KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The writer who introduced Knoxville to the national stage died Tuesday at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico of natural causes.

Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island but raised in Knoxville. He graduated from Knoxville Catholic High School in 1951. 

“He was someone who I think was active in the choirs, he was someone who’s a cartoonist for the school newspaper. He seemed to have a little bit of a humorous side that we don’t always see in his works,” said Nikki Mynatt, Knoxville Catholic’s English Department Chair.

Born Charles Joseph McCarthy, Cormac, wrote poems for his school paper before becoming a Pulitzer-prize-winning author.

Poem written by McCarthy in Knoxville Catholic High School paper in the late 1940s

After graduating from Knoxville Catholic, McCarthy spent two years at UT before dropping out to join the Air Force. 

UT Associate Professor of English Bill Hardwig has been working on a book about McCarthy’s writings that he plans to complete in the next two years.

“The first things he ever published were in The Phoenix which is a literary journal here which was housed in the English Department here at UT,” said Hardwig.  

McCarthy went back to UT after leaving the Air Force but never graduated. That didn’t stop him from writing 12 novels, 2 plays, 2 screenplays.

“He liked to write a bunch of different types of novels. I think that’s one of the most interesting things about him. He was interested in genre fiction. So some of them kind of feel like westerns, some of them feel like who done it crime thrillers, he’s written post-apocalyptic science fiction, and the early novels which were set in the Knoxville area were often called his Tennessee period and they were really based on the people around here,” said Hardwig.

It all started with a poem from a school paper. His final novels, The Passenger and Stella Maris, were published just last year.

More from reporter Kristen Gallant

His impact on Knoxville has been cemented into history. McCarthy’s semi-autobiographical novel “Suttree” described Knoxville in vivid detail. This book is the namesake for Suttree Landing Park on the waterfront and Suttree’s Tavern along Gay Street.

Mccarthy is a high school kid turned literary legend from right here in East Tennessee.