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Elisha "Ely" Green Collection

 File — Multiple Containers
Identifier: P52

Scope and Contents

Collection contains the original manuscript of Ely's novel, copies, typed copies with edits, correspondence, his will and bequests, royalties, sales figures, requests/thanks for copies, book reviews, correspondence with publishers, published longsheets, index cards of the book's index, photographs and postcards. Much of the material in this collection was generated by Arthur Ben Chitty.


  • 1893-09-11 - 1968-04-27


Conditions Governing Access


Biographical / Historical

Elisha “Ely” Green was born September 11, 1873, near Sewanee, Tennessee, the site of the University of the South. His mother, Lena, was a black servant of a family of a Confederate officer, with one of the children being Ely’s father, though she never said who. Lena and Ely were taken in by next door neighbors, “Doc” Richardson and his wife, whose residence was located where the university faculty club now stands. At the age of four, Ely was baptized by university chaplain William Alexander Guerry, later Bishop of South Carolina, performing the rite, assisted by the then Bishop-Coadjutor of Tennessee, the Right Reverend Thomas Frank Gailor, whom Ely always referred to as his godfather.

As a result of his mixed parentage, segregation from whites and ostracism by blacks, by the time he was a young adult, Ely fled a brewing lynching and went to Waxahachie, Texas. Before long he was employed as houseboy and chauffeur to Judge Oscar E Dunlap. He joined the US Army and went to France in 1918. He returned to Texas after the war and three years later he was driven away by police brutality. He went to work in the Texas oil fields, but again his breaking the color line brought him eye to eye with a hanging noose. He was “too black” for employment in the segregated oil fields and “too white” to be a porter.

He moved to Santa Monica, California, which remained his home for the rest of his life. He worked as valet and steward on private yachts, visiting Mexico, Panama, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Australia. In the Depression he was butler for such celebrities as John Barrymore and Mary Pickford. In World War Two, Green worked in the defense industry. He spearheaded the desegregation of a Lockheed aircraft plant, in which the company was willing to hire men regardless of color but the unions would not admit blacks. He retired in 1960 and a stroke in 1966 put him in the VA hospital in Santa Monica. His speech was impaired and he was never able to write again.

In August, 1967, he married Beatrice McCarroll, a long-time friend, whose devoted care during his convalescence made it possible for him to live outside the hospital. On April 27, 1968, he died of a heart attack. He had two daughters before he left Sewanee: Ina Jean and Elizabeth.


5.25 Linear Feet (Six letter-sized boxes, one 16x20 flat box and one 5x12 index card box.)

Language of Materials



Materials have been altered from their original arrangement.

Elisha "Ely" Green
Kris Kallies
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
  • Ely: An Autobiography by Ely Green; foreword by Bertram Wyatt-Brown, introduction by Lillian Smith; afterword by Arthur Ben Chitty

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Special Collections Repository

735 University Avenue
Sewanee TN 37383-1000