EATONTON — Step inside the Georgia Writers Museum downtown in Eatonton, and you’ll come face to face with a literary ghost. Frank Lebby Stanton was Georgia’s first poet laureate, an editorial writer and a popular columnist for the Atlanta Constitution from 1888 to 1927.
Stanton’s charming, witty verse became lyrics for top-selling parlor songs at the turn of the century, among them “Mighty Lak a Rose”and “Just Awearyin’ for You.”
Today the imposing portrait of the state’s first poet laureate, dressed in a frock coat and smart red tie, welcomes visitors to a museum celebrating internationally famous Georgia writers, including Stanton’s longtime friend, Joel Chandler Harris, co-editor of the Atlanta Constitution and author of the “Uncle Remus” stories admired by Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling and Teddy Roosevelt.
Once inside the museum, ghost host Stanton makes a brief appearance in an introductory video, then serves as an amiable audio tour guide.
The Georgia Writers Museum spotlights three famous writers who began their creative lives near Eatonton. In addition to Harris, the museum features Flannery O’Connor — considered one the best short story writers of the 20th century — and Alice Walker, the novelist, poet and activist who received the Pulitzer Prize for her novel “The Color Purple.”
The museum is also the year-round home for the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. Photos of all 69 writers inducted into the hall are on display, along with timelines of major literary achievements throughout Georgia’s history. Recent renovation makes use of video, audio and interactivity to keep visitors informed and engaged. The museum is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays; and Mondays through Wednesdays by appointment. More information is available at georgiawritersmuseum.com.
As for Stanton, you’ll find he is a cheerful, not a scary ghost host, one in keeping with the inscription on his tombstone in Atlanta’s Westview Cemetery: “This world we’re a’livin’ in is mighty hard to beat. You get a thorn with every rose, but ain’t the roses sweet?”