Originally created 11/05/99

Famed authors lived nearby



It seems that every time someone takes a look at Augusta's literary heritage, the names of male authors such as Erskine Caldwell, Stephen Vincent Benet, Edison Marshall, Frank Yerby and Berry Fleming pop up. Although those great, late ties to Augusta certainly are worthy of praise and remembrance, equally worthy are many female writers with close ties to this area.

Many books referred to below can be found in the Georgia Room collection at the Augusta State University library, at the Augusta-Richmond Country Library or in the regional section of local bookstores.

OCTAVIA WALTON LE VERT

This granddaughter of Declaration of Independence signer George Walton is profiled in the fascinating and readable biography Madame Le Vert by Atlanta writer Frances Gibson Satterfield.

Mrs. Le Vert was born Aug. 11, 1811, in Augusta.

She spoke five languages so fluently that she conversed with Pope Pius IX in Italian and the Marquis de Lafayette in French.

When her father was territorial governor of Florida, according to her obituary, "she was invited, while yet a girl, to select a name for the future capital of Florida and chose the musical Seminole word Tallahassee."

Much of her fame as an adult came from Souvenirs of Travel, a book of observations that she published after an extensive trip to Europe. It made her internationally known. She also was a contributor to periodicals in America and England for several years.

Her life wasn't a bed of roses. 1849 saw the deaths of her brother Robert, 36, her daughter Sally, 8, and her daughter Claudia, 10.

During the Civil War years, her mother died in 1861, her father in 1863 and her husband in 1864. The people of Mobile, Ala., where she was living at the time, resented her prewar friendship with Northerners and Union Army officers and labeled her a traitor.

She lost all her wealth and eventually returned to Augusta with a single daughter to live with an aunt. She died March 12, 1877, and was buried in Walker Cemetery on the edge of what is now the Augusta State University campus.

RUBY LORRAINE RADFORD

When this native Augustan died July 19, 1971, at age 79 in her home at 1422 Johns Road, her literary output included more than 50 books of juvenile mysteries, adventures and biographies and several hundred short stories, magazine serials and plays.

Her first book, The Mystery of The White Knight, was published in 1927 under the pseudonym Marcia Ford. She was named Author of the Year by the Dixie Council of Authors and Journalists in 1969.

In January 1928, she co-founded the Augusta Authors Club with Constance Lewis and Dr. Lawton Evans. She became the group's first secretary, with Dr. Evans becoming its first president.

She once wrote of the occasion, noting: "At that time, Dr. Evans had several books in print, I had had one published and another scheduled for that year, while Constance's poetry still waited for printer's ink. ... There has been a rare spirit of fellowship and encouragement in this club with no professional jealousy. Everyone truly rejoices with others when they make the grade by getting a piece of work in print."

JEAN DeWITT FITZ

This Oak Park, Ill., native began writing fiction in 1945 after moving to Augusta with her husband, photographer Morgan Fitz.

She earlier had been an English teacher and bookstore manager and, during World War II, had been associate editor of R.N., a professional magazine for nurses.

Her articles and short stories appeared in such national magazines as Mademoiselle, Readers' Digest, Redbook and Family Circle. Her several books included The Graven Image, The Viper's Bite and The Devon Maze.

She funded a group called The Six to provide support and advice to Augusta's writers.

After her death at 70 on Nov. 11, 1982, the Jean DeWitt Fitz Memorial Fund was created by the Augusta Authors Club to provide financial assistance (prizes, scholarships and awards) for the annual Sand Hills Writer's Conference at Augusta State University.

REACH Don Rhodes at (706) 823-3214 or ramblin@groupz.net.