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At noon on Wednesday, April 24, as part of the department’s History Is Lunch series, John Ramsey Miller and Stephen Smith will discuss the history of the iconic McCarty Pottery, operated out of Merigold, Mississippi, for decades by Lee and Pup McCarty.

Born in 1923, Lee McCarty grew up in Merigold and attended Delta State University. He served in WWII, then married Pup Rone. After Lee McCarty graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1948, the couple left for Columbia University in New York. Lee McCarty received a master’s degree in education, and both McCartys studied jewelry making.

The couple returned to Oxford, where Lee took a job teaching high school. The McCartys studied pottery together in the university’s art department and set up their first studio in their garage. The McCartys returned to Merigold in 1954 and founded McCartys Pottery. The couple developed glazes and adorned their pieces with a wavy black line that represents the Mississippi River.

In 1996, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters awarded the McCartys a lifetime achievement award, and that same year the University of Mississippi Museum of Art held a retrospective entitled Masters of Merigold: 40 Years of McCarty Pottery. In 2012, the Mississippi Arts Commission honored McCartys Pottery with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts.

"The McCartys were my close friends and mentors from the 1960’s until their deaths—Pup in 2009 and Lee in 2015,” said Miller. “I was honored to write this book, which was beautifully photographed by Bill Powell, as a tribute to the artists and the vast body of work they produced between 1952 and 2015.”

Stephen Smith and his brother Jamie were the McCartys’ godsons. “We spent a lot of time at the studio,” Stephen Smith said. “Jamie had a natural talent for pottery, which Lee and Pup encouraged. I now manage the studio’s business affairs and the Gallery Restaurant.”

John Ramsey Miller was born in Grenville and educated at Delta State University and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. A former photojournalist and screenwriter, Miller is a New York Times bestselling author of seven suspense novels and a nonfiction book.

Stephen Smith grew up in Merigold. He earned his BA in German literature from Davidson College, then studied law at the University of Georgia. Smith is a member of the board of directors of the USA /International Ballet Competition in Jackson, and a member of the University of Georgia Libraries’ Board of Visitors.

The program will take place in the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium in the Two Mississippi Museums--the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum--located at 222 North Street, Jackson. There is no charge to attend. Copies of the book will be for sale. For more information call 601-576-6998 or email


May 1—Chuck Yarborough and students from the Mississippi School of Math and Science will present “The 8th of May: Emancipation in Mississippi.”

May 8—Natalie Adams and Jim Adams will present “Just Trying To Have School: The Struggle for Desegregation in Mississippi.” Sales and signing to follow. Rescheduled from February.

May 15—Lovejoy Boteler will present “Crooked Snake: The Life and Crimes of Albert Lepard.” Sales and signing to follow.

May 22—Stephen Berrey will present “The Jim Crow Routine: Everyday Performances of Race, Civil Rights, and Segregation in Mississippi.” Sales and signing to follow.

May 29—Hezekiah Watkins will present “Pushing Forward: The Story of Mississippi’s Youngest Freedom Rider.” Sales and signing to follow.

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