The story of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler had captured the imaginations of millions of fans around the world. It left readers with an indelible impression of the Old South, the Civil War and the fictional city of Tara. So many people relate Tara to Atlanta and want to believe that the South has large plantation homes with feisty southern belles in hoop skirts. I was more impressed by the story of the author, Margaret Mitchell.
Born at the turn of the century to a very well to do society family, Margaret was what polite society would call a 'spirited' child. Precocious, smart and always pushing the limits. She was always giving people something to talk about. Her mother passed away while she was in college and she returned to Atlanta to care for her father and never went back.
From all accounts she was quite the party girl. But she had her own mind. She took a job in 1922 when it was not appropriate for women to work. She worked at the Atlanta Journal magazine as a staff reporter and it couldn't have been easy at first. Debutantes don't take jobs.
But she enjoyed writing. Her articles were cutting edge for the time and a bit racy. She got plenty of mail from readers indicating their displeasure. Bless their hearts.
She quit her job after suffering an ankle injury and millions of people are glad she did. It was during that time in 1926 that she started writing a novel called Gone With The Wind. She hobbled around her apartment on Peachtree Street, known as the 'Dump' waiting for her husband to come home from work with another stack of books for her to read from the library. He was the one that suggested she start writing a book instead of reading them all! She typed out hundreds of pages on an old typewriter. Occasionally she would stack the papers together to prop up the broken leg on her couch. And there in the 'Dump' she wrote her first and only published novel.
Margaret's best hopes when she was published in 1936, was that it would sell about 50,000 copies. She was besides herself when it became a run away hit. She won a Pulitzer and sold over 1 million copies in the first six months. Atlanta too, was besides itself in 1939 when the movie premier brought Clark Gable, Vivian Leigh and the cast to the city. Southern hospitality must have hit new levels downtown.
For the next 10 years Ms. Mitchell was too busy with book engagements and interviews. Being the famous author of a runaway hit has its privileges but it can be an awful lot of work. She never wrote a sequel and as fate would have it, she was run over by an off duty taxi cab driver and died
as a result of her injuries in 1949.
From all accounts, the people of Atlanta were devastated and people across the globe mourned her loss. Hugh Gravitt was charged with vehicular manslaughter and spent several months in jail. Upon his arrest it was found that he had 23 prior traffic violations. It was widely reported that he was intoxicated and speeding. This prompted the Governor to propose stricter licensing requirements for taxi drivers.
And for the past 63 years her family has protected the brand of Gone WIth The Wind
and Margaret Mitchell. The apartment building she lived in remained an apartment building until the late 1970's when it was abandoned and it wasn't until many years later that it was listed on the Atlanta Historical Register. There had been several fires and fundings and rebuilds. But the Dump is still there as a museum, nestled between the skyscrapers of Midtown.
This week, on the anniversary of her death, the Archdiocese of Atlanta
reported that Ms. Mitchell's nephew Joseph had be-quested them a major gift of a 50% stake in the royalties from trademarks and literary rights from Gone With The Wind. Mr. Mitchell passed away last year.
Another notable this year comes from the daughter of the driver, Hugh Gravitt. It appears that Mr. Gravitt's daughter has come out with a book of her own. It's an Ebook called the Death of Margaret Mitchell
, by Gloria Gravitt Moulder. After all of these years, she proposes to clear her father's name with a first account telling of the events that led to the tragedy; as told to her by her father.