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White, historian share Florida Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing

By Staff | Feb 21, 2019

Sanibel Island resident Randy Wayne White and former Fernandina Beach resident Raymond O. Arsenault, divergent writers who have introduced Florida culture and history to a wide audience, have won the Florida Humanities Council’s 2019 Florida Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing.

The winners, announced on Feb. 12, will be honored at an event later.

“What an honor it is to recognize two such remarkable Florida writers, each from such a distinct genre; one of our great and beloved fiction writers and one of our most influential historians,” Florida Humanities Council Executive Director Steve Seibert said in a prepared statement released.

A five-person panel selected Arsenault, 71, and White, 69, from among 24 nominees. The judges praised them as “giants in their respective fields.”

“It was an incredible honor and sense of fulfillment. Florida has done so much for me,” White said.

Perhaps most noted for his Doc Ford thrillers, White has more than 50 books to his credit, including crime fiction, adventure tales, cookbooks and travel accounts. He has written for numerous magazines and he co-wrote a television program, “Gift of the Game.” White is a co-founder of Big Brothers in South Florida.

Katie Grinch, a spokeswoman for White’s publisher Putnam Books, nominated him. Grinch said White is one of the nation’s most popular thriller writers.

“His audience and reputation only continue to grow, and through him, hundreds of thousands of readers have been introduced to the secrets of Florida’s natural wonders and history,” she said.

Arsenault, the John Hope Franklin history professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, has written or edited more than a dozen works on subjects that include the Freedom Riders, celebrated singer Marian Anderson and tennis great Arthur Ashe – his most recent work. Arsenault is a co-founder of the Florida Studies program at USFSP.

“I was really shocked and happy,” Arsenault said. “It made my day.”

Author Peter Golenbock nominated Arsenault for the award.

“(His books) are American history at its finest, beautifully written sagas instructing readers about important moments in civil rights history, but also entertaining them in a way that makes these important figures in the civil rights movement come alive not just for Florida readers, but for all the world,” Golenbock said.

The Florida Humanities Council, which sponsors the award, oversees the nomination process, convenes a panel of independent judges and announces the winners. The council is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

It is the 10th year Florida Humanities has presented the Florida Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing. The nine previous recipients are Jeff Klinkenberg, popular Florida storyteller through his newspaper columns and books; Edna Buchanan, legendary Miami Herald police reporter and novelist; poet and Florida State University professor David Kirby; Gary Mormino, University of South Florida St. Petersburg professor emeritus and historian and author; Janet Burroway, a Florida State University professor and writer whose work spanned several generations; Enid Shomer, an elegant writer of poetry and fiction; the late Patrick D. Smith, the beloved author of the Florida novel “A Land Remembered”; Carl Hiaasen, a Miami journalist and best-selling novelist who virtually invented the Florida Noir genre; and the late Michael V. Gannon, the eminent Florida historian and University of Florida professor emeritus.

The members of the 2019 judging panel were: Lester Abberger, member of Florida Humanities Council Board; Colette Bancroft, the Tampa Bay Times book editor; Lynne Barrett, founder and editor of The Florida Book Review; Jeff Klinkenberg, winner of the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award; and Gary Mormino, winner of the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award.