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Home:  >News & Events   >News Archives   >2002
Legislature plans Welty home funds

March 25, 2002

JACKSON, Miss. — (AP) The historic home where the late Eudora Welty grew up and wrote all of her books will get at least $700,000 from the state while family and supporters map out the house’s preservation.

Both the House and the Senate have included the money in separate versions of a bond bill to finance repairs at Mississippi universities, junior colleges and state buildings.

Governments issue bonds to borrow money. As with a person who takes out a loan, the state repays the debt over a number of years.

The Senate, in major bond programs, plans to allocate about $121 million; the House, $163 million. The chairmen of the tax-writing committees in both chambers expect a compromise to be somewhere between those figures. The bond proceeds for the Welty home restoration will be used to match a $3 million grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History is working with the Eudora Welty Foundation on the renovation of the Tudor-style home near Belhaven College. Welty deeded the house to the department in 1986 and continued to live there until her death in July at age 92.

Historians have said the house needs a new roof and still has the original 1925 electrical wiring. Other work is to include new plumbing, a central heating and cooling system, and foundation stabilization.

Welty’s niece, Mary Alice White of Jackson, said the family is working with the department to keep the interior and contents almost completely intact. “I am very grateful the Legislature saw the value in honoring Mississippi’s literary heritage. I’m prejudiced. I think Eudora is one of the most distinguished authors in America. Her home will be one of the most intact literary home museums in the country,” White said.

Rep. Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said selling lawmakers on the renovation of Welty’s home was an easy task. “Her home is a place of not only state significance but national significance,” McCoy said. “Miss Welty is one of the most famous contributing citizens. She is nationally and internationally known. We want to do everything we can to preserve it and promote the great heritage she left us.”

White said plans are to restore the home’s gardens to the way they looked in the 1930s. “When people go into the house they will see the home as Eudora left it with all the paintings and books,” White said. “I have continued to be amazed reading the fan letters from all over the world, from as far away as Japan, France and Germany and from people that really appreciated Eudora's work.”

Another area of agreement between the House and the Senate is to set aside $15 million for campus improvements at historically black Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State University and Alcorn State University.

The Legislature began setting aside the money last year, part of a five-year commitment with the money tied to the settlement of the college desegregation case signed in February by a federal judge. The campus improvements are part of the overall $500 million settlement. The Senate included the $15 million in a bond bill and, while the House did not, McCoy said the money will be available.

“This money will be provided. We’re not going to begin to spend these dollars as long as there is an appeal out there. And then we’re going to spend them according to the settlement,” McCoy said.

He said the College Board and Attorney General Mike Moore have presented lawmakers with long-range plans for spending the money. Both chambers also have agreed to at least $9 million for a new building for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and at least $12 million for construction of a new Mississippi Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The diagnostic lab will be constructed in Rankin County.

“We’ve been planning these for some time, and we’re trying to bring to them to fruition this year,” McCoy said.

The bills are Senate Bill 3197 and House Bill 1835.

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