Georgia Writers Hall of Fame
by Leandra Nessel
2006 Inductees Anne Rivers Siddons and Dr. John Stone.
Dr. Ferrol Sams. chats with a guest before the ceremony.
Hall of Fame Board member and 2005 Inductee Terry Kay (L) and Board Member and The Georgia Review Acting Editor Stephen Corey (R) confer before the ceremony.
Ted Bazemore speaks on behalf of the Celestine Sibley family.
Joanne Bishop, niece of Caroline Miller, and Clyde Ray III, Caroline Millerís only surviving child, were joined at the ceremony by Margaret Quinlin, President of Peachtree Publishers.
On April 12, 2007, the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library welcomed a large crowd of approximately 150 guests to honor the 2006 inductees into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. Sponsored by the Libraries, the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame seeks to recognize Georgia writers, past and present, whose works reflect the character of the sate, its land, and its people. An induction class of five writers, which included two posthumous honorees, was the largest inducted since the inaugural class in 2000. Attended by the writers and their extended families, the ceremony was not only a chance for the Libraries to honor these writers but also a chance for families to gather and pay tribute to their loved ones. This year’s honorees include Caroline Miller, Celestine Sibley, Dr. Ferrol Sams, Anne Rivers Siddons, and Dr. John Stone.
Caroline Miller, 1934 Pulitzer Prize winning author of the novel Lamb in His Bosom
Posthumously inducted this year were Caroline Miller and Celestine Sibley. Miller, whose first novel, Lamb in His Bosom, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1934, was born in Waycross, Georgia and later moved to Baxley after her marriage. Accepting the award on Caroline Miller’s behalf were several generations of Ms. Miller’s family. Jackson Pafford Braddy, Miller’s nephew, introduced the remaining family members including Clyde Ray, the only surviving child of Caroline Miller; Mark Miller, Caroline Miller’s grandson; and Joanne Bishop who is Caroline Miller’s niece and who has become the family historian. All shared personal remembrances, recalling her as wonderful mother, grandmother and aunt and not really being aware of her celebrity. As Mark Miller noted, “She was just our grandmother.” Mrs. Bishop recounted the story of Caroline Miller’s trip to New York to receive her Pulitzer Prize. An unlikely celebrity, Miller referred to herself as Cinderella in her Pulitzer speech and was surprised to be greeted at the depot upon her return by over 1,000 Baxley residents in a “welcome home” parade. All of the members of the Miller family thanked the Libraries and the Board of Judges for the honor and for helping to keep Caroline Miller’s literary legacy alive.
Dr. Ferrol Sams, our second honoree, is a popular Fayetteville doctor, humorist, and storyteller whose novels and short story collections have earned him critical acclaim as well as commercial popularity. Dr. Sams was introduced by Shell Knox (BSED `66), a member of the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame Board of Judges, who referenced his biography from the New Georgia Encyclopedia by noting that Sams’ works “are rooted in the oral traditions of Southern humor and folklore” and that “With engaging and graceful prose, Sams’ fiction celebrates love of the land, the changing Southern landscape, and what he calls ‘being raised right’ in the rural South.” Upon accepting his award, Dr. Sams offered the audience a choice between serious remarks and absurd remarks. Famous for his hilarious anecdotes, the audience wisely chose the absurd, and Dr. Sams regaled the audience with a story that humorously illustrated the difficulties of capturing the Southern accent on paper.
Celestine Sibley, author, journalist, and syndicated columnist, reported for the Atlanta Constitution from 1941 to 1999.
The Libraries was fortunate to have a close friend and former co-worker of Celestine Sibley, our third inductee, to introduce her. Terry Kay, who was inducted into the Hall in 2005 and is a member of the Hall of Fame Board of Judges, worked with Celestine Sibley during her days as a reporter for the Atlanta Constitution, calling her a “colleague, mentor and friend.”During her 50-year tenure with the paper, Sibley wrote over 10,000 columns. In addition to her well-loved columns, she also published over 30 books between 1958 and 1997, two of which have been adapted for the stage at Marietta’s Theater in the Square. Turned Funny is back for its second season and Sweet Apple Christmas will debut in November of 2007. In his remarks, Terry Kay attributed Sibley’s popularity among her readers to her “rare ability to translate the history of moments into stories of remarkable humanity. She cared for the people she wrote about and the readers knew it. They saw themselves reflected in her writing.” Sibley’s award was accepted by her grandson, Ted Bazemore, who noted that although his grandmother was not a big fan of awards, she would have been honored to have been included among the other inductees and because the award honors Georgia’s history, its culture, and its people.
For the fourth honoree, the Libraries was again fortunate to have a Hall of Fame honoree and Board member and personal friend do the introductions. Pat Conroy and Anne Rivers Siddons met in 1973 at a dinner at the Governor’s house to honor Georgia writers. Unfortunately, Pat Conroy was not well enough to attend the ceremony, but sent his introductory remarks by his wife, Cassandra King, a successful novelist in her own right. Of Anne Rivers Siddons, Pat Conroy said that they “grew up as writers together” and that she “was as fine and good a woman as I have ever met and one of the best friends I have on earth.” Visibly moved by Conroy’s words, Siddons related a story from her early writing career of sitting inside a supermarket with a stack of books, watching customers go around her to get to the free sausage biscuits that were available. Finally, a customer stopped and said “You must need money real bad.” Siddons replied, “Yes ma’am. If you’ll buy one of these books we can both go home.” Siddons said that she wouldn’t have given you a “plug nickel [that day] for my chances of making it here” and called her induction into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame “the highest honor I will ever receive.”
Our final honoree, Dr. John Stone, was introduced by Hugh Ruppersburg, Professor and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Hall of Fame Board of Judges member. John Stone is a cardiologist by vocation and is currently Professor Emeritus of Medicine at Emory University in Atlanta. Dr. Ruppersburg, editor of numerous anthologies of Southern literature, paid homage to Dr. Stone’s dual careers as doctor and poet, noting that he has joined a distinguished line of doctor poets including John Keats and William Carlos Williams. Dr. Ruppersburg said “It is tempting, when one learns that a cardiologist is also a poet that he must be a poet as a hobby, as an avocation. John Stone has joined these two occupations together in a deep and meaningful way. He also quoted Dr. Stone himself who said “Poetry heals. Mozart heals. Beethoven heals. Picasso heals. Everything human has a possibility of healing if its applied correctly….The excitement of making the vocation and avocation one is what keeps us alive and prevents life from becoming dreadfully dull. Upon accepting his award, Dr. Stone chose to read two of his poems. The first, “Visitation,” is a moving account of a visit with his aging and forgetful mother as he shares with her his memories of his father, the only husband she has ever known, whom she has forgotten. The second, “The Bass” humorously recounts a fishing trip taken with his young son.
Following the ceremony, the writers and their families were treated to a celebratory luncheon from which the writers adjourned to vote for the 2007 inductees.
The Libraries were delighted to have so many wonderful writers on campus and to have an opportunity to get to know them and thank them for their contribution to American literature. We look forward to having everyone back on campus for next year’s celebration.
If you would like to obtain a DVD of the Georgia Writer’s Hall of Fame Ceremony, please contact Leandra Nessel at 706-542-3879 or at email@example.com. The cost of the DVD is $7.00. Please allow 10-15 business days for delivery.
To learn more about the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame and to read biographies of winners as well as current nominees, please visit http://www.libs.uga.edu/gawriters