Papers (1876-1988) including correspondence, clippings, genealogical data, literary manuscripts, books, articles, short stories, reviews, book proofs, biographical publications, photographs.
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.
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.
Gift of Ovid W. Pierce
Gift of Molly Urquhart
Processed by L. Sterlock; W. Grant, May 1988
Encoded by Apex Data Services
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.
Ovid Williams Pierce Papers at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University