I met him only once, in the spring of 2007, though in some respects I felt like I’d known him for many years.
Being a fan is like that.
I’d moved to Charleston less than a year earlier to take a position as a professor at The Citadel, the alma mater of James Oliver Rigney, Jr., the man the world knew as Robert Jordan. Indeed, it was in the biographical blurb on the back of his books that I first heard of The Citadel: for many years, his graduation from the institution was one of the only things I knew about the man.
Jim was already ill when we met. He’d announced his diagnosis of cardiac amyloidosis in the spring of 2006. But when I wrote him with an aim to establishing creative writing awards in honor of him and Pat Conroy (The Citadel’s other famous literary alumnus), he was kind and helpful. And in the spring of 2007, when we gave out the first awards to our students, he surprised me by showing up for the presentation. We chatted briefly. He posed for pictures with the award-winning cadets. I met his extraordinary wife, Harriet.