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Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Scribe of Death Retires

Winnie Walsh retired from Spartanburg County Library Headquarters on Friday. Her work indexing tens of thousands of death notices and obituaries earned her the title "Scribe of Death."

"One of my favorite obits said that some man died 'unexpectedly' at the age of 96, and I thought, how long do you think you can cheat death?" Walsh quipped.

The politics of death gave particular pause to Walsh, who noticed that during the civil rights movement, the obituaries of black people gradually went from looking like "tiny want ads" to including the names of relatives and identifying details considered standard in a white person's obituary. She also realized that in 1968 the Herald-Journal's obituary page became integrated a few days after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, without much fanfare. [Link]

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