Novelist and short story writer Eudora Welty, whose meticulous depictions of life in the South won her a Pulitzer Prize, died Monday. She was 92. Welty, who was also acclaimed for her heart-wrenching photographs of poverty in Depression-era Mississippi, died at Baptist Medical Center at 12:25 p.m. Monday of cardiopulmonary arrest.
Ginger Coke, a hospital spokeswoman, said Welty also suffered from pneumonia. Welty had been ill for some time. Welty, author of ``The Ponder Heart,'' ``Losing Battles'' and ``The Optimist's Daughter,'' for which she won the Pulitzer in 1973, said fiction provided her with the most productive tool for analyzing human personality. ``I'm not any kind of prophet, but I think it's in our nature to talk, to tell stories, appreciate stories,'' she said in an interview in 1991. ``I think you write about whatever's current. ... They won't be the same kind of stories, but they'll be about human beings.''
She also captured the many guises of poverty through her camera's lens and published pictures of Mississippians washing laundry by hand, tending a bootleg still and slaughtering hogs. Her autobiography, ``One Writer's Beginnings,'' made the New York Times best-seller list in 1984 and was based on lectures she delivered at Harvard University. She also made the list in 1981 with ``The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty.'' Other books by Welty include ``Delta Wedding'' in 1946 and ``Losing Battles'' in 1971. ``The Ponder Heart'' and ``The Robber Bridegroom'' were made into Broadway plays. Her characters include the likes of Clytie, a frustrated spinster who drowns herself in a rain barrel; Lilly Daw, a feeble-minded girl who falls in love with a xylophone player; Miss Teacake Magee, who sings at her own wedding; and a couple of deaf-mutes who suffer indignities. ``I have been told, both in approval and in accusation, that I seem to love all my characters. What I do in writing of any character is try to enter into the mind, heart, and skin of a human being who is not myself,'' Welty wrote in 1980.
She once called herself ``a natural observer, and to me the details tell everything. One detail can tell more than any descriptive passage in general, you know. That's the way my eye sees, so I just use it.'' Welty was born in Jackson on April 13, 1909, and lived here almost all her life. She attended Mississippi University for Women, later graduating from the University of Wisconsin and doing postgraduate work at Columbia University in New York. Early in her career, Welty worked for newspapers and radio stations and served as publicity agent for President Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration, the agency formed to provide work for people in Depression-racked America. She took her celebrated photographs of Mississippians as she traveled the state for the WPA. They show the pride she saw among even the poorest people. She credited agent Diarmuid Russell with helping get her early fiction published. When he first offered to represent her, she recalled in an interview, ``I wrote back and said, 'Yes, be my agent.' He wrote back, 'Not so fast, how do you know I won't be a crook?''' ``He got me into the Atlantic Monthly and that changed my life,'' she said.
Welty won an O. Henry Memorial Prize for short stories at age 31. Her first collection of stories, ``A Curtain of Green,'' was published in 1941. Her first novel, ``The Robber Bridegroom,'' appeared a year later. During World War II, Welty wrote reviews on battlefield reports for The New York Times Book Review. She used the pseudonym ``Michael Ravenna''; an editor had complained a Southern woman, despite literary talents, was not an authority on the war. ``Michael Ravenna's sage judgments came to be quoted prominently in publishers' ads, and invitations from radio networks to appear on their programs had to be politely declined on the grounds that he had been called away to the battlefronts,'' a colleague of Welty's once wrote. Welty said she had been criticized during the racial turmoil in the 1960s for not writing stories about racial injustice. ``I think I've always written stories about that,'' she said in later years. ``Not as propaganda, but I've written stories about human injustice as much as I've written about anything. ... I was looking at it in the human, not the political, vision, and I was sticking to that.'' ``One Time, One Place,'' a book of 100 black-and-white photographs published in 1971, focused exclusively on Welty's Depression era pictures. A 1989 book, ``Eudora Welty Photographs,'' features more than 200 pictures, some taken on her travels around the world.
Welty never married and dedicated her life to her work. She lived in the Jackson home that her father built in the 1920s, where she continued her writing. ``I still have a lot to say, a lot to put in words,'' Welty said in a 1980 interview. During the 1980s, the writing was postponed as she traveled to London and dozens of American cities to accept honors and publicize her book of photographs.