Armistead Jones Maupin (MAW-pihn), Jr., is a an openly gay novelist known primarily for his casual storytelling style and passionate desire to relate an inclusive portrait of the universal human experience. Born in Washington, D.C., in 1944 as the eldest of three children, Maupin grew up in the conservative environment of Raleigh, North Carolina, in the 1950’s and 1960’s. His family was descended from a Confederate general. Maupin’s father, Armistead Jones Maupin, was a leading southern lawyer who wished for his son to follow in his footsteps. While growing up, however, Maupin explored his early creative impulses by acting in local theater productions with his mother, Diana Jane (Barton) Maupin, an amateur actress. Armistead Maupin graduated in 1966 with a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina (UNC). Following his father’s wishes, he abandoned his study of English to enter UNC’s law school, but having failed his first-year exams, Maupin quit school and worked as a reporter at the WRAL television station in Raleigh with conservative senator Jesse Helms, one of the station’s executives. Maupin left the station to enter the U.S. Navy’s officer candidate school and served as a communications officer in the Mediterranean region. He then volunteered for duty in Vietnam, where he served with the River Patrol Force as a lieutenant from 1967 to 1970. For his service, Maupin received the Navy Commendation Medal. After the war, he organized a group of American veterans to return to Vietnam and build homes for disabled Vietnamese veterans and was subsequently awarded the Freedom Leadership Award and a Presidential Commendation from U.S. president Richard Nixon in 1972.
By 1970, Maupin had begun working as a journalist for the Charleston News & Courier in South Carolina, covering the military beat and writing an occasional feature article, but he left the newspaper in 1971 to accept a position with the Associated Press (AP) in San Francisco for a year. This move from the conservative South to the more tolerant and liberal West Coast proved to be a watershed in Maupin’s life. The atmosphere of tolerance and free expression he found in San Francisco encouraged him to...
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