Berry Morgan

Major Works

  • The Mystic Adventures of Roxie Stone (1974)
  • Pursuit (1966)
  • many short stories for the The New Yorker magazine (1966-1988)

Berry Morgan: A Biography

Mississippi writer Berry Morgan was born Betty Berry Taylor Brumfield on May 20, 1919, on Hillcrest Plantation, Port Gibson, Mississippi. Her parents were Bess Berry Taylor Brumfield and John Marshall Brumfield.  Morgan went to high school in both Port Gibson and Colorado Springs, Colorado.  She attended numerous undergraduate schools including Newcomb College, Tulane, and Loyola  (in New Orleans).  She married Aylmer Lee Morgan III of Arlington.Virginia, in 1940.  Together they had four children:  Scott Ingles, Betty Lee, Aylmer Lee IV, and Frances Berry.  Berry Morgan died at the age of eighty-three at Shenandoah Nursing Home near her farm, called Aylmere Farm, Summit Point, West Virginia.

During her career, she was a fiction writer for The New Yorker magazine from 1966 to 1988. She published her first novel Pursuit  (1966) at the age of  forty-four.  The same year she  began writing for the New Yorker. On 1966, she received a Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship, an award which is given to authors of outstanding promise, for her novel Pursuit in 1966 and a collection of sixteen short stories, The Mystic Adventures of Roxie Stoner, in 1974. She taught creative writing at Northeast Louisiana University, Catholic University of America, George Washington University, and the American University.

In addition to her fiction writing, Berry Morgan was active in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi in the 1960s. She worked in numerous occupations including an executive secretary; a real estate specialist; a free lance editor; plantation manager in Mississippi; a creative writing instructor at Northeast Louisiana University, Catholic University of America,  George Washington University, and the American University; and a cattle farmer in West Virginia.  She was involved in organic farming.  Although a member of the Catholic faith, she identified herself as a Christian Existentialist.  Her unified world view is said to have given her fiction its uniqueness and universality.

Much of Morgan’s fiction is set in Mississippi in and around a fictional King’s Town, which is similar in many ways to Port Gibson, Mississippi, Morgan’s hometown. Many of her stories have the same protagonist, Roxie Stoner.  Another character, Ned Ingles, appears in numerous writings and has the same last name as Morgan’s ancestor, “Wild Tom” Ingles.  Both Pursuit and The Mystic Adventures of Roxie Stoner are part of a series called Certain Shadows, but the third volume in
the series, The Mississippian, apparently was never published. Morgan has been compared to Flannery O’Conner since the writings of both project a belief that there is a mystery in the life of man and that man must acknowledge the mystery if his existence is to have meaning.

A celebration of her life was held on Sunday, July 21, 2002, at the Avanti Restaurant in Charles Town, West Virginia, with Father Edwin Dill officiating. She is buried in the  Middleway Masonic Cemetery, Middleway, West Virginia.

pursuit-cover

Information above from the book jacket for Pursuit (1977).

Thanks to Mary Edwards for some of this information. We were unable to learn whether Fornika Creek and/or The Mississippian were ever published or whether they are different names for the same work. If you know this information or any other information about Berry Morgan, please email us.

NOTE: B. J. Appelgren has written a book entitled The Transparent Feather which details the last days of Berry Morgan in a nursing home in West Virginia. During Morgan’s last days, she and Appelgren wrote and then worked on stories each had written. Appelgren mentions that Berry Morgan stated she could not write without alcohol, a situation which caused her problems with her family.

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Bibliography

  • “Morgan, Berry”  Lives of Mississippi Authors, 1817-1967. James B. Lloyd, Ed. Jackson:  University Press of Mississippi, 1981.   341-343.
  • “Obituary for Berry Morgan.”  Winchester Star <http://www.winchesterstar.com/thewinchesterstar/020622/Obituaries.asp#Berry Morgan>.