As longtime friend Eudora Welty described Charlotte Capers in the foreword to The Capers Papers, “Charlotte does a variety of things well and enthusiastically besides write. She’d rather rise up and dance than sit down and type [but] she writes entirely too well not to take an honest satisfaction from doing it.”
Early in life, Capers, a Tennessee native, moved with her parents, an Episcopal rector and his wife, to Jackson, where she lived for the rest of her life. Recognizing in high school that she wanted to be a journalist, she attended Millsaps College, took journalism courses at the University of Colorado, and graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in English. After brief employment with Condé Nast Publications, she took a temporary job as a secretary at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
She remained at the department for the next forty-five years, becoming a research assistant, acting director, and assistant director; in 1955, she became director. When she retired in 1983, the Mississippi legislature renamed the Archives and History Building in her honor.
Capers was part of a circle of Jackson friends who called themselves the Basic Eight. The group, whose most famous member was Eudora Welty, dined and traveled together, entertaining themselves and frequent guests. According to Welty biographer Suzanne Marrs, Capers was “one of the world’s great raconteurs, even if the world beyond Mississippi did not know it.”
As dedicated as she was to her friends and to state and local history, Capers was a versatile and energetic individual who never gave up on her writing or lost sight of her role as a public servant. She served as a planner and principal executive in the restoration of the Old Capitol Museum, the Governor’s Mansion, and the Faulkner house. She held the post of editor in chief of the Journal of Mississippi History, wrote ninety-nine book reviews for the New York Times Book Review, and penned columns for the Jackson Daily News and States Times. In 1982 the University Press of Mississippi published The Capers Papers, a collection of essays and columns she had initially written in her “Miss Quote” column for Jackson newspapers. Miss Quote wrote short, lively pieces commenting on everyday topics—relatives, pets, cars, technology, her house and tenants, health, and trends. In Welty’s words, “Most of the pieces were written to amuse, and they abundantly did so.” Capers also edited archaeological surveys, inaugural papers, and memoirs, but The Capers Papers is her most unforgettable work.
- Charlotte Capers, The Capers Papers (1982)
- Suzanne Marrs, Eudora Welty: A Biography (2005); Mississippi Department of Archives and History, www.mdah.state.ms.us