Back to One Writer's Beginnings

"I was getting along fine with Mama, Papa-Daddy and Uncle Rondo until my sister Stella-Ronda just separated from her husband and came back home," Eudora Welty reads in a rich, lyrical voice from her most celebrated story, "Why I Live at the P.O."

Now, thanks to the NEA, Welty's voice is home again.

At an August 24th news conference at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, Chairman Gioia delivered eight canisters of 16-mm color film of Welty -- a former member of the National Council on the Arts (1972–78) and recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1986 and National Humanities Medal in 1992 -- to former Mississippi governor William Winter, President of the Board of Trustees for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH). Mary Alice White, Welty's niece and Director of the Eudora Welty House in Jackson, Mississippi, joined Governor Winter in accepting the donation.

"It was Miss Welty herself who said, 'never think you've seen the last of anything,'" said Chairman Gioia. "I'm delighted to say she was right. These five hours of film represent one of the greatest literary discoveries of the last decade. We are proud to bring these films home to Mississippi and to support their preservation."

"There's no place in the world where this addition to the Welty Collection will be more appreciated or more properly taken care of than right here," added Winter.

The footage of Welty reading and discussing her work was shot in 1975 by filmmaker Richard O. Moore as part of an NEA-funded project and was excerpted in his 1975 documentary The Writer in America. The film reels had been stored at the NEA for more than 30 years and were rediscovered by the agency's Media Arts program.

According to Welty biographer Suzanne Marrs, the NEA donation is the earliest known Welty film of extended length, as well as the only one that captures the author at the manual typewriter where she wrote numerous literary classics.

MDAH also received a $10,000 NEA grant for the digitization and preservation of the film, which ultimately will be viewed by visitors to the Welty House.