Archdiocese Inherits GWTW Bequest

 by Gretchen Keiser

Various editions of Gone With the Wind – including ones from Spain, Germany, Iran, Finland and Vietnam – are part of a multimillion-dollar bequest made to the Archdiocese of Atlanta by Joseph Mitchell, Margaret Mitchell’s nephew. He died last October.

ATLANTA (CNS) – The Archdiocese of Atlanta has received a substantial gift from the estate of Margaret Mitchell’s nephew, Joseph, including a 50 percent share of the trademark and literary rights to Gone With the Wind.

The estate of Joseph Mitchell included a multimillion-dollar bequest to the archdiocese and the donation of his home in Atlanta.

One of two sons of Margaret Mitchell’s brother, Stephens, Joseph Mitchell died in October, 2011. He was a member of the Cathedral of Christ the King and asked that, if possible, his donation assist the cathedral in a particular way.

“It is a magnificent gift,” said Deacon Steve Swope, who has been overseeing the transition of the bequest on behalf of Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.

The inheritance passed on to the archdiocese includes a collection of signed Gone With the Wind first editions published in various languages in countries around the world and an unpublished history of the Mitchell family, handwritten by Margaret’s father, Eugene Muse Mitchell.

Some of Margaret Mitchell’s personal effects, including her wallet with her press card and library card, and furniture from her apartment have been given to the archdiocese.

A library of books includes histories and signed first editions of the late Georgia Catholic author Flannery O’Connor’s novels and short stories.

Joseph Mitchell, who died at 76, was the last direct descendant of the Mitchell family. His brother, Eugene, a generous benefactor of Morehouse College and School of Medicine, as was Margaret Mitchell, died in 2007. Eugene’s widow, Virginia, is still living. The two brothers had each inherited a trust with a half share of the literary and trademark rights to the celebrated novel written by their late aunt.

The movie rights were sold immediately after Gone With the Wind was published in 1936 to instantaneous success. Two million copies of the novel had been sold by 1939.

The work was quickly translated into Arabic, Asian and eastern and western European languages. Mitchell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 for her work, and, according to Publishers Weekly, the novel continues to sell in the United States at a rate of about 75,000 copies a year.

The Archdiocese of Atlanta has created a corporation with the Eugene Mitchell trust to manage the literary inheritance. The archdiocese also will continue to use the group of attorneys, colleagues of Stephens Mitchell, who have been safeguarding the literary work and its appropriate use on behalf of the Mitchell family for decades.

“We want to continue to make ‘Gone With the Wind’ available to the widest possible audience and to do it in a way that is respectful and dignified and in line with the wishes of the late Stephens Mitchell,” Deacon Swope said.

The “artifacts that were part of the provenance of Margaret Mitchell” are being preserved by the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Swope said. It is hoped that in the future, the collection can be loaned to a major institution for public display, he said.

From the Joseph Mitchell estate, Archbishop Gregory has designated that $7.5 million be given to the Cathedral of Christ the King for its building fund.

He also has assigned $1.5 million to Catholic Charities Atlanta for its immediate use and an additional $2 million to create an endowment fund for the social services agency to address its long-term need for sustaining income.

The archbishop also has asked the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia to create an endowment fund for each parish, mission and Catholic school of the archdiocese with a $10,000 gift apiece from the Joseph Mitchell estate, totaling more than $1 million.

He also has assigned $150,000 to the Deacons’ Assistance Fund, $100,000 of which will be a challenge grant that is in place until May 31, 2013, to match any charitable contributions made to the fund during that time.

The remainder of the Mitchell bequest will be held in reserve and used by the archdiocese for general religious purposes as requested in Joseph Mitchell’s will, Deacon Swope said.

Plans call for the cathedral parish, which has limited space on its Peachtree Road site, to use part of the bequest to purchase the nearby archbishop’s residence on West Wesley and renovate it as a rectory.

A new residence is planned for Archbishop Gregory and future archbishops of Atlanta on the property given to the archdiocese by Joseph Mitchell.