Alabama Academy of Honor


J. Wayne Flynt

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 2006.



Wayne Flynt is a fourth generation Alabamian. Son of a steel worker/salesman father and school teacher mother, he graduated from Anniston High School, then attended Samford University. Deflected away from the ministry and Alabama by the state's 1960s racial conflicts, he returned to his native state with his Ph.D. from Florida State University largely because of the influence of a novel he read, Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird.

His teaching career began at Samford University in 1965 where he extended his academic study of Southern history into the community, organizing both a tutoring program at all-black Rosedale High School and a voter registration drive among black Homewood residents. After twelve years at Samford, Flynt left in 1977 to become chair of the History Department at Auburn University, from which he retired as Distinguished University Professor in 2005. Flynt won some twenty teaching awards and in 1990-91 was chosen as Alabama's Professor of the Year by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. During his forty year university teaching career, he taught more than 6,000 students and directed 42 master's theses and 30 doctoral dissertations. He lectured throughout the world, including a lecture tour of India, a visiting research professorship in Hong Kong, in China, and across Europe. In 1993, he served as Eudora Welty Scholar of Southern Studies at Millsaps College.

As a writer, Flynt authored or co-authored eleven books, two of which were nominated for Pulitzer Prizes, and nearly a hundred articles and book chapters. In 1990, his Poor But Proud: Alabama's Poor Whites won the Lillian Smith Award for Non-Fiction, the oldest Southern book prize. Three times his books won the James Sulzby prize for best book on Alabama history; three of his books won the James McMillan prize from the University of Alabama Press for the best manuscript about Alabama; twice he received the Alabama Library Association Prize for best book of non-fiction; and his first book was voted the best book published in 1972 about Florida. In 2003, he was elected president of the Southern Historical Association, whose 5,000 members worldwide constitute the largest professional organization devoted to Southern Studies.

Other awards and honors include the University of Alabama's Hugo Black and Clarence Cason awards; the Virginia Hamilton Award for publicizing Alabama history to a public audience; the Child Advocacy Award of the Alabama Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics; Friend of the Children Award of the Children's Hospital of Alabama; selection of Alabamian of the Year by the Mobile Press-Register (1992); Distinguished Graduate Faculty Lecturer, Auburn University (1992); Distinguished Service Award, Alabama Historical Commission; and the Alabama Humanities Foundation Award (1991). He received an honorary doctorate from Samford University, and was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Distinguished Authors and the University of Alabama's Communications Hall of Fame.

Among his public service activities, Flynt was co-founder of the Alabama Poverty Project and Sowing Seeds of Hope (Perry County); served for a decade on the American Cancer Society's Committee on the Socioeconomically Disadvantaged; served on the boards of Voices for Alabama's Children, A+ education reform coalition, and Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform; and served as court facilitator in Alabama's equity funding lawsuit. He also serves on the board of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropy devoted to eradicating poverty in the South. He presently serves as Editor-in-Chief of the online Encyclopedia of Alabama.

Professor Flynt is married to Dorothy Ann (Smith) Flynt, has two sons, David (wife Kelly) and Sean (wife Shannon), and two grandchildren, Dallas and Harper.