Winston Groom was born in Washington, D.C., and was raised in Mobile, Alabama where he attended University Military School (now known as UMS-Wright Preparatory School). Groom's earliest ambition was to become a lawyer like his father, but instead, while a literary editor in college, he chose to become a writer. Groom attended the University of Alabama, was a member of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity and the Army ROTC, graduating in 1965. He served in the Army from 1965 to 1969, including a tour of duty in the Vietnam War.
Upon his return from Vietnam, he worked as a reporter for the Washington Star, a Washington D.C. newspaper covering police and courtroom activities. Groom retired as a journalist at age 32, and began writing his first novel Better Times Than These which was published in 1978. Better Times Than These was about a group of patriotic soldiers in the Vietnam War whose lives and patriotism both are shattered. His next novel As Summers Die (1980) received better recognition. His novel Conversations with the Enemy (1982) follows an American Vietnam War soldier who escapes from a POW camp and takes a plane back to the United States only to be arrested fourteen years later for desertion. Conversations with the Enemy was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1983.
In 1985, Groom moved back to Mobile, Alabama where he began to work on the novel Forrest Gump. Forrest Gump was published in 1986; however, it did not make Groom a best selling author until it was adapted into a film with the same name in 1994 starring Tom Hanks in the title role of Forrest Gump. The film propelled the novel to bestseller status and it sold 1.7 million copies worldwide.
Groom devotes his time to writing history books about American wars. He has lived most recently in Point Clear, Alabama. and Long Island, New York with his wife, Anne-Clinton and daughter, Carolina. Groom was an old friend of writer Willie Morris, dating to their days together in Bridgehampton, Long Island, New York.