Alex Haley (1921-1992) was an American writer most famous for authoring Roots: The Saga of an American Family and ghostwriting The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Haley served in the United States Coast Guard from 1939 to 1959, during which time he became the branch’s first Chief Journalist. After the military, Haley became an editor at Reader’s Digest and conducted a number of high profile interviews for Playboy. He published Roots in 1976 after a decade of research investigating his family lineage. The acclaimed book was adapted into a mini-series the next year. Haley died in 1992 of a heart attack.
Haley’s time with the Coast Guard obviously had an effect on his development as a person and writer:
“You don’t spend twenty years of your life in the service and not have a warm, nostalgic feeling left in you … It’s a small service, and there’s a lot of esprit de corps.”