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E. Barrett Prettyman papers

 Collection 0039-LIT

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.


  • 1962-2010
  • Majority of material found within 1967-1980

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


1.25 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

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.

Prettyman remained Porter's friend and lawyer until 1977, when her health deteriorated and the court appointed someone to look after her affairs. Prettyman continued to live in the Washington area until his death on November 4, 2016.


The collection has been arranged as three series.

Series 1
Correspondence With Katherine Anne Porter
Series 2
Correspondence With Others
Series 3
Estate of Katherine Anne Porter

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

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.

Related Material

Materials related to this collection can be found in the Papers of Katherine Anne Porter, Series I, Subseries 3, which contains correspondence from E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., to Porter and the carbon copies of her typed letters to him. Most of his letters in that collection relate to legal matters; however, those that are personal give context to her letters in the Prettyman papers.

Further legal materials involving Prettyman can be found in the Papers of Paul Porter, Series II, which relate to Mr. Porter's role as guardian of Porter.

Photographs donated with the Prettyman papers have been incorporated into the Papers of Katherine Anne Porter. A desk used by E. Barrett Prettyman, Sr., was donated by his son for the Katherine Anne Porter Room in 1970.

Processing Information

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.

Guide to the E. Barrett Prettyman papers
Processed by Patricia J. Rettig, May 1997.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742