Late fantasy author
Net worth: $1.5 million (unconfirmed)
Robert Jordan, born James Oliver Rigney Jr., was an epic fantasy author best known for his book series The Wheel of Time.
Birthdate: October 17, 1948
Birthplace: Charleston, S.C.
Education: The Citadel
Partner: Harriet McDougal
Date of death: September 16, 2007
It’s hard to pin down what Robert Jordan's net worth was when he died of amyloidosis complications in 2007. Online reports estimate that his fortune was $1.5 million—but his success and legacy are certainly quantifiable by other means.
Even before Amazon breathed new life into the epic tale, Jordan’s books flew off the shelves. As of 2008, when Universal Pictures acquired the film rights to the series, the Wheel of Time franchise had sold 44 million copies worldwide, according to Variety. By 2019, after fantasy author Brian Sanderson finished the series, The Wheel of Time had sold more than 80 million copies, according to Tor.com. The franchise also expanded to computer games, trading card games, role-playing games, and comic books.
Jordan was a helicopter gunner and a nuclear engineer before he was a writer.
Born James Oliver Rigney Jr. in Charleston, S.C., Jordan grew up reading the stories of Mark Twain and Jules Verne, according to his obituary in The Telegraph.
During the Vietnam War, he served two tours of duty as a helicopter gunner with the U.S. Army. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with bronze oak leaf cluster, the Bronze Star with “V” and bronze oak leaf cluster, and two Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses with palm.
Once he was back stateside, he studied physics at The Citadel and became a nuclear engineer with the U.S. Navy.
He became a writer after realizing that life is “too short.”
As Jordan told SFRevu in 2003, he had to undergo knee surgery to fix an injury during his time as an engineer. Complications from that surgery almost cost Jordan his life. “They tell me I almost died, and I decided that life was too short,” he explained. “I had always thought I’d write one day, but I decided that it was time to put up or shut up.”
Jordan wrote across a variety of genres—and kept up a variety of hobbies.
Although he’s best known for his Wheel of Time series, Jordan also wrote the historical fiction novels in the Fallon Blood series under the pen name Reagan O’Neal. He penned the western novel Cheyenne Raiders under the pseudonym Jackson O’Reilly. Jordan wrote multiple Conan the Barbarian novels, later telling SFRevu that it was “fun writing something completely over the top, full of purple prose.”
According to The Telegraph, Jordan’s hobbies included fishing, hunting, sailing, playing poker, playing pool, and collecting pipes. In fact, after he revealed his amyloidosis diagnosis, he told fans in a Dragonmount forum post that he intended to get back to fishing after finishing his chemo and recuperation. “There will be big salmon running in Alaska at that time, and I never passed up a chance at big fish in my life,” he wrote.