2011–The 75th Anniversary of GWTW, the book, based in part on writings from the Mitchell family scrapbook, shown above.
The death of Gone With The Wind author Margaret Mitchell, Aug. 16, 1949 is one of the most famously written about stories of any celebrity death. As the story goes she was crossing the street at Peachtree Street & 13th in Atlanta with her husband, John Marsh and was hit by an off-duty cab driver who was drunk Aug. 11th and she died on Aug. 16th. There was also the story that her husband burned papers and other things including the clothes she was wearing that night.
I remember the actress Ann Rutherford, who played Careen O’Hara in Gone With The Wind told me that John Marsh seemed proud when told her he burned all of that and she was shocked. She said “how could anybody do that?”
Hugh Dorsey Gravitt, the off-duty taxi driver whose name is known worldwide as the man who hit Margaret Mitchell was charged with drunken driving, speeding, and driving on the wrong side of the road and was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. He served almost 11 months in jail.
Last year I was in contact with Gravitt’s daughter Gloria Gravitt Moulder who told me that her father shared his side of the story when he lived with her in the last year of his life. She had wondered about it growing up but did not speak of it to her father until he felt comfortable in telling her. It was a story she wanted told, so despite no former writing experience she wrote a book about it.
When I read the first version of her book I thought it was fascinating but as I told her I thought it was a bit harsh and judgmental. That being said, she did a lot of research and there are some facts there that couldn’t be denied.
Since then she has re-introduced the book with many documents and pictures. The most interesting is the death scene picture, which she has on the front of her book.
“That picture tells its own story,” said Moulder. “Everyone who has seen it—and I’ve showed it to coroners, doctors, lawyers—has said there is no doubt she was dead at the scene. My dad thought she died instantly he said she never moved or made a sound, and she was left lying in the street face down for a very long time after the ambulance arrived.”
What troubled Moulder most was that according to her dad and also her interpretation of the picture Margaret Mitchell must have been dead because no one was tending to her and her husband (as shown in the picture) is standing up looking away, instead of kneeling beside her.
“After the medic took her vital signs he stood up and didn’t give her any aid,” she said. “The incident happened at 8:20 p.m. and she didn’t get to the hospital until 9 p.m. –which was approximately 40 minutes that she was left lying just as she fell. Afterward when he (her father Hugh Gravitt) was being questioned by the police they told him she was alive. He wanted to believe that, but he really believed she was already dead.”
Moulder got a copy of Mitchell’s death certificate which I have seen, as well as the police reports and accident drawings. After her discussions with a coroner she feels that the outfit Mitchell was wearing that night was evidence because according to her father, Mitchell was not run over by the car, she hit her head on the bumper of the car as she fell and suffered a brain injury which is what killed her. According to Moulder’s interpretation of the picture there was no blood on Mitchell’s dress.
“John Marsh told his mother there was no damage to her clothes that her face wasn’t even dirty,” Moulder said. “With what he told his mother about the clothes, they could have been evidence”
“The acting coroner signed her death certificate,” said Moulder, “Instead of the doctor who cared for her the five days they claim she lived after my dad hit her.”
In her quest to get the case re-opened, she has made attempts to get some documents unsuccessfully.
“The court records are sealed and they won’t let me have access to them,” she said.
“Everyone I have asked about why they would be sealed said there must be something in them they don’t want me or anyone to know; possibly her autopsy report that could prove time of death.”
Moulder knows what a beloved figure Margaret Mitchell is to so many who have enjoyed her novel Gone With The Wind over the years. She also knows that every year on the anniversary of her death the media would seek out her father and ask him about it. According to Moulder, the only journalist who was sympathetic to him was Celestine Sibley. Sibley was a well-respected writer for the Atlanta Constitution who had known Mitchell. She was one of the most popular long-running columnists.
“My dad talked to her occasionally over the years and I was in contact with her after he died and she encouraged me to write his side of the incident,” said Gloria Moulder.
Though Aug. 16 is the date regarded as Mitchell’s death day and is recorded on her tombstone, Moulder thinks her death day was Aug.11.
“Today is the anniversary of the recorded date of her death however, as my dad did, I think she died instantly,” said Moulder on Aug. 16, 2013. “The photo and the documents in my book tells more than any words can ever say. I believe the fans of Margaret Mitchell, and the public deserve to know the truth about what actually happened to her from the man who was the only person other than John Marsh who knew her death was not the result of an accident.”
Gloria Gravitt Moulders’ first version of her book got some bad and hate -illed reviews from those who saw her words as bitter. While she definitely adds her emotion in her book, the second version contains more facts and documents to back up her claims.
With the second version, called “Bargain With A Devil, The Tragedy Behind Gone With The Wind” (http://www.amazon.com/Bargain-Devil-Tragedy-Behind-Gone/dp/0615746519/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376682264&sr=1-1&keywords=bargain+with+a+devil) she has received two additional reviews and this time they are not critical.
There were two reviews of the book on Goodreads.com, a book review site which show that there are others besides Moulder who had questions regarding Margaret Mitchell’s death.
When I was writing my book, The Making Of A Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell and Gone With The Wind I spent some time with a someone who personally knew Mitchell and this person told me that they had question in their mind regarding Mitchell’s death, and they even went as far as using the word suicide. For some reason after spending so much time and giving me some very interesting information the person requested I leave them out of the book. Because of the close nature of their relationship and the fact that this person was not a public figure I respected those wishes, but some of the thoughts in these recent book reviews brought back memories of my conversation with this person.
This review on Goodreads.com by Kathy Whiten, written July 8, 2013 sheds some light on the fact that others may have had questions.
My interest in the death of Margaret Mitchell was sparked as a young child growing up in Georgia. I was born in 1953, 4 years after her death. Older relatives, neighbors and friends would sit around discussing her death as I was growing up and with the inquisitive mind of a young child; I found what they were saying interesting enough to listen in. They talked about how the taxi cab driver, Hugh Gravitt, (some of which knew him as this was a small southern town where everyone knew everyone) was not a drinker because of his health and how the newspaper articles had written he was drunk and speeding when it wasn’t true. I overheard many things about how the media was wrong regarding the circumstances of her death. Some speculated she committed suicide; others suspected her husband pushed her in front of the car Mr. Gravitt was driving. All commented that both Margaret and John were drunk and jaywalking across Peachtree Street…” [To read more go to: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/690260847]
This review by Bob Munneke, on Goodreads.com July, 2013 also raises questions.
“Ms.Gravitt does an extremely good job of showing how quickly justice can turn into injustice by over riding the rights of the accused to politically accommodate a public prejudiced mob. I’ve read other books over the years that describe the incident that killed Margaret Mitchell and if a person will apply logic and common sense to what Ms. Gravitt has provided in her book no one can dispute the fact there was a cover up… She reveals gaping holes in the original investigation and in my mind cleared her Father of any wrong doing…” [To read the entire review go to: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/690301486 ]
Gloria Gravitt Moulder is determined to get the case re-opened. There is a reporter for an Atlanta television station who is interested in it also.
“My dad was so traumatized from the incident, then the cover up, lies, and media circus that occurred following it, that he refused to tell what actually happened that day for forty-two years,” said Moulder.
“When I see these two reviews, it’s what I have hoped people would take away from my book. I believe the death scene and documents have helped in the revised edition of the book. I have had several people call me and say basically the same things he (Munneke) said only they didn’t write it in a review. Seeing what he wrote renews my determination to get as many people as possible to read the book and learn what really happened to Margaret Mitchell.”
Sally Tippett Rains is the author of 11 books including “The Making of a Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell and Gone With The Wind.” She is also the content manager for StLSportsPage.com.