Law professor and former dean of Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law
Dr. Wayne Flynt, Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at Auburn University
2018 Brewer Torbert Public Service Honoree
The 2018 recipient of the Brewer/Torbert Public Service Award is Dr. Wayne Flynt, Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at Auburn University. This Award is given annually to an individual in Alabama who has demonstrated a substantial commitment to public service.
Born Oct. 4, 1940, in Pontotoc, Mississippi, Dr. Flynt grew up primarily in Alabama and graduated from Anniston High School in 1958. Attended Samford University as a ministerial student; double majored in History and Speech. Attended graduate school at Florida State University, receiving his Ph.D. in 1965 in American History.
Of his fourteen books (three co-authored), two deal with Florida politics, three with evangelical religion, three with poverty, and three are broad surveys of Alabama history, including his two most acclaimed, POOR BUT PROUD: ALABAMA’S POOR WHITES, and ALABAMA IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. His memoir entitled, KEEPING THE FAITH, was published in 2011, and his history, SOUTHERN RELIGION AND CHRISTIAN DIVERSITY IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY was published in July, 2016. His most recent book (2017) is MOCKINGBIRD SONGS: MY FRIENDSHIP WITH HARPER LEE, which won the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum Literary Prize for Excellence in Writing. Two of his books have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and one won the Lillian Smith Award for non-fiction (the oldest and most highly regarded book prize in the South, given by the Southern Regional Council). Two of his books have won the Alabama Library Association prize for best works of non-fiction, three times he has won the James Sulzby book award for best work on Alabama history (awarded by the Alabama Historical Association), and three times the University of Alabama Press has bestowed the McMillan prize on his manuscripts as the best received in history.
Flynt is a community activist, serving for a decade on the American Cancer Society’s Committee for the Socio-economically Disadvantaged, was a co-founder of both the Alabama Poverty Project (now called ALABAMA POSSIBLE) and Sowing Seeds of Hope (Perry County). He has also served on the boards of Voices for Alabama’s Children and the A+ education reform coalition. In 1993 he served at the request of Gov. James E. Folsom, Jr. and Circuit Judge Eugene Reese as the court facilitator in the Alabama equity funding lawsuit.
Honors and awards: selection in 1992 by the Mobile Register as Alabamian of the Year; Friend of the Children Award by Children’s Hospital of Alabama in 1994; Child Advocacy Award by the Alabama Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics in 2000; Clarence Cason Award for Nonfiction by the University of Alabama in 2002; Hugo Black Award for service to Alabama and the nation, University of Alabama, 2003; inducted into Communications Hall of Fame at University of Alabama, 2005; inducted into Alabama Academy of Honor (100 living Alabamians) in 2006; Judson-Rice Award by the national news journal BAPTISTS TODAY for a Baptist leader who has “demonstrated significant leadership skills while maintaining the highest integrity;” Leadership Alabama Lifetime Achievement Award, 2007. In 2008 Flynt received the Bailey Thomson Award from Alabama Citizens for Constitution Reform, the Birmingham Pledge Lifetime Service Award, and the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year by the Florida State University History Department. Flynt has also been the subject of two Alabama Public Television documentaries and in 2000 was awarded Doctor of Humane Letters, by Samford University.
During his 40 year teaching career at Samford and Auburn universities, he won 18 teaching awards, including top teaching honors at Samford and for the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn and among the graduate faculty at Auburn. Three times history graduate students at Auburn named him best professor. In 1971 he was a finalist in the Danforth Foundation’s competition for the top 12 professors in an American college or university. In 1991 he was chosen Professor of the Year for Alabama by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. In 2014, the Alabama College English Teachers Association awarded him the Eugene Current Garcia Award for outstanding teaching and writing. During his career he taught more than 6,000 undergraduates, directed 42 master’s theses and 26 doctoral dissertations.
Flynt has been invited to lecture about his favorite novel, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and its author, at universities and “Big Read” programs in cities across America and around the world. In January, 2016, he was inducted, along with Harper Lee, into Alabama’s Black Belt Hall of Fame. He has also been invited to lecture at Cambridge and Oxford universities, the University of Sussex, Queens University (Northern Ireland), University of Hull, University of Vienna, University of Szechuan, China, at the Roosevelt Center in the Netherlands, in Denmark, at a number of universities in India, and on ABC Radio Australia’s nationwide “Book Club”. He was research scholar for a semester at Hong Kong Baptist University and also served a semester as Eudora Welty Visiting Scholar of Southern Studies at Millsap College, Jackson, MS.
Flynt is active in a number of professional organizations, six of which have honored him with their highest awards for service. In 2003-04 he served as president of the Southern Historical Association, the largest professional organization devoted to the study of southern history and culture, with some 5,000 members worldwide. He was founding general editor of the online Encyclopedia of Alabama from which he retired in September 2008.