E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr. (1925-2016) was Katherine Anne Porter's lawyer and close friend from the mid-1960s until her death in 1980. He had a private practice in Washington, D.C. starting in 1955, and was a partner with the prominent firm of Hogan and Hartson since 1964. He is the author of Death and the Supreme Court. His papers include personal letters and business correspondence relating to Porter.
This collection is open for research.
Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.
1.25 Linear Feet
The papers of E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., cover the period 1962 to 1984, with the bulk created between 1967 and 1980. They consist primarily of correspondence between Katherine Anne Porter and Prettyman. Many of the letters are solely about their relationship and her sentiments about him, but others mention current events, legal matters, daily life, and her health. The remainder of the collection consists of correspondence between Prettyman and other people, such as accountants, literary agents, lawyers, and friends, concerning Porter's legal affairs. The collection includes letters, notes, memoranda, cards, and newspaper and magazine clippings.
Katherine Anne Porter once wrote that knowing Elijah Barrett Prettyman, Jr., during the last years of her life made those years worth living. Prettyman, a Washington, D. C., attorney, became her lawyer and friend in 1966 and continued his professional and personal relationship with her until her death in 1980.
E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., was born on June 1, 1925, in Washington, D. C., to Lucy Courtney Hill and Elijah Barrett Prettyman, a prominent U. S. Court of Appeals judge. He earned a B.A. from Yale University in 1949 and an LL.B. from the University of Virginia in 1953. He was married twice and has two children from his first marriage.
From 1953 to 1955, Prettyman served as a law clerk to U. S. Supreme Court justices Robert H. Jackson, Felix Frankfurter, and John M. Harlan. He was admitted to the bar in 1954 and within three years argued a case before the Supreme Court, the first of nineteen cases he would present before the court by 1995. He became an associate with the law firm of Hogan and Hartson in 1955 and was named a partner in 1964. In 1963, Prettyman served as special assistant to U. S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and was an aide to presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1963 to 1964. He was also the first president of the District of Columbia Bar Association.
Prettyman's first contact with Katherine Anne Porter came in 1962, when he called her after reading Ship of Fools; they met the next day. In April 1962, he wrote to request that she autograph his copy of that book, and she fulfilled his request.
Prettyman greatly admired Porter and her writings, in part because he was a writer himself. In 1961, he published Death and the Supreme Court, which won two awards: the Mystery Writers of America Award for the best fact-crime book of the year and the Scribes Award for the best expression for the lay reader of the aims and purposes of the legal profession.
In 1963, Prettyman invited Porter to participate in a symposium on classic literature at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., but she was unable to accept. In May 1966, she contacted Prettyman seeking his professional advice on her will. That contact led to both a professional relationship and an intimate friendship. Porter characterized Prettyman as the last love of her life, though, according to Prettyman, she "loved to dramatize things." He felt affection and admiration for her as well; however, he had a clear understanding of the nature of their relationship:
It was greatly embellished in her own mind, for her own purposes, and I was happy to go along with it up to a point. She was lonely, and had no one else with whom she could get along for very long or whom she felt she could trust. For my part, while I certainly cared for and respected her, my primary goal was to keep her out of trouble (E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., to Joan Givner, 22 November 1982).Porter required considerable legal advice on such matters as her will, contracts with publishers, financial matters, and her relationship with the University of Maryland. Prettyman also made time for social occasions with her despite the heavy demands of his own professional, civic, and personal obligations.
The collection has been arranged as three series.
Mr. Prettyman donated a portion of these papers to the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries in 1990. A second portion was received in December 1997. After his death in 2016, the law firm Hogan Lovells donated additional papers found in his office.
Items within the series were arranged in chronological order and foldered by year. Staples and metal paper clips were removed and replaced with plastic clips. Newspaper and magazine clippings were photocopied onto acid-free paper and the originals were discarded. The documents were placed in acid-free folders in an acid-free box. The accretion was processed in the same manner, and a new series was created. Because of restrictions placed on access to the 1997 donation, the additional Series I correspondence has not been interfiled with that of the 1990 donation.