Thursday, November 07, 2013

Was Margaret Mitchell Murdered?

Once, a long while ago, I read Gone With the Wind. Then I learned that Margaret Mitchell had died when she was struck by a car. I distinctly remember making the comment, "Ooo. I wouldn't want to be THAT guy. Can you imagine being the fellow who accidentally killed Margaret Mitchell?!" (I have also always had it in my head that the driver hit her by accident, but I'm not entirely sure why that is.)

At any rate, we fast forward a few years down the road and the daughter of the man who was driving that car contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reading her book, Bargain With A Devil: The Tragedy Behind Gone With The Wind. She said that this book held secret information that had never been called to light before, discussing the incident which killed Mitchell. Well. I was intrigued.

In her introduction to her self published book, author Gloria Gravitt Moulder makes the following statement:

"My purpose for writing is not for monetary gain or any personal agenda, except to keep the promise I made to my dad. I'm not a literary professional nor do I claim to be proficient at spelling,and grammer. I just have a story to tell and I hope there are people out there that can overlook my lack of writing expertise and look at the historical aspect of the book that tells how Margaret Mitchell actually died from the man who was there. He not only saw what happened to her, he was tried convicted and imprisoned for her death." (Prologue, page 4)

Truly, I ended up appreciating this upfront honestly about her lack of writing expertise. I'm not a grammar snob and I also do not pretend to be the World's Greatest Speller, but this book is somewhat difficult to read and engage with due to the numerous typographical errors and punctuation problems. Moulder also switches tenses mid-sentence quite frequently and this can lead to some confusion. I have to tell you that the best way I found to read the book - to be able to understand what she was trying to communicate - was to skim it and in the skimming the brain manages to piece the story together on its own. I don't say that to be harsh with Moulder because she's not pretending to be a writer. She really is just fulfilling a promise to her father in the writing of this book and she does have an interesting story to tell.

Moulder opens the book by explaining to us the life history of her father, Hugh D. Gravitt. She touches on the various "highlights" of his life leading up to the historical incident of August 11, 1949. To catch the background story for this book, you might be interested in reading this New York Times article which appeared the day that Mitchell was declared to be dead by the hospital. Moulder says there's another story to Mitchell's death, one that has remained covered up for these six decades.

The basic gist of the story which Moulder presents is as follows:

1. Her dad was an off duty taxi driver at the time of the accident. He was driving his own car to a pharmacy to pick up a prescription for his step-son when the accident occurred. He was not drunk, although he has always been reported as such. He did confess to having a beer four hours prior to the time of the accident but was not effected by the alcohol in any way at the time of the accident. (Believable, but not argued by his attorneys at trial.)

2. Her dad was not speeding. In fact, he said he had slowed down to avoid Margaret Mitchell and her husband, John Marsh, and had swerved into the other lane to miss hitting them. John Marsh testified that Gravitt had to be going "at least 50 m.p.h." but Gravitt says this is completely implausible because at that speed, Mitchell's clothes would have been ripped and damaged and there would have been a lot of blood involved in the accident. All of Mitchell's clothes were intact and there was very little blood and no abrasions or scratches on the body. (This discrepancy in testimony at the trial apparently was also not adequately covered by Gravitt's attorneys.)

3. Gravitt said that he fully believes that Mitchell died at the scene. He argues that the police photograph of the accident scene proves this.

Here is the photograph:

Moulder notes that if she were alive, her body would have been turned up and assistance would have been being provided to her. As the photograph attests, she is surrounded by medics, her husband and police who absolutely not in the process of providing medical assistance. Also noted by Moulder is the fact that the time lapse between when the accident happened and when an ambulance carried Mitchell away is one hour. She argues that if Mitchell was alive, she would have been rushed to the hospital (which was apparently only a few minutes away). In fact, Mitchell was not reported to have died for several days afterward and Moulder believes this was to give Marsh time to transfer Mitchell's money before her will went into effect.

4. Gravitt told his daughter that he remembers seeing Mitchell "run backward" - which is a phrase he used to the police. He realized later than running backward towards an oncoming car doesn't make sense. And here is where Moulder isn't completely clear in her writing but Gravitt suggests that Mitchell was not running backward, but moving backward. He claims she didn't do so voluntarily. He claims that both Marsh and Mitchell were drunk, that Marsh led Mitchell out onto a busy street where Marsh then distracted his wife long enough to be able to push her into an oncoming car.

5. Moulder points out that the day after this incident occurred involving her father, two girls were jaywalking on Peachtree Street and were also struck by an oncoming vehicle. The driver of that vehicle was not charged with any crime. She cites several cases in which the jaywalker is charged with jaywalking and the individual drivers being cleared except in the case of her father who just so happened to be driving a car which killed "a rich and famous person." She also points out that there are sealed documents at the courthouse where her father's trial took place which she was not allowed to view.

In my opinion, Moulder raises some valid points that should have been considered at the time of the incident. Although she argues Gravitt's case from the standpoint of a daughter who feels that her father was wronged, she makes her own case for his innocence very well.

Understandably, Moulder is not at all fond of either Mitchell or Marsh. She believes passionately that Marsh killed his wife and framed her father and she detests him for it. I understand her emotions because I have had a loved one unjustly accused of some pretty horrible things. However, as a Christian, I think it is important to note that Jesus came and bore all sorts of unjust accusations and treatment. In response to this He said nothing but He offered his accusers forgiveness. Really, I think the only way that someone could find peace in this situation and the ability to truly forgive and live free (no matter the outward circumstances) is if the peace of God which passes all human understanding is theirs.

It is hard to hear of people unjustly accused. A friend of mine is currently in prison because of a corrupt prosecutor. It is agony to sit by and watch someone's life be destroyed by lies. It is painful to watch the media attack and deride an innocent person and I feel Moulder's pain. My sweetest consolation that could also still be hers is that Jesus can reach down into any mess and pull us out of it, allowing us to forgive. And forgiveness brings the peace we desire.

Truly, when I read this book I would have Moulder to know the deep love of Christ who redeems and transforms the ugliest of situations. God can make anything new. There is no part of the worst of our lives that is wasted when Christ is working in us to will and to do His good pleasure. If we call on the name of the Lord, we will be saved from our sins and from ourselves. Bitterness and anger are both painful things to hold on to and the truth of the matter is that we do not have to hold onto them. We can cast our cares and concerns into the lap of Jesus Christ and weep "on His lap" and He will wipe those tears away and show us how He was working in those very situations that we thought were so horrible to bring us to a saving knowledge of Him.

I appreciate Moulder stepping up to the plate to tell her father's side of the story. Truth will win, always. Even if it doesn't win out in our lifetimes, it will win because it must. It is designed to win. Her father was a wounded man and with good reasons. I am sorry he would have to live under false accusations in a corrupt court of law. But gratefully we can be wounded and hurt without having to bear the burden all by ourselves. Christ wins the day and all evil will be dealt with. Pain will be a part of our lives but God is with us also and He helps us to bear it, forgive and even feel joy in the midst of everything.

If this this book be the truth of the story of Margaret Mitchell's death (and I personally find it quite compelling and believable!!) then the files in Gravitt's case need to be unsealed and the truth be inserted into the annals of history. But rest assured, even if humans lie and try to cover it up, the truth will prevail in the end because there is no evil that can stop it. That is the very hope of Christianity, folks!


My thanks to Gloria Gravitt Moulder who sent me a copy of this book in order to facilitate my review. I received no additional compensation for this post and, as always, all opinions are 150% my very own!


Barbara H. said...

Interesting. It does sound like there are enough compelling discrepancies and questions to reopen the case and reexamine the evidence.

I do agree that even that won't bring peace of heart, though, and I hope Moulder does find that in Christ.

Monica said...

Very interesting story. My daughter and I were sitting here at the table discussing the fact you provided...

Mirlandra said...

Fascinating! I'm a bit of a Mitchell fan and visited the museum in Atlanta a few years ago. I don't remember any whisper of this.

It would be an interesting read but I'm a bit put off by a readability issue. Writer or no a professional proofreader can be bought for self publishing. I'm sure it is expensive but maybe worthwhile in this case.

sunny said...

This may not ever get a response but it would be useful if we could find out if Marsh really did transfer funds in those crucial days just after the accident. Does Moulder offer any documentation? Because if so, This would go a long way to proving her thesis.

Georgia Girl. said...

I was born in Atlanta, and my father who lived in that area, has always told us that Margaret Mitchell drank and that it was as a result of her drinking that she was hit. I've never heard all the other things, but that doesn't mean there isn't at least a cause to question the media accuracy.

Unknown said...

Margaret Mitchell was a strong woman and not a "push button" wife. John Marsh was fed up with her appreciation for salacious erotica and probable bisexuality. It would be so easy to cross Peachtree and push her backwards, especially if inebriated. I've been up and down that beloved road for 68 years. Grady is only minutes away. Them good ole Georgia boys covered up the truth about the money transfer by sealing the papers. Margaret is in Heaven, peaceful, free and no one is trying to make into someone she is not. They will get theirs in the end.

robmc said...

Just to add a few more bits of info: In 1960 My family moved into a new neighborhood near I-20 and Columbia drive in Decatur. There was a gas station at the corner of Columbia Drive and Glenwood Road that my friend and I would walk to (we were 12 years old). His father had a convenience store at the same corner. The owner of the gas station (Philips 66 maybe)was a guy named Hugh Gravitt. Decades later my mom told me that Mr. Gravitt was the person that killed Margaret Mitchel while driving a cab in Atlanta and had served some time in prison. I really thought that my mom (about 89 years old) by now had a few wires crossed so I did some Googling and confirmed that he actually was the same Hugh Gravitt. Thanks for filling in many more facts for me.

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