Joseph Morgan, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of North Georgia, has been awarded the Georgia Author the of Year Award (GAYA) in the memoir/autobiography category for his book, "Blood Beneath My Feet: The Journey of a Southern Death Investigator."
Morgan said the moments before the winners were announced at the 49th annual awards ceremony were remarkable.
"I was sitting near Terry Kay, who has won the Lifetime Achievement Award, all of these other authors and some previous winners, thinking my writing wasn't good enough or worthy of an award, but deep down I was hoping to win," Morgan said. "This award is a big deal. I had no real expectations to win, and when they called my name I was in shock."
The prestigious award was created in 1964 and is the oldest literary award in the Southeast United States.
This year, there were 117 nominations for writing that had been published during 2012. A single winner is selected in each of 12 categories; Morgan competed against 14 other authors in his category.
Morgan's book details his life, from growing up as the son of an abusive father to his work as a death investigator in New Orleans and Atlanta. He retired from the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office in 2005 after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
For Morgan, the years leading to this point his life have held a lot of hard work, heartbreak and tears.
"Winning was a validation of my career, and validation as a writer. Everything has been worth it," he said.
Morgan writes in his spare time, but is generally found at UNG's Dahlonega Campus teaching classes in forensic science and death investigation based on the national standards he helped develop as a former death investigator. He has recently appeared on CNN and Headline News as a forensics expert in the highly publicized murder trial of Jodi Arias.
Morgan's colleagues in the Department of Criminal Justice are proud of his accomplishments, said Jennifer Allen, department head.
"I hope his success continues and he receives all of the accolades he deserves. I think this award is really only the beginning for him," Allen said. "When a reader connects with an author, it makes the book a stand-out,. a must read. That's what you have with Joe's book and that's why he's gained recognition as a new and upcoming author."
Morgan is working on a follow-up of his memoir, "He Shall Laugh," that includes many cases, personal stories and information left out of "Blood Beneath My Feet."
The GAYA award presentation is hosted by the Georgia Writers Association and was held at Kennesaw State University on June 15, 2013.