(Hernando, MS) Frances McGuffey remembers teaching one of DeSoto County’s most famous residents in 12th grade English, and helping inspiring his interest in books.
"I never could convince John if he didn’t believe in something, and that’s good. Everything came strictly from his heart."
That’s John, as in best-selling author John Grisham, who, in what seemed like a mystery torn from the pages of one of his books, was a conspicuous no-show at the announcement of his important donation to DeSoto County Schools.
He’s giving up a complete set of his novels, all autographed and personally dedicated.
The schools will hold a huge raffle to raise money for the Brenda Ballard Foundation, which helps fund school debate teams.
”With this opportunity, we’ll be able to fund a tournament every year for many years to come and hopefully give scholarships to our winners,” said Emily Nelson, who is with DeSoto County Schools.
Grisham had a talent for debate and a reputation for confidence among lawyers who faced him in court.
"The first case I faced him in, I wanted to strangle him,” said Bill Ballard, husband of Grisham’s 8th grade teacher, who became a close friend and proofreader of the lawyer-turned-writer’s first book.
"I had no reason to think he was gonna get published because he didn’t have an agent."
Ballard gave Grishman many notes and guidance on his stories, and still has a manuscript of “A Time to Kill,” along with a letter to Grisham from none other than publishing executive Jacqueline Onassis.
Grisham’s persistence eventually led to huge success.
Grisham held his first book signing on a Hernando front porch, and throughout his successful career, his stories never strayed far from the traditions her grew up with in DeSoto County.
Those gathered at the announcement say Grisham’s donation will help find more like him in local classrooms.
"Who knows, we may have a young John Grisham in our competitors today", said Nelson.
Grisham’s senior English teacher said she thinks it's a good bet.
Does she think this donation will help inspire more John Grisham’s out there?
“Oh, I hope," McGuffey replied.