Gilbert King (author)

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Born Gilbert Anthony King
February 22, 1962
Occupation Writer
Nationality American
Notable work(s) Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, The Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America
Notable award(s) Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, 2013

Gilbert Anthony King (born February 22, 1962) is an American writer and photographer. He is known best as the author of Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America (2012), which won the Pulitzer Prize.[1] His previous book was The Execution of Willie Francis: Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South.[2] He has written for The New York Times and The Washington Post, and he is a featured contributor to the Smithsonian's history blog Past Imperfect.[3] As a photographer, his work has appeared in many magazines including international editions of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, and Cosmopolitan.[4]

Personal Details[edit]

Gilbert King was born in 1962 in Rockville Center, New York and grew up in St. James, New York until at age 12, he moved with his family to Schenectady, New York. King is a 1980 graduate of Niskayuna High School and attended the University of South Florida, falling two math credits short of graduating before he decided to move to New York City. He received his Bachelor's degree in 1985 from Excelsior College, known for distance adult learning. In New York, he landed freelance writing and editing assignments for small newspapers and magazines. In 1991 he took a job with Macmillan Publishing as the assistant to the president and publisher. At the same time, as a self-taught photographer, his fashion and beauty work began to appear in national magazines such as Glamour, Jane, and Modern Bride, as well as international editions of magazines including Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Madame Figaro, and Marie Claire. He also worked for clients such as L'Oreal, Redken, Michael Kors, and Thierry Mugler.

By 2002, King began photographing coffee table books for different publishers, and when a writer withdrew from a golf antiques project, he was asked if he would research and write the book himself. For the next several years, King began writing various illustrated books, as well as ghostwriting for celebrities and noted experts in their fields. King is an avid golfer and lives in New York City with his wife, two daughters, and a French Bulldog.


The Execution of Willie Francis[edit]

The Execution of Willie Francis: Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South was published by Basic Civitas Books in 2008. It's the story of Willie Francis, the 16 year-old African-American youth in Louisiana who, in 1946, miraculously survived the electric chair. The strange saga of Willie Francis became an international story at the time, and his case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, after a young Cajun lawyer, Bertrand DeBlanc decided he would take Willie's appeal, despite the fact that his client had been accused and convicted of killing DeBlanc's good friend, Andrew Thomas. In two starred reviews, Kirkus called the book "strangely charming and unforgettable" and Library Journal said, "Highly recommended ... From the first page to the last, King holds our attention with gripping and disturbing details."[5] Counterpunch magazine called it, "almost certainly the best book on capital punishment in America since Mailer's, The Executioner's Song."[6] Serving a precursor to his next book, Booklist notes how "Drawing on extensive research and interviews, King offers a compelling page-turner that examines American racism and justice in the region."[7]

Devil in the Grove[edit]

King won the annual Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 2013 for Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America (HarperCollins, 2012).[1] It's the story of four African-American men who were falsely accused, in 1949, of raping a seventeen year-old farm girl. Thurgood Marshall, then the special counsel with the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund, represented the Groveland Boys and took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately overturned the guilty verdicts. The Court's decision led to a wave of violence and murder in central Florida, (including the shooting of two defendants, one fatally) and Marshall continued with the retrial under constant death threats. During his research, King gained access to the FBI's extensive and unredacted files from the case, which had been sealed for 60 years. He was also granted permission to view the Legal Defense Fund's files from the Groveland case. The Pulitzer Prize cited it as "a richly detailed chronicle of racial injustice in the Florida town of Groveland in 1949, involving four black men falsely accused of rape and drawing a civil rights crusader, and eventual Supreme Court justice, into the legal battle."[1] Thomas Friedman of The New York Times called it "must-read, cannot-put-down history" and Pulitzer-winning novelist Junot Diaz called it "superb". The Christian Science Monitor noted that "King's style, at once suspenseful and historically meticulous, advances the facts of the Groveland case while simultaneously weaving together details from Marshall's professional rise within the NAACP and his home life in Harlem ... Devil is a compelling look at the case that forged Thurgood Marshall's perception of himself as a crusader for civil rights ... The story of the Thurgood Marshall and his Groveland Boys reminds us that man's capacity for evil may be deep, but so is his capacity for change."[8] Booklist called it "Gripping ... Lively and multidimensional"[9] and it received a starred review from Kirkus, which called it "[a] thoroughgoing study of one of the most important civil-rights cases argued by Thurgood Marshall in dismantling Jim Crow strictures. ... Deeply researched and superbly composed."[10] Devil in the Grove has also been nominated for The Chautauqua Prize, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime.

Lionsgate has acquired the film rights and the project is deemed "high priority".[11]


  1. ^ a b c "The 2013 Pulitzer Prize Winners: General Nonfiction". The Pulitzer Prizes. 2013. Retrieved August 30, 2013.  With short biography and publisher's description.
  2. ^ [1].
  3. ^ [2].
  4. ^ "Making a Name by Uncovering a Lost Case". The New York Times. 2008. Retrieved August 31, 2013. 
  5. ^ "The execution of Willie Francis". Library Journal. February 1, 2008. Retrieved August 31, 2013.  Archived at
  6. ^ "Gilbert King". NPR Books ( Retrieved August 31, 2013.  One entry dated April 14, 2008.
  7. ^ "Booklist Review: The Execution of Willie Francis {...}". Booklist ( 2008. Retrieved August 31, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Devil in the Grove" (review, page 2). Meredith Bennett-Smith. The Christian Science Monitor. March 7, 2012. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  9. ^ "Booklist Review: Devil in the Grove {...}". Booklist ( 2012. Retrieved August 31, 2013. 
  10. ^ "DEVIL IN THE GROVE {...} by Gilbert King". Kirkus Reviews. December 1, 2011. Retrieved August 31, 2013. 
  11. ^ Mike Fleming, Jr. (June 17, 2013). "Lionsgate Acquires Pulitzer Prize Winner ‘Devil In The Grove’; Seminal Civil Rights Case For Thurgood Marshall". Deadline Hollywood ( Retrieved August 31, 2013. 

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