HISTORY:  Grace Beacham Freeman, poet laureate

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S.C. Encyclopedia  | Born in Spartanburg on Feb. 18, 1916, Freeman was the daughter of Henry Beacham and Grace Bailey. She attended elementary and high school in the Spartanburg school system and received her undergraduate degree in English, drama, and Latin from Converse College in 1937. In 1993, she received an honorary doctor of letters degree from St. Andrews Presbyterian College.

Freeman taught in the public schools of South Carolina from 1937 through 1942, a period marked by two major events in her life. In 1939, her first adult poetry was published in the Saturday Evening Post. On June 11, 1941, she married John Alderman Freeman of Raleigh, North Carolina, whom she had met while visiting relatives in Mars Hill, North Carolina. The Freemans had four children.

Freeman

In 1952 the family moved to Rock Hill, where John Freeman had accepted a teaching position in the biology department at Winthrop College. From 1954 to 1964 Grace Freeman wrote a column, “At Our House,” which was distributed by King Features Syndicate three times a week to newspapers throughout the United States and Canada. In addition to poetry, she wrote plays and radio and television dramas. Her work appeared in literary publications and in the popular press.

Freeman’s first collection of poetry, Children Are Poetry, was published as a chapbook in 1951. A second chapbook, Stars and the Land, was published in 1983. Freeman’s first book-length collection, No Costumes or Masks, first published in 1975, was honored as the year’s Best Book by a South Carolina Poet. A second book, Midnight to Dawn, was published in 1981, followed by Not Set in Stone in 1986. Later in her life Freeman published poetic tributes to her parents: This Woman Called Mother (1992), for which she received the Fortner Writers Forum Award; and Remembering a Gentle Father (1996).

From 1973 until 1986, Freeman participated in the South Carolina Arts Commission’s Poet-in-the-Schools program. She served as a poetry therapy consultant to the Gastonia, North Carolina, Mental Health Center from 1973 until 1975. Governor Richard Riley appointed Freeman poet laureate of South Carolina in 1985. She held the title for only one year, relinquishing the role shortly before retiring to North Carolina in 1987. She remained active and involved in community affairs until shortly before her death in Asheville, North Carolina, on October 28, 2002, following a brief illness.

— Excerpted from an entry by Julia Arrants.   To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia, published in 2006 by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)

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