Nancy Grace wrote her first poem when she was in the second grade at Heard Elementary School.
Like most every other 7-year-old author of her generation, it was self-published on Blue Horse notebook paper. The words were so wise beyond her years that her teacher, Clarabelle Bryant, questioned whether a child could have written it.
But Nancy swore on a stack of Bibles, and Bryant knew the little girl went to church next door at Liberty United Methodist, where her mother, Elizabeth, played the organ.
“All my grammar school teachers sat behind me in church, so I couldn’t misbehave,” Nancy said, laughing.
The amazing Grace family lived about a mile from the church and school. In the mid-1960s, Bevin Drive was a red dirt road with a tree growing in the middle of it.
“The bookmobile from the library would come out to the ‘rural and needy children’ and park right in front of our house,’’ she said. “I would stay in there all day and read. It was the first time I felt air conditioning. They would finally tell me I could check out all the books I wanted, but it was time for them to go back to the library. I would leave with my arms full of books.’’
Nancy majored in English and studied Shakespearean literature at Valdosta State. She had aspirations of becoming a teacher.
Instead, she became one of the country’s most high-profile legal analysts, known for her fiery, on-air demeanor. Over the past 20 years, she has anchored and hosted television shows at CNN, Headline News and Court TV.
She never stopped writing, though. Her fourth book will debut on Tuesday, Oct. 11. It is called “Murder in the Courtroom,’’ the third in her Hailey Dean mystery series. The character’s parents live in Macon. The others are a composite of names and personalities of people who have been part of her life.
Nancy has become one of those celebrity authors whose name is larger than the title on the cover. There are drops of fake blood — raised for effect — splattered across the front.
She has never murdered anyone herself, although she has killed off a few Blackberries from overwork. Her upcoming book release marks the beginning of a 12-day whirlwind, unmatched even in her busy world.
Her farewell appearance on her top-rated show on Headline News is on Thursday, Oct. 13.
I don’t want my last show to look back. I don’t want a party. I don’t want a cake.
Three days later, on Sunday, Oct. 16 (her brother Mac’s birthday), she will have a book signing from 2-4 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in Macon.
Then, on Sunday, Oct. 23, which happens to be her 57th birthday, her Hailey Dean character will hit the TV screen with “Murder, With Love.’’ It is an original movie on the Hallmark Channel and stars Kellie Martin, an actress best known for her work on “ER.’’
Nancy plays the role of a district attorney. She had no trouble getting into character.
The book is dedicated to her father, the late Mac Grace, who died four days before Thanksgiving last year.
She misses him dearly. They were very close. She wears his socks for good luck. He would cut them across the top so they wouldn’t “cord” his legs. When she travels, Nancy washes the socks in her hotel room so she can wear them the next day. She also has one of his white handkerchiefs with her at all times. She keeps it close to her heart.
Nancy almost died herself, nine years ago this fall. During her high-risk pregnancy — she was 48 years old — her twins were born prematurely on Nov. 4, 2007. One week after John David and Lucy Elizabeth were born, her husband, David Linch, rushed her to the emergency room with blood clots in her lungs.
Five years ago this month, she was a contestant on ABC-TV’s “Dancing with the Stars.’’ She and her professional dance partner, Tristan MacManus, reached the quarterfinals and finished fifth overall.
In many ways, her life has been a storybook. She graduated from Macon’s Windsor Academy, a small, private school that also boasts as an alum Jason Aldean (Jason Aldine Williams), recently named the Academy of Country Music’s 2016 “Entertainer of the Year.’’
After her fiancé, Keith Griffin, was murdered in 1980, she enrolled in Mercer’s Walter F. George School of Law. She was inspired to become a victims’ rights advocate after reading her sister Ginny’s copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird.’’
Her first job was with the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in Atlanta, the nation’s murder capital at the time. She was the first female special prosecutor in the office of longtime DA Lewis Slaton. She became a media darling when she would rush off in high heels to the studios of CNN to provide legal commentary.
Her life changed forever 20 years ago in 1996 when Stephen Brill, a noted writer, magazine editor and founder of Court TV, “courted” her as a sparring partner with O.J. Simpson’s lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, on a show called “Cochran & Grace.’’
She left for New York with her clothes, a curling iron and $200 in savings.
The rest is history.
She will leave without much fanfare.
“I don’t want my last show to look back,’’ she said. “I don’t want a party. I don’t want a cake. I will be like my mother when she was contemplating leaving the organ bench at church. She wanted to pack up her music and leave without a word.’’
Along with the new book, there are plenty of other new chapters waiting to be written. The possibility remains she might move her “crime and justice” platform to another television network. In two weeks, she will tap into her more than 2 million social media followers and launch a new website, crimeonline.com. It will feature Amber Alerts, missing person bulletins and continue her crusade for the rights of crime victims.
“People want to know my next move,’’ she said. “I’ve always been like a frog jumping from one lily pad to the next. I never know where I’m going to land, … but I land.’’
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism, creative writing and storytelling at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears Sundays in The Telegraph.