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Stitching a Story: Retired professor honors quiltmaker with new book

By Cheryl Joy Allman/The Huntsville Item

A former Huntsville resident and artist is gaining newfound popularity due to the efforts of a retired Sam Houston State University professor of English.

Melvin Rosser Mason, author of the newly published book, "Martha Mitchell of Possum Walk Road: Quiltmaker," will be promoting his new work through a series of television appearances and book signings over the next few weeks.

A documentary on Mitchell, a self-taught artist who called Huntsville home from 1939 until her death in 1985, will be aired on PBS affiliate KUHT-TV Channel 8 in Houston on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. Originally filmed and released in 1985, the documentary was produced by Mason, who worked with Mitchell from 1981 until 1985 researching and documenting information for the book.

Mitchell, who worked originally in oils, began working as a quilt artist while residing in Huntsville and became increasingly well-known for her extraordinary designs and the fine quilts she produced.

The PBS broadcast will highlight the release of Mason's new book, which is his gift to SHSU. Proceeds from sales of the book will benefit the Martha Mitchell Scholarship Fund and the Sam Houston Memorial Museum.

Paul Ruffin, director of the Texas Review Press said sales of the book are going well.

"Each year we try to publish a book of local interest," he said. "When I saw what Melvin had gotten together, I wanted to publish it because it has state as well as local interest. There are so many people who are interested in quilts."

The Texas Review Press, part of the Texas A&M Press Consortium, has published several books of local interest in recent years, including "A Frontier Texas Mercantile: The History of Gibbs Brothers and Company, Huntsville, 1841-1940" and "So There You Are: The Selected Prose of Glenn Brown, Journalist."

Ruffin stressed that Mason's book is the first coffee table book ever produced by the Texas Review Press.

"It's going to be a good seller for us," he said. "It really has brought us into significant publishing now. We are really pleased with it, and A&M is really pleased with it."

Texas Review Press will host several book signings for Mason, including space in a booth at the International Quilt Festival in Houston on Oct. 21-24, where Mason will be available to autograph books and videotapes. The festival, which features quilt designs and artists from all over the world, will be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Then, on Dec. 7, a formal reception and book signing entitled the "Martha Mitchell Celebration," will be held at the Walker Education Center in Huntsville and will include a slide show featuring Mitchell's narration, a display of several of Mitchell's quilts and music by Jan Cole.

In addition, KAMU-TV in College Station will interview Mason for the segment, "Community Magazine." The interview will air Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 4 at 5 p.m.; and Dec. 5 at 4:30 p.m.

Copies of "Martha Mitchell of Possum Walk Road: Quiltmaker" are available through the Texas A&M Press Consortium by calling 1-800-826-8911 or can be purchased at the quilt festival or the Dec. 7 reception.

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SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
October 11, 1999
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