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The Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Eudora Welty, the wise, meticulous writer whose loving depictions of small-town Mississippi brought her international acclaim, died Monday. She was 92.

Welty, who was also praised for her heart-wrenching photographs of poverty in Depression-era Mississippi, died at Baptist Medical Center. She had been battling pneumonia, said Ginger Coke, a hospital spokeswoman.

Welty, author of “The Ponder Heart,” “Losing Battles” and “The Optimist’s Daughter,” for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973, said fiction provided her with the most productive tool for analyzing human personality.

“I’m not any kind of prophet, but I think it’s in our nature to talk, to tell stories, appreciate stories,” she said in a 1991 interview. “I think you write about whatever’s current. … They won’t be the same kind of stories, but they’ll be about human beings.”

She was adored by critics, fellow writers and even some musicians. Country star Nanci Griffith cited her as an influence and an incident from Welty’s memoir, “One Writer’s Beginnings,” inspired Mary Chapin Carpenter to write the song and children’s book “Halley Came to Jackson.”

“She was extraordinary,” said the author and critic Elizabeth Hardwick. “She had her own voice and her own tone and her own subject matter. There was no one quite like her in American literature.”

Other works include “Delta Wedding” in 1946 and “Losing Battles” in 1971. “The Ponder Heart” and “The Robber Bridegroom” were made into Broadway plays. Her personal favorite was the 1949 collection “The Golden Apples,” interrelated stories set in the fictional town of Morgana, Miss.

In 1998, the Library of America published a two-volume compilation of her works, the first time an entire edition had been devoted to a living writer.

Welty was born in Jackson on April 13, 1909, and lived here almost all her life. She attended Mississippi University for Women, later graduating from the University of Wisconsin and doing postgraduate work at Columbia University in New York.

Early in her career, Welty worked for newspapers and radio stations and served as publicity agent for President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, the agency formed to provide work for people in Depression-era America.

She took her celebrated photographs of Mississippians as she traveled the state for the WPA. They show the pride she saw among even the poorest people. She published pictures of Mississippians washing laundry by hand, tending a bootleg still and slaughtering hogs.

Her first novel, “The Robber Bridegroom,” appeared in 1942.

During World War II, Welty wrote reviews on battlefield reports for The New York Times Book Review. She used the pseudonym “Michael Ravenna”; an editor had complained a Southern woman, despite literary talents, was not an authority on the war.

“Michael Ravenna’s sage judgments came to be quoted prominently in publishers’ ads, and invitations from radio networks to appear on their programs had to be politely declined on the grounds that he had been called away to the battlefronts,” a colleague of Welty’s once wrote.

Welty never married and dedicated her life to her work. She lived in the Jackson home that her father built in the 1920s, where she continued her writing.

“I still have a lot to say, a lot to put in words,” Welty said in a 1980 interview.

In recent years, she made few public appearances. In May 1998, her alma mater, the Mississippi University for Women, gave her its first honorary degree, but she did not attend the ceremony.

Her doctor posted a sign on her door turning away fans seeking autographs, and Welty added a handwritten apology, but it was reportedly taken as a souvenir.

“As you have seen,” she wrote at the end of “One Writer’s Beginnings,” “I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.”

Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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