Willie Drye

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Willie Drye
Willie Drye, photo by Doward Jones.jpg
Born (1949-10-22) October 22, 1949 (age 70)
Albemarle, North Carolina
Occupationauthor, journalist

Willie Drye (born October 22, 1949) is an American journalist and an author. He has won awards for his writing about the science of hurricanes and their social and financial impacts. He has published three nonfiction books, and is a contributing editor for National Geographic News. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail of Toronto, and other national and regional publications.[1][2] He also is a frequent guest on radio talk shows, and has discussed his work on WLRN in Miami, WUNC in Chapel Hill, and other radio and television stations.[3] His first book, Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935[4] and his work for National Geographic News have been cited in scientific studies of hurricanes and their effects on society,[5][6][7][8][9] legal briefs,[10][11][12] local emergency management planning,[13] science teachers’ and public libraries’ suggested reading lists about hurricanes,[14][15][16][17] and books and other publications.[18][19][20][21][21][22]

Personal life[edit]

Drye was born in Albemarle, North Carolina, and grew up in nearby Misenheimer, a small college town near Charlotte. His father, Claude Dry, ran a small grocery store and gas station adjacent to the campus of Pfeiffer University. Drye spells his name differently than his family because of a mistake on his birth certificate. His first experience with a hurricane was October 1954, when he went with his family to Long Beach, North Carolina, to help relatives whose home had been destroyed by Hurricane Hazel. The devastation from that storm—still the most powerful hurricane on record for North Carolina—made a vivid and lasting impression on him. He credits Davida Gates, his sixth-grade teacher at Richfield School, with sparking his interest in historical research and storytelling. He was a standout athlete, earning five athletic letters at North Stanly High School, where he won a local award for sports writing for the student newspaper in 1967.[23] He also was a volunteer firefighter for the Richfield-Misenheimer Volunteer Fire Department before graduating from North Stanly in 1968.

Drye attended Mitchell College (now Mitchell Community College) in Statesville, North Carolina and played a season of baseball there before entering the US Army, where he served as a medic. After receiving an honorable discharge, he attended Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina for one semester to earn credits needed for admission to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The late Reverend Matthew McSorley, OSB, a professor of English at Belmont Abbey, encouraged Drye to develop his writing skills. At the University of North Carolina, Drye studied under Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Philip Meyer, and later became a close friend of the late Jim Shumaker, a journalist and instructor at the School of Journalism. These two instructors greatly influenced Drye's later work. Drye also was encouraged to pursue a career in journalism by Mark MacDonald, who was city editor of The Chapel Hill News at the time. He earned a bachelor's degree in English from UNC in 1981

Drye worked as a reporter and later as managing editor for The News of Orange County in Hillsborough, North Carolina; the Macon (Georgia) Telegraph; the News and Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina; and the Stuart (Florida) News. Drye was working as a reporter in South Florida when Hurricane Andrew made landfall near Miami in August 1992. He was well away from the worst of Andrew's winds, but was fascinated by the power of the storm and astonished by the devastation it inflicted around Homestead and Florida City. He began to intensively research hurricanes. Drye's research on hurricanes eventually led him to the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, which became the topic of his first book. Drye married Jane E. Morrow, PhD, in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1992. In 1995, Drye wrote a letter to Mickey Mantle when he learned that his childhood hero was dying of cancer. Drye's heartfelt letter—one of tens of thousands the former baseball superstar received before his death in August 1995—was chosen for Letters to Mickey, a collection of 109 letters from Mantle's fans written to him after his battle with cancer was publicly announced. The book was published by HarperCollins in 1995.[24] Drye and his wife returned to North Carolina in 1997, and Drye began work on his book about the 1935 hurricane while living in Plymouth. He also became a contributing writer for FoxSportsBiz.com, a website produced by Fox News that focused on the business side of college and professional sports.


Drye's first book, Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, was published by National Geographic Books in August 2002.[25] The book, a work of narrative nonfiction, tells the story of the most powerful hurricane in US history, which struck the Upper Florida Keys on September 2, 1935, during the depths of the Great Depression. The storm's 200 mph winds and 20-foot storm surge killed more than 400, including about 260 World War I veterans working on a New Deal construction project building a highway between Miami and Key West. A political storm followed the hurricane when WPA administrators were blamed for not getting the veterans off the low-lying islands before the storm struck.

Storm of the Century was well received by reviewers, who praised Drye's description of the Keys in the early 20th century and his dramatic yet meticulously accurate portrayal of the storm's power. (See Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Orlando Sentinel)[26][27][28]

Shortly after the book's publication, Drye began writing about hurricanes and other topics for National Geographic News.[29] In 2005, Drye was invited to write an in-depth article about the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 for Tequesta, the scholarly journal of the Historical Association of Southern Florida. The journal is considered an authoritative source for the study of the history of South Florida.[30]

That same year, Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 was the basis for a two-hour (with commercials) documentary film, “Nature’s Fury: Storm of the Century” produced for the History Channel by Towers Productions of Chicago. Drye is the primary narrator in the film, which premiered in 2006.[31]

In August 2005, Drye launched National Geographic's extensive coverage of Hurricane Katrina with a series of stories for National Geographic News that examined the storm's immediate effects.[32] In the aftermath of Katrina, Drye was asked to write about Katrina's unprecedented devastation and the political fallout in the wake of that hurricane for The Washington Post and the History News Network.[33][34] He also was interviewed by newspapers seeking perspective and background about devastating hurricanes of history.[35]

In the years following Hurricane Katrina, Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, and Drye's reporting on hurricanes for National Geographic News have frequently been cited in scientific studies and local emergency management plans, as well as legal briefs and libraries’ lists of suggested reading about hurricanes.

In 2006, Drye was hired by Key West Magazine to write a package of stories about how Key West and the Florida Keys likely would be affected by a major hurricane.[36] Those stories won a first place Charlie Award for Public Service from the Florida Magazine Association in 2007. That same year, Drye was recognized for his work by the General Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina when the association's magazine, the Carolina Alumni Review, published a brief profile about him.[37]

Drye was a consultant for author Jennifer Holm when she was writing Turtle in Paradise, a children's novel set in Key West in 1935. The novel's characters are caught in the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. Drye advised Holm about details of the storm and reviewed portions of the novel for accuracy. Turtle in Paradise was published in 2010 and was named a Newbery Honor Book and won the Golden Kite Award.

That same year, on the 75th anniversary of the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, VFW Magazine hired Drye to write about the storm for its 1.3 million subscribers.[38]

In 2011, author Michael Koryta cited Drye's Storm of the Century as one of his inspirations for his novel, The Cypress House.[39]

Drye's second book, Images of America: Plymouth and Washington County,[40] was published by Arcadia Publishing in 2014. The book tells the story, in pictures, of a region in northeastern North Carolina whose history dates back to the earliest days of American history.

His third book, For Sale—American Paradise: How Our Nation Was Sold an Impossible Dream in Florida,[41] was published by Lyons Press in 2015.[42] The book tells the story of the colorful, tragicomic Florida Land Boom of the 1920s, when millions of Americans—including well-known politicians, entertainers, movie stars, athletes and Wall Street investors—flocked to Florida seeking instant wealth. The book was praised by reviewers, including Publisher's Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, The Florida Times-Union, and others.[43][44][45][46] In 2016, the book won a Silver Medal for Best Nonfiction- Southeast Region, from the Independent Publisher Book Awards (also known as the IPPY Awards)[47]

Drye also produces a blog, Drye Goods, an eclectic collection of essays about topics of personal interest such as baseball and other sports, the Civil War, hurricanes, popular culture, and other topics.[48]

Drye and his wife live in Wilmington, North Carolina. He is represented by the Jeanne Fredericks Literary Agency of New Canaan, Connecticut, and by managing partner Bill Hawkins of Straight Arrow PR of Dunedin, Florida.

Awards and achievements[edit]

  • 1993: Scripps Howard award for reporting, Stuart News, Stuart, Florida
  • 1995: Scripps Howard award for reporting, Stuart News, Stuart, Florida
  • August 2002: Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, published by National Geographic[13]
  • 2006: A documentary film, “Nature’s Fury: Storm of the Century,” based on Drye's first book, premiered on the History Channel, with Drye appearing as the film's lead narrator. The film was produced by Towers Productions of Chicago.
  • 2007: Charles S. Roberts (informally, Charlie Award) for Public Service, first place, from Florida Magazine Association
  • 2014: Images of America: Plymouth and Washington County, published by Arcadia Publishing
  • 2015: For Sale—American Paradise: How Our Nation Was Sold an Impossible Dream in Florida published by Lyons Press
  • 2015: Files and documents compiled for Storm of the Century added to collection of Florida Keys History and Discovery Center in Islamorada, Florida. An exhibit about Drye's work is planned for display in the museum.
  • 2016: Silver Medal for Best Nonfiction, Southeast Region, for For Sale—American Paradise, from the Independent Publisher Book Awards (also known as an IPPY Award)
  • 2016: Included on the North Carolina Literary Map for New Hanover, Orange, Stanly and Washington counties


  1. ^ "The Eyes of the Storm". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  2. ^ The Great Unknowns". The Washington Post. 11 September 2005. Retrieved 2017-02-02.
  3. ^ "The Origin Story of the Sunshine State". WUNC. May 5, 2016. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  4. ^ Drye, Willie (2002). Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. ISBN 9780792280101.
  5. ^ "A Reanalysis of the 1931 to 1943 Atlantic Hurricane Database" (PDF). Aoml.noaa.gov. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  6. ^ "Epidemiology of Tropical Cyclones: The Dynamics of Disaster, Disease, and Development | Oxford Academic". Academic.oup.com. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  7. ^ "When Disaster Strikes: A Human Rights Analysis of the 2005 Gulf Coast Hurricanes" (PDF). International Human Rights Law Clinic, Boalt Hall School of Law. June 2006.
  8. ^ Ferguson: “Runaway Production: An Analysis of California’s Legislative Response to Film Production Incentives in Other States and Abroad;” DePaul Journal of Art, Technology & Intellectual Property Law, Volume 16, Issue 1, Fall 2005 (citation from downloaded pdf copy, “viewcontent)
  9. ^ Alka Sapat (March 2011). "Policy Learning and Policy Change : Katrina, Ike and Post-Disaster Housing" (PDF). International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters. 29: 26–56. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  10. ^ "In the Supreme Court, State of Florida, Case no. SC06-2494: Florida Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company, petitioner, v. Eugene A. Cox and Debra Cox, respondents" (PDF). Fall.fsulawrc.com. 2006. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  11. ^ "Island Silver & Spice v. Islamorada, Village, No. 04-10097-CIV-KING". Leagle.com. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  12. ^ Benick, Eugene: “The Flood After the Storm: The Hurricane Katrina Homeowners’ Insurance Litigation”; American University Boalt School of Law; Business Law Brief, p. 52, Fall 2007
  13. ^ a b "Books – Encinitas CERT". Enccert.org. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  14. ^ [1][dead link]
  15. ^ "Fine Print: Disaster Books: Hurricanes, Floods, and Tsumanis". Wcplfineprint.blogspot.com. June 19, 2014. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  16. ^ "Book List NATS 101 Weather & Climate". Atmo.arizona.edu. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  17. ^ "OneClass". OneClass. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  18. ^ Science Encyclopedia/JRank, Science and Philosophy Website/Meteorology; Hurricanes: A Reference Handbook, by Patrick J. Fitzpatrick; Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States, by Rick Schwartz: New Deal Or Raw Deal?: How FDR’s Economic Legacy Has Damaged America, by Burton W. Folsom; HurricanesPR Web Blog, “Labor Day Hurricane 2 de Septiembre de 1935”; “Extreme Climate and Weather Related Events Prior to the Advent of Significant Amounts of Anthropogenic CO2 to the Global Atmosphere” by Randall Carlson, Sacred Geometry, March 2016; Historical Traveler's Guide to Florida, by Eliot Kleinberg; "Slow Hurricane Season Helps Florida Storm Fund," by Ted Cushman, The Journal of Light Construction, October 21, 2013, "Indonesia's Role in Realizing the Goals of ASEAN's Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution," by David B. Jerger, Jr, Sustainable Development Law & Policy, Vol. XIV, Issue 1, Winter 2014, p. 70
  19. ^ "Climate of Florida. Introduction" (PDF). Docplayer.net. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  20. ^ Action, Mangrove (October 31, 2013). "events Archives | Page 20 of 34". Mangrove Action Project. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  21. ^ a b Tom Skilling (September 5, 2004). "Hurricane Frances: Adding to Florida's Labor Day hurricane history – tribunedigital-chicagotribune". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  22. ^ "Hurricane Destroyed Flagler's Railroad to the Florida Frontier". Orlando Sentinel. December 1, 2002. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  23. ^ Stanly News & Press of Albemarle, North Carolina, February 28, 1967
  24. ^ Mickey Mantle. "Letters to Mickey by Mickey Mantle – Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists". Goodreads.com. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  25. ^ Willie Drye (2002). Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. ISBN 9780792280101.
  26. ^ Drye, Willie (April 28, 2017). "Willie Drye". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  27. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: STORM OF THE CENTURY: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 by Willie Drye, Author. National Geographic $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7922-8010-1". Publishers Weekly. July 1, 2002. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  28. ^ "Deadly Nonchalance". Orlando Sentinel. September 1, 2002. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  29. ^ Maxwell, David (April 29, 2017). "Who Do We Call When There's a Big Hurricane? – National Geographic Society (blogs)". National Geographic. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  30. ^ "Nature's Fury: Storm of the Century". IMDb. October 1, 2006. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  31. ^ Willie Drye. "Tempting the fates : Bonus Veterans, the Florida Keys, and the Storm of the Century" (PDF). Historymiamiarchives.org. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  32. ^ "Hurricane Katrina: Complete Coverage". National Geographic. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  33. ^ "The Great Unknowns". The Washington Post. September 11, 2005. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  34. ^ Shenkman, Rick. "Interview with Willie Drye: Katrina and the Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935". History News Network. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  35. ^ Dallas Morning News, October 9, 2005 (No URL available)
  36. ^ "Key West Magazine June/July 2006 Page 4". Bluetoad.com. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  37. ^ "November/December 2007". Carolina Alumni Review. November 8, 2007. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  38. ^ "VFW Magazine September 2010 Page 2". Digitaledition.qwinc.com. September 14, 2010. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  39. ^ "Author Michael Koryta, 28, finds success spinning noir ghost thrillers". San Jose Mercury News. February 9, 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  40. ^ Drye, Willie (April 21, 2014). Plymouth and Washington County. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-1467121248.
  41. ^ Drye, Willie (October 20, 2015). For Sale —American Paradise: How Our Nation Was Sold an Impossible Dream in Florida. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781493018994.
  42. ^ "For Sale —American Paradise by Drye, Willie". Lyons Press. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  43. ^ Willie Drye (September 14, 2015). Nonfiction Book Review: For Sale American Paradise: How Our Nation Was Sold an Impossible Dream in Florida. Publishersweekly.com. ISBN 978-0-7627-9468-3. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  44. ^ "Booklist - September 1, 2015". Booklist-digital.com. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  45. ^ "Book review: 'For Sale: American Paradise – How Our Nation was Sold an Impossible Dream in Florida' by Willie Drye". Jacksonville.com. December 5, 2015. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  46. ^ "Robert Abalos Real Estate Report: For Sale American Paradise". Robertabalos.com. November 6, 2015. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  47. ^ "THE Voice of the Independent Publishing Industry : 20th Annual Awards". Independent Publisher. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  48. ^ "Drye Goods". Wdryegoods.blogspot.com. Retrieved May 3, 2017.