Historians unveiled a marker to an acclaimed author and Augusta native on March 16.
Officials with the Lucy Craft Museum of Black History, in conjunction with the Haines Alumni Association, Paine College and the Georgia Historical Society, unveiled the state historic marker for Frank Yerby.
Born in Augusta in 1916, Yerby published 33 novels, 12 of which went on to become New York Times bestsellers. He sold an estimated 60 million copies of his books, which were translated into dozens of languages.
“This marker gives Augustans a sense of pride in recognizing one of its native sons who was an internationally renowned author,” said Corey Rogers, Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History historian. “He was a literary giant, and 60 million copies sold is quite an astonishing feat for anyone.”
Yerby graduated from the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in 1933, Paine College in 1937 and Fisk University in 1938.
He rose to fame with the success of his novels in the 1940s. Three of them were turned into films. Published in 1946, The Foxes of Harrow became a film starring Rex Harrison and Maureen O’Hara in 1947. The Saracen Blade, published in 1952, was made into a film starring Ricardo Montalban in 1954, and The Golden Hawk, published in 1948, was released on film in 1952.
In 1955, Yerby left the United States and moved to Spain where he died in 1991.
Yerby began his career writing short stories. His first short story, Health Card, was published in Harper’s Magazine in 1944 and won the O’Henry Memorial Award for best short story, according to his biography at the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame website. His book A Woman Called Fancy was set in Augusta.
“My relationship with Frank Yerby is historic due to us being a museum of Black history and also him being a student of Miss Laney,” said Leon Maben, Laney museum board vice president. “By this marker being here helps tell his story for not only the Black community but the many Augustans that don’t know about him.”
Several family members including his nephew were in attendance.
“This marker was — well — long coming, and I give the committee of the Georgia Historic Society their props,” Gerald Yerby, the author’s nephew and godson, said. “He was an amazing guy, real down to earth, and he did his own thing, and he got a lot of criticism, but he was so successful because he didn’t just write his novels to please but as an artist.”
Museum officials said they hope to have another ceremony in coming weeks.
A ribbon cutting ceremony for a brand new mural called “Women of Empowerment” should be announced soon. This mural will feature six iconic Augusta women including Ruth Crawford, Margaret Louise Laney, Marjorie Carter, Ursula Collins, Rosa C. Tutt and Rosa T. Beard.
“What is interesting though is that Ruth Crawford is still living at 107-years-old. She will be one of the living recipients of this mural,” said Rogers. “We also encourage people to come down and tour the museum and see what we have to offer.”
Maxwell Shaffer is an Augusta University student and features correspondent for Augusta Good News. To subscribe to the Augusta Good News newsletter, click here.