Alexander Murray Palmer Haley was born on August 11, 1921, in Ithaca, New York, and he was raised in the town of Henning, Tennessee, a rural hamlet in West Tennessee near Memphis. After studying at Alcorn State University and Elizabeth City State College, he spent more than two decades serving in the United States Coast Guard, where he began writing in his spare time. His first book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), came out of a series of interviews he conducted with the civil rights leader for Playboy Magazine. His second novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family (1976), was a fictionalized version of his own family’s history going back seven generations. This book won a Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into a TV miniseries of the same name, which became the most-watching TV series of all time, a record that remained for decades. Later in his life, after speaking at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Haley struck up a friendship with John Rice Irwin (founder and curator of the Museum of Appalachia). This relationship lead to Haley purchasing a farm near the museum in Norris, Tennessee, where he spent much of the time during his final years. He also had a home in Knoxville. Haley died of cardiac arrest in 1992.