Caroline Pafford was born in Waycross, Georgia on August 26, 1903, the youngest of seven children. Her father was Elias Pafford, a school teacher, and her mother was Lev Zan Hall Pafford. After she graduated from Waycross High School, she married her English teacher, William Miller, and they moved to Baxley, Georgia. At that time, Caroline never dreamed that she would be responsible for shining a light on her beloved Georgia and its rich history, winning a Pulitzer Prize, and leading the way for other Southern writers in American literature.
The Millers had a son, Bill, and two years later they had twin sons, Nip and Tuck. As a housewife raising three young boys, she was struggling to be the wife, mother, housekeeper and writer that she wanted to be. She had published a short story and wanted to write more, but her life was busy and by her own description she felt “overwhelmed by the pressure.” She thought about pioneer women in her own family whose stories she had been told. Their life was more difficult than hers. “They had something very real, very tangible, yet almost indefinable, that anchored them and gave them faith and courage and I needed that something so much.”
Caroline drew inspiration from those women. Determined to capture the essence of their lives, she drove often into the countryside, taking her three sons along with her, interviewing older residents and accepting their invitations for dinner or lunch. She spent hours listening to their stories of struggle and family. She made notes about their dialect and colloquial phrases they used and incorporated them into her book Lamb in His Bosom. Her writing did justice to their stories and their language, receiving great praise for the tone and poetry of her words. Those words were eventually translated into several languages.
In 1934, Lamb In His Bosom burst onto the international literary scene – a long way from the “piney woods of Georgia.” Caroline’s first novel won the Pulitzer Prize for literature – a first for Georgia. It also received the French Prix Femina Award for American Literature the same year. Caroline became a sensation in the literary world, and her life in Baxley changed as well. In 1935 she received an honorary Degree of Letters from Oglethorpe University. She had visitors from all over the United States, and she became a popular speaker for civic and literary organizations. She often emphasized that women were able to make their ambitions come true. In a time before women were officially “liberated,” Caroline encouraged young women to follow their dreams.
After a divorce in 1937, Caroline married Clyde Ray, Jr. and moved to Waynesville, North Carolina where she raised another son and a daughter. She continued to write, publishing several short stories, and the novel Lebanon in 1944. Her second husband died in 1976 and Caroline moved to a more remote mountain home where she lived quietly. She continued to write every day, and when she died in 1992 at the age of 88, she left several unpublished manuscripts.
In April, 2007, Caroline Miller was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, one of 29 writers who have been recognized. This prestigious group includes Sidney Lanier, Martin Luther King, Jr., Joel Chandler Harris, Alice Walker, Flannery O’Conner, and Margaret Mitchell, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937. Lamb in His Bosom is on the Georgia Center for the Book’s Top 25 Read List, and is experiencing a renewal of popularity.
Caroline Pafford Miller wrote of strong women who overcame adversity, and she is, herself, an inspiration for women: “Don’t let people tell you there is no drama in your life, or that your surroundings are too colorless for novel material. If you can’t find the novel in someone else’s life, look into your own. Perhaps you don’t have any Georgia pines to write about, but there is something else quite as lovely in your life. I am certain of that. There never was another you. Write the way you feel it.”
This is the legacy that Caroline Pafford Miller has left for Georgians, and for writers everywhere.