Reignald Neighbors Authors
Jamie M. Eubanks
JSU News Bureau
JACKSONVILLE -- July 23, 2001 -- Forty-three years ago, Reginald Neighbors was about to finish a degree in business at Jacksonville State University. But after an English professor told him he could be the next Hemingway, he set out to do just that.
Neighbors was born in the small town of Lineville in Clay County, Alabama and graduated from Lineville High School at 16. Only months later he and friend, Sanford Smith, were enlisted in the U.S. Army. And they were sent to serve in the Korean War.
Throughout the war, Neighbors kept two journals in which he documented every atrocity he witnessed as a soldier. These events included putting out a fellow officer who was on fire and seeing a little Korean girl thrown into a river after she was blinded by a bomb blast.
After the war, Neighbors came home to attend school at Jacksonville State University. There he was to receive a bachelor’s degree in business. But all that came to an end when he realized his dream.
“I thought I could be the next Hemingway,” says Neighbors. “And Nancy Olson, my English professor, encouraged me and said that I had a great talent.”
That was all he needed. Just short of graduating, he left school and went to New York. Neighbors then found himself on a ship to Europe, where he befriended a doctor.
Once in Munich, Germany, Neighbors forgot Hemingway when the doctor and his wife introduced him to a young German woman named Louise. He and Louise soon married and moved back to the U.S., where for 38 years they have lived happily in Mobile, Alabama.
But recently, Neighbors’ past came back to haunt him. He had a flashback from the War. He took out his journals and started writing again.
Now, fifty years late, he has written the “Great American Novel” like Hemingway. It is titled, Love and War: Korea to Europe. It is fictitious, but most of the events are based on Neighbors’ real experiences, such as the war scenes noted before and his romance with his wife.
“Finishing this book was like a spiritual event for me,” comments Neighbors with relief. “It’s special and only through divine intervention was I able to finish.”
Though it took him a lifetime to write his novel, Neighbors says the demons in his head are gone. By writing about his experiences as a soldier, he has found closure to coping with what he saw.
He has also received recognition for the book. He was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by the U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen and a Korean War Veterans Medal.
First Lady Laura Bush sent a thank-you to Neighbors for his book. The First Lady is currently working on a literacy program.
He has been traveling to local bookstores to promote his book. And on Saturday, July 28, Neighbors will be at Books-a-Million in Oxford to sign copies of his book. The signing will be from 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Neighbors is currently working on his second novel, which will include JSU’s International House.
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