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The University of Alabama

UA Journalism Announces 2013 Cason Winner, J-Day Schedule

Homer Hickam

Homer Hickam (Photo courtesy of Gary Cosby Jr./The Decatur Daily)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama’s College of Communication and Information Sciences and the journalism department have announced the 2013 recipient of the Clarence Cason Award in Nonfiction Writing is Homer Hickam.

Homer Hickam, a native of Coalwood, W. Va., has written 14 books, including the acclaimed No. 1 New York Times memoir “Rocket Boys.” That book was made into the film “October Sky” and is being developed as a Broadway musical with Hickam as co-writer.

Hickam will receive his award and give a talk at a luncheon set for 11:30 a.m. March 15 at the Hotel Capstone.

In addition, he will give a free public address on the craft of writing memoirs and non-fiction, titled “Rockets, coal mines, lighthouses and the dreams of boys,” at 6:30 p.m. March 14 in room 216 Reese Phifer Hall on the UA campus. Hickam’s March 14 address will be the final event in the fifth annual J-Day, which will feature a day of professionals speaking to journalism students.

After graduating from Virginia Tech, Hickam served in the 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam before becoming an engineer for the Army Missile Command in Huntsville. He also became a scuba instructor and was awarded Alabama’s highest award for heroism for his underwater rescue work. With NASA in Huntsville, he trained astronauts and designed spacecraft. He wrote about that in a memoir, “Paco: The Cat Who Meowed in Space.” In his work as an amateur paleontologist, he discovered two Tyrannosaurus rexes, which he wrote about in his fiction book “The Dinosaur Hunter.”

Hickam’s first book was “Torpedo Junction,” the true story of the battle against the U-boats along America’s coasts during World War II. Then came “Rocket Boys,” a National Book Critics Circle Award nominee. Other books followed, including the memoir sequels “The Coalwood Way” and “Sky of Stone” and his popular Josh Thurlow novels—”The Keeper’s Son,” “The Ambassador’s Son” and “The Far Reaches.” His latest works are the Helium-3 series, which began with “Crater.” The second in the trilogy, “Crescent,” will be published in June.

The award is named for Clarence Cason, who founded UA’s department of journalism in 1928. Each year, the University bestows the honor on a recipient with a strong connection to Alabama and whose writings have made a critical contribution to the journalism and literature of the South.

In winning the Clarence Cason Award, Hickam joins such distinguished writers as Rick Bragg, Diane McWhorter, Howell Raines and E.O. Wilson, all winners of the Pulitzer Prize.

Tickets for the luncheon honoring Hickam are $35. The luncheon event will be from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. March 15 at the Hotel Capstone. Hickam will accept the award and speak at the luncheon. To order tickets, phone Sheila Davis at 205/348-4787 by March 6.

Hickam’s 6:30 p.m. March 14 address in 216 Reese Phifer is free and open to the public. No reservations are necessary.

Other J-Day events scheduled for March 14 are as follows:

Alabama Media Group: The First Six Months
9-10:30 a.m., Phifer, room 338
Kevin Wendt, Alabama Media Group vice president of content, headlines a panel of AMG editors and staff.  The panel will assess the first six months, discuss challenges they have faced, and talk about plans for the future.

Power of the Crowd
11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Phifer, room 338
Entrepreneurial journalists talk about “crowd-funded” journalism ventures, which use websites like “Kickstarter” to raise money and attention.

Innovations in Community Journalism
1-2 p.m., Phifer, room 338
Master’s students in the Community Journalism program present their news website projects, which take innovative online approaches to addressing community problems.

“How the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement Changed America and the World”
4-5 p.m., Gorgas, room 205
Birmingham News reporter Barnett Wright discusses his new book, “1963: How the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement Changed America and the World.” This is a joint session with the Diversity Forum.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.