Craig Pittman, a 1981 Troy University graduate, Florida native, author and columnist for the Tampa Bay Times, has been named the Florida Heritage Book Festival Board’s Literary Legend 2020.
His acceptance of an award with a significant title like “Legend” has yet to fully sink in for the environmentally conscious nonfiction book writer.
“I still haven’t quite wrapped my mind around it,” he said. “It doesn’t seem real. I have a T-shirt that says, ‘Zora, Eudora, Harper and Flannery.’ To me, those are literary legends. I’m just the guy wearing the T-shirt.”
A former member of TROY’s student newspaper, the Tropolitan, Pittman has a career spanning several generations and innovations of the journalism industry.
“My fondest memories of TROY mostly involve working on the student newspaper with a bunch of smart, funny people who taught me a lot and made me laugh a lot, too,” Pittman said. “Through them, I learned what power words could have, and how the truth can scare some powerful people who don’t want to hear it.”
During his student heyday, Pittman was a witness to historical events while Dr. Ralph Adams was still chancellor of TROY, and through his career as a student made his mark early in the journalism profession.
“My favorite teacher was Judy Means Wagnon, who encouraged her journalism students to get the facts, tell the truth and never spell a name wrong,” he said.
Pittman, who has previously written four nonfiction books researching and investigating various endangered wildlife’s now has a fifth book coming out called “Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther.”
“’Cat Tale’ is the first book to tell the whole story of how the panther became Florida’s state animal and then very nearly went extinct in the mid-1990s,” Pittman said. “A last-ditch effort saved it from oblivion, but just barely. The panthers are magnificent animals, and the people who were involved in the rescue effort are fascinating characters — the grizzled Texas tracker, the female veterinarian who had to fight to convince her male colleagues that she was right, the biologist who went from defending panthers from destruction to finding ways to help developers pave over their habitat.”
Pittman’s books are examples of how reality can be just as interesting as a fiction novel when written well.
“I’ve wanted to write this story for 20 years, but I had to wait until I could get a good ending,” Pittman said. “I finally got one about three years ago.”
His book is now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other independent bookstores and Indiebound.