later became a press censor in the Pacific.  He returned to the Washington Daily News in 1945, where his syndicated column made him a household name and earned him the then unheard of sum of $40,000 a year.  In his column, Ruark revealed a gift for expressing aversion both facetiously and ungrammatically, poking fun at his uneducated "hick." 

He aimed his stinging wit at psychiatrists, Southern cooking, army generals, the state of Texas, progressive schools, scheming women, and other pet peeves.  His sharpest assaults were collected in two books, I Didnít Know It Was Loaded (1948) and One for the Road (1949).

His first novel, Grenadine Etching (1947), lampooned historical romances that were all the rage at the time.  The book was followed by Grenadineís Spawn (1952).  He also contributed regularly to magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Esquire, and Field & Stream.

After 1950, Ruark began taking trips to Africa.  He published Horn of the Hunter: The Story of an African Hunt (1953), about an African safari, and Something of Value (1955).  Based on the Mau-Mau uprisings against British colonialists, Value took its title from an old Basuto proverb: "If a man does away with his traditional way of living and throws away his good customs, he had better first make certain that he has something of value to replace them."  The book was a major success, earning the author more than a million dollars from royalties and film rights.

Some critics disparaged Ruark as a Hemingway imitator.  The stylistic similarities are unmistakable, as are their lifestyles.  Other critics decried the shocking violence in his African novels.  Nonetheless, his writing--despite its Hemingway-like overtones--has stood the test of time.

Ruark once said, "There was a time when I would go anywhere, eat airline food...chase elephants on horseback, slug athletes, enjoy being jailed, and wrestle with leopards, all for love of the newspaper business."

Besides his newspaper columns and novels, Ruark wrote for years a monthly magazine column for Field & Stream called "The Old Man and The Boy" in which he recounted his experiences growing up on the North Carolina coast in and around Southport under the tender guidance of his grandfather, who taught him the art of hunting, fishing, and training dogs.  These columns were subsequently collected in two books, The Old Man and the Boy (1957) and The Old Manís Boy Grows Older (1961), which chronicled the boyhood lessons he had learned that taught him compassion, integrity, tolerance, and a deep and abiding love for the outdoors.

After visiting North Carolina in 1957, Ruark settled permanently in Spain, where he produced three more books.  Poor No More (1959) was an embittered rags-to-riches saga set in the U.S. and Europe.  It was followed in 1962 by Uhuru, the sequel to Something of Value.  His last book, published shortly after his death, was The Honey Badger (1965).  It was about a North Carolina writer torn between work and women. 

Robert Ruark died unexpectedly in London in 1965 and is buried in Palamos, north of Barcelona.

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