Ora Lindsay Graham, 81: Wrote about her childhood in small-town Mississippi

Ora Graham had something in common with Oprah Winfrey and James Meredith.

Both Winfrey, the celebrity talk-show host, and Meredith, the first black student at the University of Mississippi, were born in Kosciusko, Miss., a town of about 7,000 people about 70 miles north of  Jackson.

So was Mrs. Graham.

Mrs. Graham embraced the community she grew up in. She wrote stories about the town and featured it prominently in a self-published book, "In Search of  Whippoorwills, A Mother's Journey." It's an autobiography about growing up in a Southern town with values and experiences that shaped her adulthood.

In a jacket statement, the first lady of Mississippi, Marsha Barbour, called it a "poignant description of the struggles and rewards of growing up and growing older. The Mississippi of her youth is beautifully portrayed."

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The book was published in 2007, but the lifelong writer didn't promote or market it, said a son, Marcus Graham of Alpharetta.

"She gave it to some folks," he said. "She wrote it all on her own, and we helped her get it published."

On Saturday, Ora Lindsay Graham of Alpharetta died from complications of a stroke in the intensive care unit at North Fulton Hospital. She was 81. A funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday in the chapel of Jordan Funeral Home in Kosciusko, which is handling arrangements.

Mrs. Graham was born in a family of nine kids whose father ran a general merchandise store in Williamsville, a short hop from Kosciusko. She graduated from Kosciusko High School and attended college briefly before marrying George Graham, her husband of 59 years, in 1950.

In the early 1980s, she won an award for an inspirational article that appeared in Guideposts magazine. For that, she got to meet Norman Vincent Peale, one of the founders of Guideposts, the Christian nonprofit organization.

Mrs. Graham self-published other books. "Seasons of the Carnival" dealt with her children and their trying teen years. "Learning Seasons" and "Mother's Mood" featured her poems. She was also a painter, especially of landscapes.

"She started painting without a single lesson," said a daughter, Lindsay Williams of Marietta. "She was incredibly creative. Her writing was autobiographical, poignant and just real. She had an incredible faith."

Additional survivors include two other daughters, Lisa Fowler of Newnan and Laura Malone of Anniston, Ala.; three sisters, LaNelle Hall of Kosciusko, and Reba Goss and Mary Eskew, both of Williamsville; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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