The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: E is for…

E. Barrett Prettyman!

Elijah Barrett Prettyman Jr. (1925-2016) is best known for his work in public service and with the U.S. Supreme Court. He clerked for three justices and argued 19 cases before the court, supporting first amendment rights and opposing the death penalty. He also served as counsel for the House of Representatives Ethics Committee. 

In private practice, Prettyman had a roster of celebrity clients, including Katherine Anne Porter. Prettyman was a keen reader and an author in his own right, having started in journalism before pursing a law degree and authoring the book Death and the Supreme Court, which won an Edgar Allen Poe Award. Prettyman first connected to Porter when he wrote her requesting an autograph after reading Ship of Fools. They exchanged a couple of letters and Porter eventually reached out to Prettyman for help writing her will. 

Porter was infatuated with Prettyman and would write him letters full of compliments and signed with love. She invited him to every party she threw or over for meals where they would simply sit and chat. Prettyman played along, genuinely enjoying their get togethers, but never taking her declarations of love too seriously. Their shared literary interests and mutual professional respect formed the base of a close friendship that lasted until Porter’s death.

You can explore digitized letters by Katherine Anne Porter’s online in the online exhibit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977.

Browse the finding aids to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and the E. Barrett Prettyman Papers.

Contact us to learn more!

Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

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