Gone with the Windfall: Archdiocese of Atlanta gets chunk of Mitchell estate

5:36 PM, Aug 17, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA, GA -- The Cathedral of Christ the King is getting a $7.5 million dollar overhaul. The funding is coming from a very secular source: a portion of the wealth created by Gone with the Wind, the epic Civil War novel written by Margaret Mitchell 76 years ago.

"It's huge," said Steve Swope, a deacon who is managing the pile of new money bequeathed to the Archdiocese of Atlanta. "What do you do when you have a fifty percent share in rights to Gone with the Wind?"

For the Archdiocese, it starts with the facelift for the Cathedral of Christ the King. It extends to a chunk of money for Catholic Charities. And it continues with a collection of artifacts, ranging from original copies of Gone with the Wind, to the author's tea service. It all belonged the Margaret Mitchell, eventually handed down to her grand-nephew, Joseph. He left it all to the Archdiocese when he died in 2011. Total value: $20 million.

At the Margaret Mitchell house in Midtown, a dozen visitors toured the old apartment building where Mitchell wrote the book-- visual evidence of the improbable endurance of a novel written in 1936. The Archdiocese estimates the book still pulls in $2-300,000 a year in royalties. Half of that will now go to the Archdiocese.

"There are plays that are put on in Japan that are Gone with the Wind. And we get paid for that," Swope marveled. Although the Archdiocese owns half the rights to the book and the story, it does not own any rights to the movie.

Another Mitchell heir still owns half the rights to Mitchell's book.

Swope says the archdiocese will not hoard the artifacts. He says he's looking for the right place for the public to see them.

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