Welcome to the Mississippi Writers Page Newsletter
The following events all happened during this week in Mississippi history.
1881: Novelist Stark Young was born in Como, Mississippi. (Oct. 11)
1890: Physician, lawyer, and historian Reuben Davis died of apoplexy in Huntsville, Alabama, while traveling to promote his book Recollections of Mississippi and Mississippians. (Oct. 14)
1903: Novelist James Street was born in Lumberton, Mississippi. (Oct. 15)
1913: Theologian Lee A. Belford was born in Savannah, Georgia. (Oct. 14)
1917: Poet and educator Bessye Tobias Turner was born in Liberty, Mississippi. (Oct. 10)
1920: Psychologist Wilse B. Webb was born in Hollandale, Mississippi. (Oct. 13)
1922: Writer Thomas Hal Phillips was born on a farm near Corinth, Mississippi. (Oct. 11)
1922: Novelist Borden Deal was born in Pontotoc, Mississippi. (Oct. 12)
1925: Journalist Jack Nelson was born in Talladega, Alabama. (Oct. 11)
1931: Journalist and editor William Hodding Carter married Betty Werlein. (Oct. 14)
1934: William Faulkner published Retreat in the Saturday Evening Post. (Oct. 13)
1934: Historian John R. Skates was born in Sharkey County, Mississippi. (Oct. 14)
1935: Newspaper columnist William Raspberry was born in Okolona, Mississippi. (Oct. 12)
1937: Childrens book writer Helen H. King was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi. (Oct. 15)
1943: Novelist Frederick Barthelme was born in Houston, Texas. (Oct. 10)
1943: Sociologist Joyce A. Ladner was born in Battles, Mississippi. (Oct. 12)
1946: Poet and educator Claire T. Feild was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi. (Oct. 11)
1955: William Faulkners Big Woods was published by Random House. (Oct. 14)
1964: The Shoe Bird, by Eudora Welty, was published by Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., New York. (Oct. 14)
1982: The Wake of Jamey Foster, a two-act play by Beth Henley, opened on Broadway at the Eugene ONeill Theatre. (Oct. 14)
1994: Poet and historian Eddie Gathings McNail died in La Feria, Texas. (Oct. 10)
1995: Librarian and medical writer Thomas Edward Keys died in Rochester, Minnesota. (Oct. 11)
1998: Impossible Marriage, by Beth Henley, opened on Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre in New York, starring Holly Hunter and directed by Stephen Wadsworth. (Oct. 15)
2002: Historian Stephen E. Ambrose died in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, from lung cancer, at the age of 66. (Oct. 13)
Eudora Weltys house in Jackson, Miss., to become museum
Oct. 13, 2003
By Gary Pettus, The Clarion-Ledger
Editors note: This article originally appeared in the Oct. 3, 2003, issue of The Clarion-Ledger.
JACKSON, Miss. — Stepping through Eudora Weltys front door is like walking into your grandmothers house, assuming your grandmother wrote like an angel and won the Pulitzer Prize.
Or came across an owl in her refrigerator.
Although Welty died two years ago at 92, a gentlewomans aura still occupies the rooms of 1119 Pinehurst St. in the smell of old books and fine wood, in the sound of creaking stairs, in the soft glow of the pale blue walls in the bedroom where she wrote.
Like a good and wise grandmother, Welty willed her letters, her garden, her books and her 78-year-old home in Jacksons Belhaven neighborhood to her rightful heirs: everyone.
The executor, more or less, is the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, which is working to restore and preserve her legacy.
Although her garden will open April 3, it will be summer 2005, or so its hoped, when Weltys home, along with correspondence from fans, friends, fellow authors and celebrities is unveiled to scholars and the public.
“We want it to look as if Eudora just walked out the door,” says Mary Alice White, Weltys niece and director of the Welty House.
The endeavor to turn the chocolate-brown, Tudor-style home into a literary museum received a boost last week with the awarding of a $251,000 federal Save Americas Treasures grant. Archives and History will match it with a portion of $700,000 in bond money from the state Legislature.
Prospective visitors to the home will be glad to hear that this money will pay for, among other things, central air, which Welty herself pooh-poohed.
“She didnt think she needed it,” White says. “She wasnt that hot.”
The house Weltys father built will be furbished also with new wiring, plumbing, a stabilized foundation and more. A visitors center set to be built on adjacent property will display, among other items, Weltys awards and honors — a show of pride she shunned in her home.
“We found her Pulitzer Prize inside a corrugated storage box she kept in a closet,” White says.
Welty preferred to show off such items as a dancing-bear vase she brought back from Italy and had transformed into a lamp.
“She had no need to make an impression,” says Suzanne Marrs, a Welty scholar and the authors longtime friend.
“The house is a warm and open and engaging place, just as she was a warm and open and engaging person.
“When visitors are able to go into the house, theyre going to see the books she read, the art she hung on the walls, the vase she brought back from Italy.
“Theyll see photographs of her friends. It will be like having a conversation with Eudora Welty.”
Welty, who also was an accomplished photographer, left books, letters, manuscripts and photos to the state. White and her sister, Elizabeth Thompson, donated the homes remaining contents.
Much of the valued records of her life have already been collected and cataloged.
Before inventory began, White calculated that there were some 5,000 books shelved in the Welty home, “not counting the ones scattered around the house.”
The writers rooms were like short stories, and her books were the themes. In the living room, for instance, are books of fiction, travel and art.
The kitchen, of course, has cookbooks but also holds another literary claim: This is where, in a fit of disappointment, Welty used the wood-burning stove to set fire to the only existing manuscript of her Petrified Man, after two publishers rejected it and just three weeks before one asked her to submit it again.
“She had to recreate it from memory,” White says.
During the Depression, when Weltys mother ran the house, the books shared rooms with boarders, including an eccentric naturalist with a penchant for fauna of a sinister bent.
“It wasnt unusual to find an owl in the refrigerator,” White says.
Besides owls and books, the rooms held letters. No one knows how many yet.
Lil McKinnon-Hicks does know this: “The box from which I take these letters is a magic replenishing box.”
McKinnon-Hicks is one of 16 Junior League of Jackson volunteers who, along with 12 Millsaps College students, are cataloging or inventorying correspondence or books.
“Many of these letters to Miss Welty were beautifully written,” she says. And not just those by the likes of Robert Penn Warren, Katherine Anne Porter, Roger Mudd and James Thurber. There are many valiant, if self-conscious efforts, from lesser-known fans and friends.
“Reading them, I wonder, is this the style this person writes in?” says McKinnon-Hicks. “Or have they read Miss Weltys works and, in this case, developed a nice, slow pace and Southern cadence, weaving in all these charming anecdotes?
“You want to curl up with a cup of coffee and read them.”
The letters, it seems, tell as much about the recipient as the sender. Maybe more.
“Theres one addressed to Eudora Welty, The Brown House, Jackson, Miss.,” McKinnon-Hicks says. “What more do you need to say?”
“Weltys childhood garden to grow, bloom once again.” The Clarion-Ledger (3 Oct. 2003)
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October 16: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 5:30 p.m.
Best-selling crime writer Elmore Leonard will sign at Square Books and appear on Thacker Mountain Radio as part of his visit to the University of Mississippi, sponsored by the John and Renée Grisham Visiting Writers Series. For more information, visit www.squarebooks.com.
October 16: Johnson Commons Ballroom, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi, 7:00 p.m.
Elmore Leonard, author of more than 30 novels (including Bandits, Get Shorty, and Tishomingo Blues), numerous film and television productions, essays and commentaries, will read and talk about his career. For more information on Leonard, visit www.elmoreleonard.com/. Elmore Leonards new book, When the Women Come Out to Dance, is to be published in November 2003. Johnson Commons Ballroom, The University of Mississippi, 7 p.m. Sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writers Series and the Department of English at the University of Mississippi.
October 27-Feb. 29, 2004: National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.
Passionate Observer: Photographs by Eudora Welty, highlighting over 50 of Welty’s black-and-white photographs from the 1930s, will be exhibited at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. For more details, visit the museum web site at www.nmwa.org.
If you know of upcoming literary events by or about Mississippi writers, please let us know by writing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following events are planned for the coming weeks and months. You may wish to begin planning now to attend or participate.
February 12, 2004
Reading and lecture by Richard Ford. Johnson Commons Ballroom, The University of Mississippi, 7 p.m. Sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writers Series and the Department of English at the University of Mississippi.
If you know of additional news items for this newsletter or if you have suggestions, please write us at email@example.com.
For more information about events in the Oxford and University of Mississippi
community, see the Ole Miss Community Calendar: