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Anthony S. Abbott, 1935 – 2020

Anthony S. Abbott as a graduate student at Harvard, circa 1960

Anthony S. Abbott was one of those North Carolina writers who believed in, and enacted, the Network’s mission long before there was a Network. He brought writers together, and he seemed to do it effortlessly, instinctively. He knew—at a time when most of the literary world was still mystified by the myth of the “lonely genius”—that we write better, and are better, when we are in community; that any writing worth reading is an extension of ongoing conversations; that our words and works draw power from fellowship.

Tony was an accomplished poet, novelist, critic, and scholar, but this instinct and habit—what one writer called “his gift for friendship”—may prove to be his great legacy. He was the Charles A. Dana Professor of English Emeritus at Davidson College, where he taught from 1964 to his active semi-retirement. He received the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2015, and in 2020 entered the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. He served multiple terms on the boards of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, the North Carolina Poetry Society, and the Charlotte Writers Club. His books include the novels Leaving Maggie Hope and its sequel The Three Great Secret Things, as well as the poetry collections The Angel Dialogues, If Words Could Save Us, The Man Who, The Search for Wonder in the Cradle of the World, A Small Thing Like a Breath, and The Girl in the Yellow Raincoat.

Tony died Saturday, at the age of 85. That he was not able to enjoy his NCLHOF induction ceremony at the Weymouth Center, an honor and a place that both meant a great deal to him, is not one of this year’s worst cruelties, but it is a shame. He’d have beamed.

The staff and board of the North Carolina Writers’ Network offer our deepest condolences to Tony’s family and his many, many friends, as well as to the untold number of students and writers he connected and supported through the years. We will miss him.


Update: Tony’s obituary, which you can read here, gives the following information:

“A service to honor Dr. Anthony S. Abbott will take place at 2:00 on October 17 at Davidson College Presbyterian Church.  Because of the COVID crisis only family will be permitted in the sanctuary, but the service will be available via livestream, and the link will be available on the church website and distributed closer to the date.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Abbott Honors Program in English, Davidson College, Box 7170, Davidson NC 28035-7170; to the Davidson Community Players, PO Box 76, Davidson, NC 28036; or to the charity of your choice.”