Ovid Williams Pierce Papers

Manuscript Collection #101
Pierce, Ovid Williams
Physical description
16.653 Cubic Feet, consisting of correspondence, clippings, genealogical data, literary manuscripts, books, articles, short stories, reviews, book proofs, biographical publications, and photographs.
Preferred Citation
Ovid Williams Pierce Papers (#101), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1876-1988) including correspondence, clippings, genealogical data, literary manuscripts, books, articles, short stories, reviews, book proofs, biographical publications, photographs.

Biographical/historical information

Ovid Williams Pierce (1910-1987) was born in Weldon, N.C., the son of Ovid Williams and Minnie Deans Pierce. He received a B.A. degree from Duke University and a M.A. degree in English from Harvard. In World War II he served in Army Counterintelligence in the Caribbean. After the war he taught English at Southern Methodist University in Texas (1946-1950) and at Tulane University in Louisiana (1950-1956). In 1956 he joined the faculty of East Carolina College. Pierce was the author of five novels: The Plantation (1953), On A Lonesome Porch (1960), The Devil's Half (1968), The Wedding Guest (1974), and Judge Buell's Legacy (1985). He also wrote numerous short stories which appeared in such publications as Holiday and the Southwest Review, and articles, stories, and reviews that appeared in a variety of publications. Pierce was awarded the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for The Plantation and On A Lonesome Porch, the North Carolina Literature Award in 1969, the Oliver Max Gardner Award in 1973, and the Brown-Hudson Award in 1982.

Scope and arrangement

Correspondence for the 1950s and 1960s reflects the development of Pierce as a literary figure. Of primary concern for the 1952-1955 period is the writing and publishing of Pierce's first book, The Plantation. Such subjects as the terms of the Doubleday contract, comments on the manuscript by publisher Lee Barker, publication parties, praise of the book by various friends and associates, congratulations on winning the Sir Walter Raleigh Award, correspondence on other aspects of publication, and audience reaction to the book are included. Correspondence for 1956 concerns acceptance of a teaching position at East Carolina College; an article in Holiday magazine on North Carolina; publication of a literary magazine, The Rebel, at East Carolina College; and correspondence with Louis D. Rubin, Jr., editor of the Richmond News Leader, concerning integration and the recent Supreme Court ruling. Correspondence in the early 1960s concerns Pierce's second novel, On A Lonesome Porch. The material contains information on the contract, the progress of the novel, the publication and sales of the book, reviews, and the receiving of the Sir Walter Raleigh Award in 1960. Also during this period, correspondence reflects Pierce's concern with finding adequate housing for the East Carolina College chapter of Kappa Alpha fraternity and the progress of a stage play based on The Plantation, being written by Dale Blair of Dallas, Texas. Correspondence for the latter 1960s pertains mainly to the writing and publication of, and audience reaction to Pierce's third novel, The Devil's Half. Other correspondence for the 1950s and 1960s includes invitations to speak for various groups and occasions, requests for information on Pierce's family ancestry, and information relative to courses and students taught by Pierce.

Correspondence in the early 1970s concerns Pierce's fourth novel, The Wedding Guest, including comments by Doubleday publisher, Lee Barker. Also included during this period are congratulations on winning the Oliver Max Gardner Award, correspondence from Mathew Hodgson of the University of North Carolina Press concerning the publication of Pierce's short stories, and letters pertaining to the Dismal Swamp. Correspondence for the late 1970s includes comments on a new edition of The Plantation, Pierce's retirement and his achievement of Emeritus status, congratulations on receiving the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Kappa Alpha Order, and congratulations, comments, and suggestions by George Bond on Pierce's manuscript, Judge Buell's Legacy.

Correspondence in the 1980s concerns the publication of Pierce's fifth novel, Judge Buell's Legacy. Included are comments and suggestions from George Bond, Sam Ragan of The (Southern Pines) Pilot, John F. Blair Publishing Company, and Moreland Hogan of Briarpatch Press. There is also criticism and a refusal of Judge Buell's Legacy by Louis D. Rubin, Jr., Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. Other correspondence includes an official notification for Pierce to receive the Brown-Hudson Award from the North Carolina Folklore Society.

Another large segment of the collection contains first editions of his five novels: The Plantation, On A Lonesome Porch, The Devil's Half, The Wedding Guest, and Judge Buell's Legacy. Other publications containing articles by or about Pierce include Holiday magazine (Feb., 1957), American Panorama, One and Twenty, Duke Narrative and Verse 1924-1945, The North Carolina Miscellany, The South Atlantic Quarterly, and The Southwest Review. In addition to first editions, there are two multilith copies of The Plantation, a French translation of The Plantation by Hubert Audigier, and a paperback edition of The Devil's Half. Biographical publications in the collection consist of a pamphlet entitled North Carolina Writers by Walter Spearman, two copies of the The Monthly Supplement (April 1954) of the Marquis biographical reference works, a pamphlet entitled Young Readers' Picturebook of Tar Heel Authors, the Fall 1967 edition of The Rebel, and the 1968 edition of The East Carolina University Report.

Uncorrected proofs and manuscripts constitute another segment of the collection. Included are uncorrected proofs of The Plantation, The Devil's Half, The Wedding Guest, Judge Buell's Legacy, and the notebooks and original drafts of Cabbage Green and Lost Boy Found. There are manuscripts for two short stories, "Old Man's Gold" and "For Rosa McGee" ; for a review of Thad Stem's "Animal Farm" ; and for a Holiday magazine article entitled "North Carolina." Also included are two original manuscripts of what later became The Devil's Half and correspondence relating to the work. Other manuscripts included in the collection are a typescript of the play, Run Slowly, O Slowly, by Dale Blair, based on The Plantation, and a corrected typescript of Old Man's Gold and Other Stories.

Copies of speeches delivered by Pierce are also included. Many are concerned with the fictional possibilities of the South, especially of eastern North Carolina. Others are "The Death of the Novel," "The School and the Town," and "The Language of Revolution" delivered in April, 1965. Also of interest are speeches on the character of Robert E. Lee, a July Fourth celebration at Fort Bragg, the Inglis Fletcher Hall dedication, introductory remarks for Olive T. Dargan and Francis Patton, and a welcome to Dr. Leo Jenkins as President of East Carolina College.

Reviews and clippings in the collection deal mainly with the publication of and reader reaction to Pierce's novels, and are arranged by decade. These include reviews of Pierce's novels, and Pierce's reviews of A Cry of Absence by Madison Jones and It Must Be Now the Kingdom Coming by Perry Lentz. They also include features on and interviews with the author, and items dealing with the awards the author received for his books. Other clippings concern Pierce's view ofeastern North Carolina, his family ancestry, his home in Weldon, and his participation in National Library Week observances. One group of articles entitled "Where can a Tolerant South Stand?" deals with Pierce's speech concerning the violent atmosphere prevalent in the South in the mid 1960s. Also included are numerous issues of The Duke Chronicle of October 1968.

Financial and legal papers include royalty and advance payments for Pierce's novels and short stories, insurance forms, bank statements, and statements of earnings from East Carolina University. There are also contracts with Doubleday Publishing Company and a certificate of copyright for Judge Buell's Legacy. Other items include unsigned wills of Pierce, a copy of a will for Rice B. Pierce, Sr., maps of Pierce property, and an auction flyer (1988) for the sale of Pierce's estate.

Family papers include a copy of Bible records concerning the ancestry of Minnie Deans Pierce, deeds to land in Halifax County, N.C., a Daughters of the Confederacy membership application, an historical chronology of Methodism in Wilson, N.C., and Minnie Deans Pierce's book club yearbook (1913-1914) from Weldon, N.C.

Biographical items include school memorabilia such as grammar school report cards, a high school diploma, a high school diary, and college notebooks and exams from Harvard. Also in the collection is an essay entitled "Epic Poetry" written by Pierce, which won a prize at the 1927 Halifax County Fair, and Pierce's first attempt at a novel, written when he was a teenager. Other items include numerous awards and honors, taped interviews, news releases, and an extensive photograph collection of Pierce, his home, and his travels.

Miscellaneous items include pamphlets, magazines, and new articles pertaining to the Dismal Swamp. Also included is a Macon Writers Club scrapbook, a book published by the Children of the Confederacy entitled Stories and Oft Told Tales of the Confederacy, and a scrapbook of typescript Civil War accounts and letters. The collection contains numerous magazines and pamphlets and seven scrapbooks pertaining to four of Pierce's novels.

Administrative information
Custodial History

November 12, 1969, ca. 650 items, correspondence, clippings, genealogical data and a literary manuscript.

December 29, 1969, ca. 350 items, correspondence; complete file of all books, articles, and stories written by the author; reviews; uncorrected proofs of The Plantation and The Devil's Half; typescript of dramatic adaptation of The Plantation; and biographical publications which include the author.

December 31, 1969, 115 items, containing correspondence, speeches, clippings, and miscellaneous.

February 24, 1970, 74 items, correspondence (1890-1967), manuscript of "Death of a Novel" speech, and miscellaneous.

April 14, 1970, 11 items, correspondence, a photograph, and clippings.

February 5, 1973, 4 volumes, scrapbooks containing reviews of Pierce novels.

September 6, 1973, 3 items, original manuscript and planning books for The Wedding Guest.

December 12, 1973, 5 items, a speech, a book review, preface to new edition of The Plantation, and miscellaneous.

October 10, 1974, ca. 200 items, photographs.

April 30, 1975, 132 items, correspondence (1969-1974).

September 25, 1975, (addition) 3 items, typescript and galley proofs of The Wedding Guest.

March 25, 1976, ca. 200 items, correspondence (1975-1976), The Wedding Guest scrapbook, speeches, page proofs for Old Man's Gold and Other Stories, and miscellaneous.

April 5, 1978, 10 items, page proofs for Old Man's Gold and Other Stories and copies of correspondence from Lee Barker (1960-1973).

March 31, 1981, ca. 500 items, papers (1925-1981), including correspondence, literary manuscripts and planning book for Judge Buell's Legacy, student composition books, literary manuscript drafts, clippings, and miscellaneous.

November 11, 1983, 55 items, literary manuscripts, correspondence, clippings, photographs, and miscellaneous.

October 25, 1985, 1 cubic foot, containing correspondence, photographs, and miscellaneous.

April 6, 1987, ca. 300 items, correspondence, clippings, photographs, speeches, literary manuscripts, and miscellaneous. Gift of Ovid W. Pierce, Greenville, N.C.

May 16, 2002, (unprocessed addition 1), 2 items; "Dies Irae," recorded by Ovid W. Pierce, including one audiocassette and one recordable compact disc copied from the audiocassette, (Time: 1:39 min.) undated. Donor: Ovid W. Pierce

May 7, 2003, (unprocessed addition 2), 17 items; Letters and post card (1938 - 1956) from Ovid Williams Pierce to his childhood and lifelong friend Kate Fenner Urquhart, dated Weldon, NC, 1938-1941, 1956; Miami, FL, 1944-1945; Dallas, TX, 1945; Rome, Italy, 1953. Donor: Molly Urquhart.

November 30, 2005, (unprocessed addition 3), 1 items, 0.053 cubic feet; Portrait (1974) of Ovid Williams Pierce, by Betty Petteway. Photographic print glued to matte. Black & white. Matted. Photo dimensions: 10.5" x 13.5" Matted dimensions: 16.75" x 22" 1 item 1 p. (ca. 0.053 cubic feet) Recd. 12/31/1999. RESTRICTION. Donor: Unknown.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Ovid W. Pierce

Gift of Molly Urquhart

Processing information

Processed by L. Sterlock; W. Grant, May 1988

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Related material

Ovid Williams Pierce Papers at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

Key terms
Personal Names
Pierce, Ovid Williams
Family Names
Pierce family
Corporate Names
East Carolina College--Faculty
East Carolina University--Faculty
Authors, American--North Carolina
Halifax County (N.C.)--Genealogy
Weldon (N.C.)--Genealogy

Container list
Box 1 Correspondence, 1890 - March, 1953
Box 2 Correspondence, April, 1953-1956
Box 3 Correspondence, 1957-1960
Box 4 Correspondence, 1961 - March, 1962
Box 5 Correspondence, April, 1962 - June, 1964
Box 6 Correspondence, July, 1964 - June, 1968
Box 7 Folder a-e Correspondence, July, 1968-1972
Box 7 Folder f Dismal Swamp Correspondence, 1971-1973
Box 8 Correspondence, 1973-1975
Box 9 Correspondence, 1976-1979
Box 10 Correspondence, 1980 - August, 1986
Box 11 Folder a-b Correspondence, September, 1986 - August, 1987
Box 11 Folder c-e Undated Correspondence
Box 12 Newspaper Clippings
Box 13 Newspaper Clippings, Issues of Duke Chronicle
Box 14 Contracts, Financial Papers, Wills, Maps, Family Papers
Box 15 Pamphlets
Box 16 Magazines
Box 17 Magazines
Box 18 Speeches
Box 19 Speeches
Box 20 Speeches
Box 21 Speeches, Macon Writers Club Scrapbook
Box 22 Reviews
Box 23 Manuscripts and Critiques: A Cry of Absence, It Must Be Now The Kingdom Coming
Box 27 Manuscripts, Short Stories: Holiday Article, "Rosa McGee"
Box 28 Manuscripts, Short Stories: Old Man's Gold and Other Stories, Untitled Manuscript
Box 29 Manuscript: The Plantation, the Play Run Slowly, O Slowly
Box 30 Manuscript: Come Wind, Come Weather
Box 31 Manuscript: Come Wind, Come Weather
Box 32 Manuscript: The Devil's Half
Box 33 Manuscript: The Devil's Half
Box 34 Manuscript: The Wedding Guest (original draft)
Box 35 Manuscript, Notebooks: The Wedding Guest (original draft)
Box 36 Manuscript: The Wedding Guest
Box 37 Manuscript: The Wedding Guest
Box 38 Manuscript: The Wedding Guest
Box 39 Manuscript: The Wedding Guest
Box 40 Manuscript: The Wedding Guest
Box 41 Final Galley of The Wedding Guest
Box 42 Manuscript: Judge Buell's Legacy
Box 43 Manuscript: Judge Buell's Legacy
Box 44 Manuscript, Notebook: Judge Buell's Legacy
Box 45 Manuscript: Judge Buell's Legacy
Box 46 Manuscript, Notes: Judge Buell's Legacy
Box 47 Manuscript: Judge Buell's Legacy
Box 48 Manuscript: Judge Buell's Legacy
Box 49 Manuscript: Judge Buell's Legacy
Box 50 Manuscript: Judge Buell's Legacy
Box 51 Manuscript, Notes: Judge Buell's Legacy
Box 52 Manuscript: Judge Buell's Legacy
Box 53 Manuscript: Judge Buell's Legacy
Box 54 Manuscript: Judge Buell's Legacy
Box 55 Manuscript, Notes: Judge Buell's Legacy
Box 56 Manuscript: Judge Buell's Legacy
Box 57 Manuscript, Notebooks: Lost Boy Found, Cabbage Green
Box 58 Awards
Box 59 Biographical Material, School Programs and Writings, Poetry, Pierce's First Novel Attempt
Box 60 High School Diary; Miscellaneous
Box 61 College Exams and Notebooks
Box 62 News Releases; Interviews (typescript, cassettes, reel-to-reel)
Box 63 Civil War Accounts and Letters
Box 64 Dismal Swamp Pamphlets and Writings
Box 65 Photos (P-101/1 - P-101/253)
Box 66 Photos (P-101/254 - P-101/478)
Box 67 Folder b P-101/479 - P-101/523
Box 67 Folder c P-101/524 - P-101/578
Box 67 Folder d P-101/579 - P-101/637
Box 67 Folder e P-101/638 - P-101/644
Box 67 Folder f P-101/649 - P-101/667
Box 67 Folder g Negatives
Box 68 Scrapbook
Box 69 Scrapbook
Box 70 Scrapbook
Box 71 Scrapbook
Box 72 Scrapbook
Box 73 Scrapbook
Box 74 Scrapbook