Grisham to Speak at Commencement

John Grisham.

John Grisham

John Grisham, an iconic figure in American popular fiction writing, will be the May 2010 Commencement speaker.

A lawyer who started writing thrillers in his spare time and now is the author of 23 novels, including The Firm and The Pelican Brief, Grisham’s family also has ties to UNC. His daughter Shea earned an education degree in 2008 and teaches in Raleigh. Grisham’s wife, Renee, is listed as a UNC junior who is expected to become a senior in January. She previously studied at the University of Mississippi.

Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86 chose Grisham in consultation with the University’s Commencement speaker selection committee, which is made up of an equal number of students and faculty.

“John is an engaging speaker who will have a profound message for our graduates and their families,” Thorp said. “His prowess with the written and spoken word makes him an excellent choice for a Commencement speaker. He has an inspirational story to share.”

Grisham, a native of Jonesboro, Ark., holds an accounting degree from Mississippi State University and a 1981 law degree from the University of Mississippi. He practiced law in his home state for nearly 10 years and also served in the state’s House of Representatives. He started his first book, A Time to Kill, after hearing courtroom testimony in a rape case.

The Firm was the bestselling novel of 1991. He took a hiatus from writing in 1996 to honor a previous commitment to represent the family of a railroad brakeman who was killed on the job; the case earned him the biggest verdict of his career. He returned to writing, most recently publishing a collection of short stories, FordCounty. Nine of his books have been made into movies.

Grisham participated in the N.C. Literary Festival on campus in September, delivering the first keynote lecture.

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