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The story behind the storyteller
Shirley Says
Some books of local author Buddy Sullivan can be found at the Richmond Hill Historical Society. - photo by Photo provided.
By Shirley Hiers

It’s not about what you say or even what you do that’s remembered – it’s how you make someone feel. People remember those who make them feel good and are able to teach them as well.
Some people are naturally likeable. Local author Buddy Sullivan is one of those. A native of Savannah and a fifth-generation coastal Georgian, he grew up on the tidewater in McIntosh County. Buddy spent his early years exploring the tidal creeks and inlets of the coast.
Living on Georgia’s coast greatly influenced Buddy’s writing. He explained, “Growing up in coastal Georgia gave me an early awareness of the uniqueness of our area’s history, especially as it relates to the waterways, boats, ships and the life on the rivers, creeks and salt marshes.”
Buddy has been a resident of South Bryan County since 1995. He went on to say, “I love the smell of the salt marsh. It is the essence of life.”
Thomas Marshall Hunter, Buddy’s great-grandfather, was the pastor of the Darien Presbyterian Church from 1894 to 1897. He was the first of Buddy’s family to live in coastal Georgia.
Buddy’s ancestral roots are in Charleston, S.C. They are from both his father’s and mother’s side of the family.
Sullivan’s Island in Charleston is named for Buddy’s ancestor, Florance O’Sullivan. He was the crown surveyor of the South Carolina colony when it was founded in 1670.
Buddy is a leading authority of the history and culture of coastal Georgia. He is the author of 17 books and is in demand as a lecturer on a variety of coastal historical topics.
In 2005, he received the Governor’s Medal in the Humanities from the Georgia Humanities Council in recognition of his literary and cultural contributions to the state.
I recently asked Buddy which author most influenced his work. He replied, “The late Malcolm Bell, prominent Savannah historian and a leading light of the Georgia Historical Society .He wrote the definitive book on the Pierce Butler family of coastal Georgia, their plantation slaves and their descendants.”
Buddy’s books include “Georgia: A State History,” the first new history of Georgia published in 30 years, and two comprehensive coastal histories, “Early Days on the Georgia Tidewater: the story of McIntosh County and Sapelo” and “From Beautiful Zion to Red Bird Creek.”
The latter volume, the official history of Bryan County, received the Georgia Historical Society’s Lilla M. Hawes Award for the best book in Georgia on local history.
His other publications include “High Water on the Bar: An Operational Perspective of a Tidewater Timber Port, 1870-1930,” which is the story of the coastal Georgia sawmilling and timber shipping industry in the late 1800s, and “The Darien Journal of John Girardeau Legare, Ricegrower” published earlier this year by the University of Georgia Press.
In addition, Buddy has written books on 19th century coastal Georgia agriculture, focusing on rice cultivation and plantation management. He is a major contributor to the University of Georgia’s online New Georgia Encyclopedia, as well as the UGA Press volume, “The New Georgia Guide.”
A professional journalist, Buddy Sullivan was a career sports writer for 15 years, covering major college football for various daily newspapers, including the Savannah Morning News.
Buddy was editor of the weekly newspaper in his hometown of Darien from 1985-1993. Since then, he has been manager of the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve, where he supervises and administers educational and scientific research programs for the state of Georgia.
Writer’s block is a condition where an author loses the ability to produce new work. I couldn’t resist asking Buddy if he had experienced this. Without hesitation, he said, “Nope, never have writer’s block – the juices always just flow.”
He added, “I love to write and also to talk, as I do a lot of lecturing and public speaking.”
I wanted to know what advice Buddy would give an aspiring writer. His response was, “Make sure of your facts before you write anything for publication. Research, research and research some more. Check and double-check.”
Buddy concluded, “Too much stuff gets into print nowadays that is totally off the wall and not even close to the truth because of lazy and inefficient fact-checking and verification of information.”
Buddy Sullivan was 30 years old when his first book was published. He shared, “You are never too old or too young to learn anything. You learn most effectively by reading and absorbing what you read.”
The most important part of each day for Buddy is his first cup of coffee and the morning newspaper, which he said he devours from start to finish. Afterwards, he does the crossword puzzle.
Buddy elaborated, “The written word is so essential to the quality of life. We are gradually losing an understanding of the significance of the ‘written’ word, I fear, because of our growing dependence on electronic media and all the electronic ‘gadgets’ in our lives.”
To unwind and relax, Buddy reads and researches naval history, especially that of Great Britain and the United States.
There is so much to learn and like about Buddy. I had so many questions. One was, “If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?” He answered, “Henry Ford, because of his profound influence on the industrial history of America and that of Richmond Hill and Bryan County, as well.”
My last question was: “If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?” In his usual affable manner, he said, “A Day Late and a Dollar Short: I Put Off Until Tomorrow What I Should Have Done Today.”
Shirley Hiers was born and raised in Richmond Hill. You can reach her at
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