Born in Atlanta in 1923, Dickey attended Clemson College in 1942. He later received a bachelor of arts and a master of arts degree from Vanderbilt, where he graduated magna cum laude and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Dickey was the first living author inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors at Anderson College. Noted as a poet, critic, and novelist, Dickey is best known to the general public for Deliverance, a 1970 novel that later was made into a movie starring Burt Reynolds. Other Dickey works include prose poems entitled "Hericho" and "God's image." His book of poems Buckdancer's Choice won the National Book Award in 1966. Dickey died in South Carolina after a long illness in 1997.