Final Days of United States Author Margaret Mitchell

About the final days of United States author Margaret Mitchell, biography and history.

FINAL DAYS

MARGARET MITCHELL, U.S. author

Died: Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlanta, Ga., Aug. 16, 1949, 11:59 A.M.

The runaway success of Gone with the Wind, Mitchell's only book, turned into a full-time job for the 48-year-old novelist; a heavy schedule of meeting visitors, filling engagements, and answering mail left her little time to write another book. Thirteen years after publication of her novel, wrote biographer Finis Farr. "Margaret had come to one of those pauses in life, when a mature person can draw a breath, look ahead, and see some kind of order in the next few years." The day of the auto accident that took her life was more inactive for her than most. The hot Atlanta sun baked the city, and she stayed inside all day. In the cooler evening, Margaret and her ailing second husband of 24 years, John R. Marsh, decided to go to a movie at the Arts Theater on Peachtree Street, where the British film A Canterbury Tale was showing. Shortly after 8:00 P.M., they left their apartment on Piedmont Avenue, Margaret driving, and parked on Peachtree across from the theater. At 8:20 they started to walk across the street. When they were little more than halfway across, a car suddenly barreled around the corner from the south at about 50 mph (in a 25-mph zone). Margaret pulled away from her husband and ran back toward the curb they had just left. The car, brakes screeching, skidded and swerved violently for 67 ft. It seemed to pursue her, finally smashing her against the curb. Embraced by her unharmed husband until the ambulance arrived, Mitchell lay in critical condition with blood trickling from her left ear. She never fully regained consciousness. Police arrested a 29-year-old off-duty cab driver, Hugh D. Gravitt, on charges of drunken driving, speeding, and driving on the wrong side of the road. Until the author's death five days later, crowds kept an anxious vigil outside Grady Hospital. Her injuries were massive: two pelvic fractures and a skull split from crown to spine. On Aug. 15 her condition worsened, and her doctors in desperation tried brain surgery early on Aug. 16. Shortly after 11:00 A.M. she began sinking rapidly and died within the hour. Gravitt, a driving menace who had been cited 28 times in 10 years, was sentenced to 18 months for involuntary manslaughter. Before beginning his sentence, he ran his car into a truck, injuring himself and his wife.

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