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Boozman Honors Literary Icon Charles Portis

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) spoke on the Senate floor to honor the life of Arkansan Charles Portis, author of “True Grit,” who passed away last week.  

“I want to take this opportunity to say how proud we are of Charles Portis and his legacy as an acclaimed writer and story-teller. My thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family as they remember and reflect on his life. I hope they find comfort in the fact that Mr. Portis has left a profound, lasting mark on Arkansas, as well as within our nation’s cultural and literary traditions,” Boozman said in his speech.

Below is Boozman’s speech as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, I want to pay tribute to an Arkansas veteran who was one of the state’s most famous sons, literary icon Charles Portis. Mr. Portis, the author best known for his 1968 Western novel “True Grit,” passed away on February 17, 2020. 

Born in December 1933 in El Dorado, Arkansas, Portis spent his childhood in southern Arkansas. He enlisted in the Marine Corps, serving as an infantryman and reaching the rank of sergeant during the Korean War before his discharge in 1955. Following his military service he attended the University of Arkansas and wrote for the student newspaper, the Arkansas Traveler. He graduated from the university in 1958 with a degree in journalism. 

After graduating, Portis began his career as a reporter, working first for the Arkansas Gazette and then at the New York Herald Tribune. Though he voluntarily ended his journalism career in 1964, he used the skills and tools he’d acquired as a reporter when he returned home to Arkansas and began writing fiction. 

His most celebrated work is the Western classic “True Grit.” This book chronicles the efforts of a Yell County teenager, Mattie Ross, along with U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn to avenge the death of Mattie’s father at the hands of a drifter. 

The novel incorporates distinct references familiar to many Arkansans and depicts life on the frontier in the what was then the “wild west.” It was later adapted into films in 1969 and 2010.

While it’s his most well-known work, Mr. Portis also wrote four other novels and several shorter works of fiction and nonfiction. 

During his career, Portis was honored with the Oxford American’s first Lifetime Achievement in Southern Literature award and was presented with the Porter Prize’s 30th Anniversary Lifetime Achievement Award. “True Grit” has been praised as “one of the great American novels.” 

I want to take this opportunity to say how proud we are of Charles Portis and his legacy as an acclaimed writer and story-teller. My thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family as they remember and reflect on his life. I hope they find comfort in the fact that Mr. Portis has left a profound, lasting mark on Arkansas, as well as within our nation’s cultural and literary traditions. 

Charles Portis had a remarkable career that will be remembered for a long time to come. Today, I wish to honor him and his loved ones and help celebrate his life. On behalf of all Arkansans, we celebrate Charles Portis and his notable contributions to our state.

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All Information was gathered from publicly available US Government releases. "§105. Subject matter of copyright: United States Government works Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise. ( Pub. L. 94–553, title I, §101, Oct. 19, 1976, 90 Stat. 2546 .)" http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=(title:17%20section:105%20edition:prelim)