Judson Mitcham, Georgia’s poet laureate, and the late author Toni Cade Bambara, who compiled one of the first anthologies of African-American women’s writing, will be honored as the newest inductees of the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame at its 2013 ceremony.
A poet and novelist, Mitcham—the only two-time winner of the Townsend Prize for Fiction—was not formally trained as a writer. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from the University of Georgia and spent his career as a psychology professor at Fort Valley State University where he taught for 30 years. His debut novel, The Sweet Everlasting (1996), and his second, Sabbath Creek (2004), were both published by the UGA Press. He also twice has been given the Georgia Author of the Year Award, for his first novel and his book of poems Somewhere in Ecclesiastes (1991).
“In his novels and his poetry, Mitcham’s elegiac voice looks backward with fondness and discernment on a personal and regional past slipping rapidly beyond reach,” said Hugh Ruppersburg, senior associate dean of the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
A resident of Macon, Mitcham began teaching writing workshops at Mercer University in 2002. He also has served as adjunct professor of creative writing at UGA and Emory University, where he has directed the Summer Writers’ Institute.
Bambara is well known for her teaching and community service, in addition to her award-winning writing, which focused on African-American culture. Her first novel, The Salt Eaters, won the 1981 American Book Award and the Langston Hughes Society Award.
Born in New York City, Bambara lived in Atlanta several times during her career, including being writer in residence at Spelman College (1978-79), visiting professor in Afro-American studies at Emory University (1975) and instructor at Atlanta University (1979). She died in 1995.
Bambara did not separate civil rights from the fight for women’s equality. In 1970, she published The Black Woman, an anthology that made connections between the two struggles and included fiction, non-fiction and poetry by herself as well as such writers as Nikki Giovanni and Alice Walker.
Mitcham and Bambara were elected to the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame by a board of judges appointed by the University of Georgia Librarian. The board includes academicians, civic leaders and librarians, the heads of the University of Georgia Press and The Georgia Review, and recent Hall of Fame inductees. The board votes following the conclusion of the annual ceremony.
Making its debut at this year’s ceremony in September was a special issue of The Georgia Review, the university’s award-winning 65-year-old literary magazine, which features work by and commentary on 33 of the 43 Hall of Fame members.
“We really ought to call this group the ‘Georgia Writers in the World Hall of Fame,’ because there is nothing merely local or regional about so many of their achievements,” said Stephen Corey, editor of The Georgia Review. “One of my greatest pleasures in having produced this issue is the thought of copies going out across the United States, and in more limited fashion into many other countries around the world, to show readers what a universal group of writers is gathered here.”
The Georgia Writers Hall of Fame is administered by the University of Georgia’s Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, which holds the most comprehensive collection of books by Georgians in existence along with the papers of many Georgia writers.
A date for the 2013 induction ceremony has not been set. For more information, see here.