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COLUMBUS: TENNESSEE WILLIAMS & EUDORA WELTY

Tennessee Williams - Clarksdale & Columbus, MS

Tennessee Williams

Eudora Welty - Columbus & Jackson, MS
Eudora Welty

I shall really have to go back South pretty soon and renew my acquaintance with some of our old home-towns such as Columbus if I am going to continue to write about them. Tennessee Williams in a letter to his grandfather Walter Edwin Dakin, September 9, 1946.

Tom "Tennessee" Williams was born in Columbus on Sunday, March 26, 1911, and baptized on June 11 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church by The Reverend Walter Dakin, his grandfather. Reverend Dakin became one of Tom's closest confidantes and a sympathetic ally against his indifferent father Cornelius Williams. Tom was the second child of Cornelius and Edwina Dakin Williams. The couple's daughter Rose, born before Tom on November 19, 1908, was tragically destined for a diagnosis of schizophrenia at age eighteen. Cornelius worked as a traveling salesman until 1918 when he took a job in St. Louis and insisted that his wife and

children leave the comforts of the Dakin household - then in Clarksdale - to be with him.

Rose and Edwina were models for characters in many of Williams's plays, notably The Glass Menagerie which the playwright described as "a picture of my own heart." Cornelius also has a counterpart in Menagerie: the absent husband and father. Before she settled on Cornelius, Edwina Dakin was a belle with many suitors in Columbus, a classic southern town with a current collection of two hundred antebellum homes. One beau, Gaius Whitfield, used his family mansion Gaineswood in nearby Demopolis to woo her, but he could not compete with the deceptive charms of Cornelius Williams, whose blue-blooded Knoxville lineage proved more attractive to Edwina.

  Edwina Dakin Williams reads to her children Rose and Tom (the future "Tennessee"). Birthplace of Tennessee Williams, now the Columbus Welcome Center.
Tennessee Williams  
 

Edwina Dakin Williams reads to her children
Rose and Tom (the future "Tennessee")

Birthplace of Tennessee Williams, now the Columbus Welcome Center

Tennessee Williams

 

Columbus is home to many distinctions besides its connection to Tennessee Williams. The Tombigbee River town served as a hospital refuge during the Civil War; thousands of casualties from the Battle of Shiloh were buried in Friendship Cemetery. The first state-supported college for women in America was chartered in Columbus in 1884: Mississippi University for Women. Columbus won the college with its support of women's education and its willingness to commit cash to campus development during the difficult era of Reconstruction. Eudora Welty attended "The W" and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium at MUW annually attracts authors and scholars of global prominence.

There I landed in a world to itself, Eudora Welty said of MUW where she discovered poetry and wrote for The Spectator, the campus newspaper. Indeed it was all new to me. It was surging with twelve hundred girls. They came from every nook and corner of the state, from the Delta, the piney woods, the Gulf Coast, the black prairie, the red clay hills, and Jackson -- as the capital city and the only sizeable town, a region to itself.

  St. Paul's Episcopal Church Welty Drive, MUW Campus. A house in Columbus, Ms.
 
 

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Welty Drive, MUW Campus

A house in Columbus, Ms

 

 
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