Reba White Williams was inspired to create the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction when she learned that her two nieces in high school in Charleston, SC had never read To Kill a Mockingbird. Reba decided that Southern literature—especially contemporary works—needed more attention. She hoped to attract Southern fiction writers who have not yet been adequately recognized for the quality of their work.
The result was the Willie Morris Award, named for a former classmate of Dave’s at the University of Texas. The late Willie Morris, a native of Yazoo City, Mississippi, was a journalist, former editor of Harper’s magazine, and writer of many books, mostly set in the South—some still required reading in public schools in his home state.
Like the award’s namesake, Reba and Dave are Southerners. Reba was born in Mississippi and grew up in North Carolina, attending St. Mary’s School in Raleigh and graduating with an English degree from Duke. Dave was born and grew up in Texas. Both of them, like Willie Morris, migrated East after college, and pursued higher education and careers.