Good Deed in Durham Launches Literary Career

Price and Welty at the University of Mississippi in 1979.On February 23, 1955, Reynolds Price met Eudora Welty on a cold, dark, railroad platform in downtown Durham. The Mississippi-bred novelist and short-story writer was coming to Duke University to give a lecture and lead a writing seminar. Price, a Duke senior English major from Warren County, was eager to meet Welty. “The world she described seemed so close to my own,” Price later wrote.

Having learned Welty’s train would arrive well after midnight and knowing taxis would be unavailable that late, Price decided to chauffeur the future Pulitzer Prize-winner to her hotel in his mother’s DeSoto convertible. At the next day’s seminar, Welty read Price’s short story, “Michael Egerton.” Afterward, she offered to send it to her agent. “Despite a 24-year-gap in our ages, a friendship was cemented on the spot,” Price wrote. That friendship lasted until Welty’s death in 2001.

By that time Price had become an award-winning writer and long-time English professor at Duke. Treatment for a cancerous spinal tumor in 1984 left him paralyzed from the waist down. Still, he continued to write and teach. His 37 volumes include poetry, short stories, novels, essays, plays and memoirs. Price died in 2011 at age 77.

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