Artifacts Museums & Historic Sites

Ms. Welty Goes to Washington

Jarrett Zeman, MDAH Museum Division cataloger, brings us this post in an ongoing series about his work on the IMLS project to catalog, photograph, and create digital object records for MDAH’s Museum Division artifacts.

Eudora Welty had the pleasure of socializing with many of the 20th century’s most prominent writers and public figures.  In 1980, she added U.S. President Jimmy Carter to that prestigious list.  Carter awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.  The ceremony featured cultural icons such as Ansel Adams, John Wayne, Tennessee Williams, and Welty’s editor, Robert Penn Warren.

Welty’s Medal of Freedom, seen here, comes in the form of a two-inch white star set against a red pentagon, with a central blue disc featuring 13 gold stars. The medal is supported by a field of five gold eagles.

In his speech honoring Welty, President Carter lauded her contributions to writing and art:

“Eudora Welty’s fiction, with its strong sense of place and triumphant comic spirit, illuminates the human condition. Her photographs of the South during the Depression reveal a rare artistic sensibility. Her critical essays explore mind and heart…with unsurpassed beauty.” 

                Welty never displayed this medal inside her home, a testament to her lifelong humility.