MKR Society

History

Mr. Philip S. May, Jr., founder and first president of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society, is the son of Philip S. May, attorney for Mrs. Rawlings from 1935 until her death in 1953. In 1985, Philip May was a member of the Thomas Wolfe Society. With his involvement with that literary group and his personal recollections, Mr. May became determined to create a similar organization honoring, preserving, and creating an ongoing interest in the works and words of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

Mr. May discussed the formation of a society with Norton Baskin, Marjorie Rawlings’s widower. The idea was well received and Mr. Baskin suggested a meeting with Dr. Samuel Proctor, noted historian and Rawlings enthusiast at the University of Florida. Dr. Proctor wanted to foster a Rawlings festival in 1988 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Yearling. He discussed the idea for a society with Dr. Melvyn New, chairman of the University of Florida English Department. It was decided that the department would participate in the development of the organization.

The first official meeting was held on March 10, 1987, in the conference room of the Rare Books Department of the Library West of the University of Florida. Those present were Mr. Philip S. May, Jr.; Dr. Kevin McCarthy; Mr. Sidney Ives; Dr. Anna Jones; Dr. Sam Proctor; Dr. Gordon Bigelow;, and Dr. Michael Gannon. Officers and trustees were elected and by-laws were approved. Dr. Kevin McCarthy served as the first executive director.

In June, a membership brochure was developed and printed. In August, the membership stood at 41, and the first letterhead was made available. By February, a limited edition poster was authorized; the artist of the poster was J. T. (Jake) Glisson, longtime friend and neighbor of Mrs. Rawlings.

The first annual meeting was held April 7-9, 1988. The society, in the words of Philip May, "seems well on its way to becoming a significant organization, capable of achieving its goals and bringing all of us closer to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings."

From that day on, the Society continues to support its purpose. Working closely in the early years with the Citizens Support Organization, funds were secured from the Martin Marietta Corporation for the reconstruction of the barn at the Rawlings farm. Society fund-raising efforts also contributed to the construction of the tenant house. The farm at Cross Creek serves to interpret the life and spirit of Marjorie Rawlings to the public, and its existence encourages interest in the writer, her life, times, and work.

Mr. Snow Slater, Rawlings’s grove manager, at the barn raising said: “She’d have liked it. She said that the barn was the heart of the farm.” With very limited sight, he drove a nail into the new barn so that he could be a part of it. He said, “I’ve put many nails into a barn for Miz Rawlings, and I guess I can hammer one as well as these young fellers.”

The involvement in Society events of those people who were close to Rawlings adds an immeasurable dimension to the knowledge of this woman and her writing.

Annual meetings are conducted across the state in locations relevant to Rawlings’s literature and locale. These meetings present members and guest lecturers in support of the purpose of the Society: to facilitate ways by which all who are interested in her writings — such as scholars, critics, teachers, students and recreational readers — may learn from each other.

— Claire Koshar, Rawlings Society Archivist