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Remembering Author Frank McCourt and His 2006 Visit to Springfield

World-renowned author and Pulitzer Prize winner Frank McCourt passed away Sunday. He was 78 years old and lived in Manhattan and Roxbury, Connecticut. In November, 2006, McCourt came to Missouri State University where he gave several lectures. KSMU’s Missy Shelton had the chance to interview him.

While a number of big name creative types have come to Springfield over the years: musicians, authors and the like, it’s not often they make time to speak one-on-one to local reporters. Frank McCourt was one who made the time. He’s perhaps best known for his memoir “Angela’s Ashes,” which was made into a major motion picture in 1999. The book and its follow-up "Tis" relate the story of his life. Born in New York City, McCourt spent much of his childhood living in extreme poverty in Ireland. As an adult, McCourt taught in New York City and he relates those experiences in his book "Teacher Man." In this excerpt from my one-on-one interview with him, McCourt talks about why he thinks his books appeal to people in places like Springfield. “The problem of poverty is universal. Family problems, universal. Alcoholic fathers, almost universal. Dying babies. And I think maybe there’s some kind of memory we have in places like Springfield of harder times. A lot of older people remember harder times when babies died of malnutrition. And I think younger people read in a state of disbelief that people could’ve been that miserable. Like my high school students couldn’t believe I grew up without a refrigerator or that I grew up without toilet paper. They couldn’t believe it. And then there’s the element in it of hope, that eventually we got out and came to America.”During our conversation, McCourt also talked about the need for society to show more appreciation and respect for teachers. Frank McCourt, a teacher whose classroom was the world died Sunday at the age of 78.

KSMU's report on Frank McCourt's visit to Springfield in November, 2006.