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Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award

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Title: Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award  
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Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award

The Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award is an American literary prize awarded by the Tulsa Library Trust in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It is bestowed annually upon an "internationally acclaimed" author who has "written a distinguished body of work and made a major contribution to the field of literature and letters".[1][2]

History of the award

First given in 1985, with a cash prize of $5,000, by 2006 the prize had increased to $40,000 cash and an engraved crystal book.[3][4] To date, all of the recipients have been English-language writers.[5]

The award is named after Peggy V. Helmerich, a prominent Tulsa library activist, philanthropist[6] and the wife of Tulsa oilman Walter Helmerich III.[7] Before her marriage, under the stage name Peggy Dow, she had been a motion picture actress,[8] best known for playing the role of Nurse Kelly in the 1950 James Stewart film vehicle, Harvey and for co-starring with Best Actor Oscar nominee Arthur Kennedy[9] in 1951's Bright Victory.[10]

The first honoree was writer and longtime Saturday Review of Literature editor Norman Cousins, with the evening's theme announced as “The Salutary Aspects of Laughter”[4] while twelve years later, in 1997, distinguished African-American historian John Hope Franklin became the only (as of 2009) native Oklahoman to receive the award. While in Tulsa to accept the award, Franklin made several appearances to speak about his childhood experiences with racial segregation as well as his father's experiences as a lawyer in the aftermath of the 1921 Tulsa race riot.[11][12][13]

In 2004, 88-year-old Arthur Miller was initially announced as the honoree,[14] but subsequently declined the award when illness, which led to his death two months later, prevented him from attending the December award ceremony and dinner. David McCullough, the 1995 winner, replaced him as featured speaker at the dinner[15] and, later, returned his honorarium to the library.[16][17]

The following year's initial choice to be the honoree was again unable to accept due to illness—Oklahoman Tony Hillerman, who would have been the state's second native son to receive the award was, ultimately, replaced by John Grisham.[18][19] Library Journal reported that Grisham donated the monetary prize to his Hurricane Katrina relief fund, and also used the occasion to research details for The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town, his non-fiction account of an Oklahoma inmate cleared of murder charges shortly before his execution date.[20] Reporting on Grisham's selection as Hillerman's replacement, a Virginia newspaper called the Helmerich Award the "best literary award you've never heard of."[21]

The 2013 honoree is Kazuo Ishiguro.[22]

List of winners

The following 26 authors have received the award since 1985:[5]

See also


External links

  • Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award official website
  • Tulsa Library Trust official website
  • Internet Movie Database.
  • Voices of Oklahoma oral history project.
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