VALDOSTA – A Nobel Prize winner, author and the son of a woman whose disappearance sparked one of the most notorious trials of the late 20th century in South Georgia is scheduled to be present Tuesday during the Lowndes County GOP meeting, according to party organizers.
David Hanks grew up in Morven. He created a South Georgia sensation about a decade ago with the publication of “The Disappearance,” the fictional account of what he and his siblings endured with the disappearance of their mother in Valdosta and the discovery of her murdered body several years later.
He has also written other fictional books, including spy thrillers such as "Black Waters."
Hanks bears the prestige of having been a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria team that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Hanks worked as an IAEA inspector in mostly European countries.
“The Nobel Prize was an affirmation of the work we were doing in the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons,” Hanks said in a 2011 interview with The Valdosta Daily Times.
Though fiction, “The Disappearance” was Hanks’ literary way of dealing with the childhood trauma of the disappearance of his own mother, Hellen Griffin Hanks. She vanished Aug. 31, 1972.
Like the characters in his book, David, his sisters and father dealt with the anguish of not knowing what happened to Hellen for years. The case was treated as a missing person in Valdosta. Some people suggested to the children their mother had run off.
In 1980, as land was being cleared off Indian Creek, a man discovered Hellen Hanks' body in a Wilcox Advertising Agency box. She had worked as a secretary-bookkeeper for Wilcox Advertising Agency. In 1981, E. Keller Wilcox was charged and later tried in Hellen Hanks’ murder. He was found guilty of malice murder and concealing a death. As the years passed, the case took many turns in court.
In 2008, as David Hanks promoted his book, “The Disappearance,” the real case returned to the headlines. After years of maintaining his innocence, Wilcox offered a confession, which led to his parole.
Hanks left the IAEA in 2009, he said in information sent to the Lowndes County GOP, and took a position at the Savannah River National Laboratory as a nuclear nonproliferation project manager.
"In 2011, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission offered me a post as a senior international safeguards analyst in Rockville, Md.," he said. "I currently work from home in Augusta, Ga., in that capacity."
David Hanks is scheduled to be at the Lowndes County GOP meeting, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, Austin's Cattle Company, 2101 W. Hill Ave. He will bring copies of his books to the meeting.