A stop at Walter Mitchell’s house could net a lucky visitor a handmade musical instrument, or a piece of handcrafted furniture. The former president of W.R.C. Smith Publishing Co., the company that published Southern Accents magazine, had a knack for using “his hands and his brain,” said his brother.
“Our mother used to say, ‘There’s no telling what Walter can do, because he can do so many things,’” said Wade T. Mitchell, of Atlanta. “He was such a multi-talented fellow. And he enjoyed his talents because others enjoyed his talents.”
Walter Mitchell not only made musical instruments, but he played them too, his son said.
“It has to be said that no serious musician would ever mistake one of my dad’s instruments for a finely set-up, professional instrument,” said David Mitchell, of his father’s work. “But if you just wanted to grab a guitar and have a hootenanny on the back porch, the instruments were all there, very playable and you could make a hellacious amount of noise with them.”
Walter Marshall Mitchell Jr., of Dunwoody, died suddenly March 15 at his residence from complications of cardiac arrest. He was 83. He requested that no service be held. His body was cremated by H.M. Patterson & Son, Arlington Chapel.
Mitchell, an Atlanta native, seemed to turn his interests to journalism after he transferred from Georgia Tech to the University of Georgia. The transfer did not excite Mitchell’s father, a Tech grad, but it was a good move for him, David Mitchell said.
“He didn’t find engineering to his liking,” Mitchell said, of his father. “But he’d always been good at writing, and composing, and I think he was genuinely interested in writing.”
Walter Mitchell had a lengthy career at the Smith publishing company, which he enjoyed greatly, his son said. But some of his most enjoyable moments were spent in his workshop at home.
“He was quite funny, he had a great wit, and people wanted him at their parties, but he would rather stay at home,” David Mitchell said, of his father.
The creations that came from the Mitchell workshop included a line of furniture he called “Thomas Cheapendale,” a play off of the well-known Thomas Chippendale furniture.
“These were beautiful pieces of furniture,” Wade Mitchell said. “Everybody in the family has some.”
He also built model airplanes and “tinkered a lot,” said his nephew, Wright Mitchell of Atlanta.
“He was from an era of kids who grew up with diverse interests,” Mitchell said of his uncle. “Then, there were no video games like there are now. In that day, people learned how to build things, and that is was what he enjoyed.”
In addition to his son and brother, Mitchell is survived by his wife of 56 years, Evelyn Mitchell; brother, Bill Mitchell of Atlanta and one grandchild.
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