[Mississippi History Newsletter Online.]

A MDAH Publication  |  Volume 43 No. 9  |  September 2001

Eudora Welty, 1909-2001

Throughout her life Eudora Welty shared her gifts and her spirit with her home town and with the world. In 1957, with her first contribution of manuscripts and papers, she began an association with the Department of Archives and History that was to enrich the community and the state even further-the Department was honored to become a working repository, to preserve her work and to make materials available to the public for use in remarkable exhibitions, programs, and publications.

Charlotte Capers was then director of the Department of Archives and History and Welty's close friend. Using her vision and foresight-and incomparable charm-she persuaded Welty to deposit her papers in the Archives and that sooner was better than later. Thus in mid-career, before she had written much of her major work, Welty invested the raw materials of her life's work, along with her trust, in the Department, establishing a relationship that would last forty-six years and produce the Eudora Welty Collection, one of the most significant archival collections in the world.

In 1984 Welty deeded her home to the Department, which is now working, with the assistance and financial support of the Eudora Welty Foundation, to establish it as a literary house museum that will interpret her life and work to visitors from around the world. The following chronology notes selected events during the Welty years at the Archives:

1956 A Ponder Heart is produced at the Little Theatre, Jackson, with Charlotte Capers in the role of Edna Earle.

1957 Welty presents first gift of manuscripts and photographs to MDAH. Charlotte Capers comments, "These pictures have been exhibited in New York and now will be exhibited at the Old Capitol."

1960s Welty inspects new MDAH building with friend Reynolds Price. She publishes civil rights stories "Where is the Voice Coming From" and "The Demonstrators" plus The Shoe Bird, a children's book.

1970 Losing Battles is published, winning the National Book Award. The manuscript is exhibited at the Old Capitol during the Mississippi Arts Festival.

1971 One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depression, featuring photographs Welty made while traveling for the WPA, is published by University Press of Mississippi.

1972 The Optimist's Daughter is published, winning the Pulitzer Prize. Welty is awarded Gold Medal of Fiction, National Institute of Arts and Letters.

1974 A Pageant of Birds, Welty's essay and photographs on rituals at the Farish Street Baptist Church, Jackson, is published by Albondaconi Press; Welty headlines Mississippi Historical Society annual meeting in Jackson as banquet speaker.

1977 Welty, an exhibition of photographs, opens at the Old Capitol, with ccompanying catalog edited by Patti Carr Black, museum director. 1978 The Eye of the Story, a volume of essays, is published.

1980 Welty publishes Collected Stories, is awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter, and participates in the inaguration of William Winter as governor in the Old Capitol. Twenty Photographs is published by Palaemon Press.

1982 World premiere in Jackson of comic opera production, The Ponder Heart. The first volume of Mississippi Writers Talking, featuring interviews with Welty by MDAH oral historian John Jones, is published by University Press of Mississippi.

1983 Welty's works adapted to the stage are featured in the Old Capitol exhibition Mississippi on Broadway.

1984 Welty publishes her One Writer's Beginnings and reads from it at the Old Capitol to to an overflow crowd. The exhibition Eudora at the Old Capitol and accompanying catalog serve as illustration to the memoir.

1984 Welty's work is the subject of the annual Southern Literary Festival, with sessions on the Welty Collection.

1985-86 "A Year with Welty: A Scholar-in-Residence Program": scholar Suzanne Marrs produces a radio program series, visits fifteen schools and twenty libraries, and reorders the expanding Welty Collection (program sponsored by MDAH and funded by MHC). Hardin Foundation places copies of Welty stories in public school libraries.

1986 Welty deeds to MDAH her Pinehurst Street home. MDAH Board adopts one of many resolutions of appreciation for Welty's continuing generosity. The BBC visits Jackson to film a special on Eudora Welty. BBC later donates extra footage to MDAH collection. New downtown Jackson public library is named in Welty's honor.

1987 Welty is awarded the French Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et Lettres medal in ceremonies at the Old Capitol.

1988 The Welty Collection, by Suzanne Marrs, a guide to the MDAH Collection, is published by University Press of Mississippi.

1989 Photographs, a book of about 250 Welty photographs in the MDAH collection, is published by University Press of Mississippi. At the Old Capitol, Robert MacNeil, longtime Welty friend, is the featured speaker for the publication event. Welty is selected to have a portrait hang in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution.

1990 Welty and writer Richard Ford share memories of their old school, Davis Elementary, on the school's 85th anniversary. Popular Eudora e-mail program is named for her.

1991 Author and Agent, Michael Kreyling's account of Welty's relationship with Diarmuid Russell, is published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

1992 Diogenes Editions, in cooperation with MDAH, publishes the limited edition Eudora Welty Portfolio, featuring eighteen photographs selected and signed by Welty.

1994 Birthday greetings are read to Welty and full house at 85th birthday celebration, Lemuria bookstore. Welty is on the cover of the MDAH Mississippi Writers Calendar I.

1995 Welty is featured in the Mississippi Writers Calendar II.

1996 Welty is awarded the French Legion of Honor medal.

1997 Home Places: 5 Photographs by Eudora Welty, a limited edition of five photographs, selected by Welty, is published by MDAH. Welty is the first living writer to be included in the prestigious Library of America series.

 

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Published by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History • Elbert R. Hilliard, director • Chrissy Wilson, editor
Please send correspondence to: MHN, P.O. Box 571, Jackson, MS 39205 or email to pubinfo@mdah.state.ms.us