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1935 Ellen 2024

Ellen Louise Gilchrist

February 20, 1935 — January 30, 2024

Ocean Springs

Ellen Louise Gilchrist, renowned author, mother, grandmother, and friend, died peacefully in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, in the early evening of January 30, 2024, surrounded by family. She was 88 years old.

Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on February 20, 1935, to Aurora Alford Gilchrist, and William Garth Gilchrist, Jr., Ms Gilchrist spent her youth at Hopedale Plantation, Issaquena County, Mississippi, and in Courtland, Alabama. It was in those places That she learned the rich, deep story-telling of the South, and the value of books, education, the written word.

Ms Gilchrist began her writing career at the age of 11, with a weekly newspaper column called “Chit and Chat About This and That” and continued writing until her passing. She studied at Vanderbilt, earned a degree in English from Millsaps College under Eudora Welty, ultimately taking a Masters’ Degree in English from the University of Arkansas, along with honorary degrees from universities and colleges nationwide.

Ms Gilchrist published over 26 books translated into multiple languages, including collections of poetry, novels, short stories, novellas, essays, plays, as well as articles and socio-political commentary. She won the 1984 National Book Award for “Victory Over Japan” and gained critical acclaim her novel, “The Annunciation”. Ms Gilchrist was also a decades long contributor on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition”. Her writing is noted for its honest human elements, telling humor, rich detail, and strong, independent female characters, who grew and re-occurred throughout her work over time. 

Outside of Mississippi, Ms Gilchrist lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas, for almost 35 years. She taught Graduate level English at the University of Arkansas, focusing on Shakespeare and 20th Century American writers which included her friends and peers, Eudora Welty, Walker Percy, James Whitehead, Bill Harrison, Otto Salassi, George Plimpton, and the poet Miller Williams, father of musician Lucinda Williams. 

Writer John Parrish Peede summed up her work and life, stating, “Like her characters, Gilchrist is apt to force open the doors of polite society. She is a passionate person, and passionate people must speak their minds. Love and loss, people and places, language and knowledge, Zen and the River – they float through her work and her life. Hers is not a cultivated eccentricity, but rather it is the expression of a truly free and liberated mind.”

As a mother and grandmother, Ms Gilchrist was honest, generous, and direct in her love. She is predeceased in death by her parents Aurora Alford and Willaim Garth Gilchrist, Jr., and her brother William Garth Gilchrist, III. She is survived by her brother, Robert Alford Gilchrist (Julie), three sons, Marshall Peteet Walker, Jr. (Catherine), Garth Gilchrist Walker, Pierre Gautier Walker (Nathalie), eighteen grandchildren, Marshall Kingman Walker, M.D. (Courtney), Ellen Gilchrist Walker, Aurora Alford Walker (Gideon), Cameron Benjamin Walker, Felicia Ellen Walker, Sean Daniel Walker, Abigail Niamh Madison Walker, Anastasia Dubois Campeau, Juliet Xanthe Roisin Walker, Josephine Eliane Anne Walker, Karolina Mathilde Schmidt Majgaard, William Elliot Walker, Octavia Camille Walker, Victoria Rose Walker, Zachery Walker Austin, Augustus Pierre Walker, Noelle Pavey Walker, Benjamin Jensen, and ten great-grandchildren. 

Ms Gilchrist will be laid to rest in a private ceremony at a later date. Her life is to be celebrated and lauded. Ms Gilchrist’s wish for her family, fans, and friends was that anyone who loved her work, or liked her personally, please go have a good time, enjoy yourself, be kind, generous, and live life to its fullest, as we are all truly made of stars.

Bradford-O'Keefe Funeral Home is honored to serve the family of Ellen Louise Gilchrist.

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