Atlanta archdiocese receives ‘Gone with the Wind’ bequest

Atlanta, Ga., Aug 17, 2012 / 12:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The estate of a nephew of Margaret Mitchell has donated half of the trademark and literary rights to her famous Civil War novel “Gone with the Wind” to the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Joseph Mitchell, the son of Margaret’s brother Stephens, died in October 2011 at the age of 76. The novel rights are part of a multi-million dollar bequest to the archdiocese.

“The Archdiocese of Atlanta has been blessed with a generous gift through the kindness of Joe Mitchell,” Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta said Aug. 16. “This gift is a reservoir of the funds earned through the genius of Margaret Mitchell and her depiction of the harsh struggles of Southern life during and after the Civil War.

“The Mitchell family has a proud Catholic legacy, and this gift will allow that legacy and that pride to be shared with many others in the archdiocese.”

“Gone With the Wind,” published in 1936, sold two million copies by 1939 and continues to sell thousands of copies a year in the U.S. The movie rights were sold in 1939.

Joseph Mitchell was the last living close relative of Margaret. He and his brother Eugene inherited a trust that gave each man a half share in the rights to their aunt’s famous novel.

Joseph was a member of the Cathedral of Christ the King Parish, the archdiocese said. He asked that part of his donation help the cathedral.

Archbishop Gregory has designated $7.5 million of the bequest be given to the cathedral’s building fund. He has assigned $1.5 million to Catholic Charities Atlanta for immediate use. Another $2 million will create an endowment fund for the long-term needs of the agency.

Joseph Krygiel, the CEO of Catholic Charities, said the agency is “extremely grateful” for the gift. He said the donation will allow Catholic Charities to expand services to new communities throughout North Georgia.

Funds will also help modernize the agency’s database system, and replace its aging trucks and vans for its refugee program.

“We’ll be in a position to purchase some equipment we desperately need for the last few years,” Krygiel said.

Over $1 million of the Mitchell bequest will go to an endowment fund to provide $10,000 gifts to each parish, mission and Catholic school of the archdiocese through the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia.

Another $150,000 will supply the archdiocese’s Deacons’ Assistance Fund. Of this, $100,000 will be used for a challenge grant to match any fund donations made by May 31, 2013.

The bequest’s other donations to the archdiocese include a collection of autographed “Gone with the Wind” first editions published in various languages and an unpublished history of the Mitchell family handwritten by Margaret’s father Eugene Muse Mitchell.

The estate also gave Joseph Mitchell’s home on Atlanta’s Habersham Road to the archdiocese.

Deacon Steve Swope is managing the transition of the bequest on behalf of Archbishop Gregory.

“It is a magnificent gift,” he said.

He said the archdiocese wants to continue to make the book available to “the widest possible audience” in a way that is “respectful and dignified.”

Archbishop Gregory said each parish and school of the archdiocese will share the benefits of the gift.

“We should all give thanks for Joe’s kindness and remember all of the Mitchell family in our prayers,” he said.

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