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James L. Townsend, Atlanta magazine's founding editor, passed away in 1981 after a battle with cancer. At his funeral, several former close associates—including Pat Conroy, Anne Rivers Siddons, and Terry Kay—decided to launch a literary award in his honor. Recent winners inspire us to follow Townsend’s frequent admonition: “Brilliant, dear heart. Write it down. Write it all down.”
We had hiked the hills and had had dinner and were drinking wine fit for the occasion. Good vintage, but not extraordinary. The mood was melancholy, as it always was in the comedown from hours of merriment that marked the energy of those blissfully young days. That is when he said it: “Boys, they’re about to make me famous, and I don’t know how to handle it.”
For no reason other than Terry Kay is a writer of novels, I sometimes imagine there is a small corner of heaven reserved for my dearest friend of 60 years. To banish him to everlasting hell would represent a clear case of literary redundancy. How else would I describe his state of mind in 1989 when he typed the words, “He understood what they were thinking and saying: Old man that he is, what’s to become of him?”
In 1837, Georgia lawmakers authorized a “Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Asylum.” Five years later, the facility opened as the Georgia Lunatic Asylum on the outskirts of the cotton-rich town that served as the antebellum state capital.