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JERRY TURNER WILLIAMS 1924 - 2010 “THE ACADEMIC LOVE OF MY LIFE”—THAT’S HOW JERRY WILLIAMS characterized her relationship with the Mississippi Quarterly. Anyone who knew Jerry would likely agree with her assessment, for even after she retired from the English department at Mississippi State University in 1988 the interests of the Mississippi Quarterly occupied many, if not most, of her waking hours. Jerry became associated with the Quarterly in 1970 when her husband Peyton was appointed first as the interim editor and then a short time later as editor. From that fall until a few weeks before her death on March 20, 2010, she tended the pages of the journal with a careful and critical eye for practically everything that went onto them—the language and contents of the articles, the layout and arrangement of the contents, the few ads we regularly ran, and the art work, some of which her daughter Susan drew. She seemed to enjoy finding clip art for the widows, but then she enjoyed everything she did for the Quarterly. She enjoyed especially later on after I had become editor making comments in the margins of proof pages, comments that usually pointed out my ignorance and other shortcomings or the unnecessary abstruseness of the language of critical theory or the contents of articles our contributors had published elsewhere. Few people knew the scholarship on Southern literature as thoroughly as Jerry Williams knew it. The founders of the Society for the Study of Southern Literature believed that publishing an annual annotated bibliography that would continue what Louis Rubin had begun with A Bibliographical Guide to the Study of Southern Literature would provide impetus as well as a necessary tool to encourage academic investigation of the region’s literary culture. If the growth in the size of the bibliography over the years that the Mississippi Quarterly published it adequately measures interest, then the founders succeeded admirably and probably beyond anything they imagined. Almost from its inception Jerry Williams worked with the bibliography; she knew what went into it, and as the compilations grew larger, she could recall a great deal of hundreds of books and articles. By 1973 with the publication of the first five-year conflation, Jerry was recognized as the “Editor of the Checklist” and the editor of the conflations. 366 Mississippi Quarterly Those who used the SSSL bibliography during the 1970s and ’80s generally had great respect for its inclusiveness and the usefulness of its annotations. The Bibliography Committee of the SSSL, under the direction of Pascal Reeves, James Kibler, George Longest, and Mary Weeks-Baxter, did excellent work managing the committee, but even so, Jerry insisted on traveling to libraries in Mississippi and neighboring states where she found journals and magazines not on the committee’s list and recent issues of some of those that were so that she could add entries. And, when she exhausted new material, she would begin to check the annotations to see if she agreed with them. The editors of even more specialized bibliographies during those years often waited for the SSSL bibliography to appear before they published their own, and usually they thanked Jerry specifically for her work. Later, after the computer had worked its changes on the way we do bibliography, Peter Scholing tutored her on the programs he had devised. Unlike a lot of us, she learned the new ways very quickly and helped improve on them. She brought that same thoroughness to her editorial work with the Quarterly, and she cared deeply that the journal be as presentable and useful to the academic community as it could be. During the years that I edited the journal we seldom published anything that Jerry had not approved. When her health began to falter so that, not trusting the vagaries of the elevator they installed in our building, she could no longer reach our office, she would call instructing me to meet her in the parking lot where she delivered articles she had read or those she had finished copy editing and picked up new ones. In the parking lot we had some of the more interesting conversations I had at Mississippi State. She could be as...


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pp. 365-366
Launched on MUSE
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