An influential art critic, Louis Dollarhide taught English at Mississippi College and the University of Mississippi from the 1950s through the 1980s. The Oklahoma-born Dollarhide grew up in Kosciusko, Mississippi, and attended Mississippi College before earning a master’s degree at Harvard and doctorate at the University of North Carolina, where his dissertation concerned the work of William Shakespeare. Most famous as the art critic for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Dollarhide published more than a thousand reviews of literature, theater, and music between 1955 and 1976.
Dollarhide started writing reviews of literature when Frank Hains of the Jackson Daily News asked him to contribute to a series of responses to Eudora Welty’s The Bride of Innisfallen in 1955. That effort led to a series of columns, and by 1958 he was writing a regular column, “Of Art and Artists,” in which he praised and critiqued both well-known and little-known writers and artists and made a special point of discussing works by new writers. He took particular interest and pride in Welty’s success. Dollarhide occasionally wrote to address what he saw as conventional critiques of southern writing. He criticized work that seemed to fit too easily into the stereotypes of local color writing. In a 1966 article on the work of Berry Morgan, he scoffed at people who continued to use H. L. Mencken’s old critique of the South as a place without culture or creativity. A year later, he criticized those who condemned William Faulkner and other writers for dramatizing only the darkest sides of Mississippi life: “The fact is, they do the state inestimable good just by being great writers.”
As an art critic Dollarhide had particular affinity for events at Allison’s Wells, for the work of Marie Hull and Mildred Wolfe, and for young artists such as William Dunlap, Marshall Bouldin, and Thomas Eloby. As music writer, he took clear pride in events that belied Mississippi’s reputation as a backwater. He wrote with affection about Leontyne Price’s appearance at Rust College and of the Jackson Symphony’s performance at the city’s new auditorium in 1968.
Dollarhide collected many of his favorite columns into a 1981 book, Of Art and Artists. He and Ann Abadie served as coeditors of Eudora Welty: A Form of Thanks, a 1979 collection of essays from the symposium that inaugurated the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. Dollarhide retired from teaching in 1987 and died in 2004.
- Louis Dollarhide, Of Art and Artists (1981)
- Louis Dollarhide and Ann Abadie, Eudora Welty: A Form of Thanks (1979)
- Louis Dollarhide Collection, Department of Archives and Special Collections, J. D. Williams Library, University of Mississippi