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Paul Porter papers

 Collection 0040-LIT

Harrison Paul Porter (1921-2012), a nephew of Katherine Anne Porter, was her legal guardian from 1977 to 1980. His papers include correspondence; guardianship records; published materials and notes; audiovisual materials; memorabilia; and photographs documenting Porter's relationship with his aunt and her literary career and reputation. Significant individuals represented in the collection include Robert Penn Warren, Seymour Lawrence, and Joan Daves.


  • 1903-2009
  • Majority of material found within 1977-2002

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.


8.75 Linear Feet

226 Items

Scope and Content of Collection

Paul Porter's collection includes materials dating from 1903 to 2009, with the bulk of the materials from 1977 to 2002. Mr. Porter's correspondence with Miss Porter and the University of Maryland, together with the guardianship records, form the core of the collection. The guardianship files contain financial, legal, and literary records, including court documents, business correspondence, and royalty statements, as well as a collection of personal correspondence. These provide extensive documentation of Katherine Anne Porter's last years. There are clippings of newspaper, magazine, and scholarly articles by or about Porter and a collection of her clipped, typed, and handwritten recipes and menus. The collection includes photographs of Katherine Anne Porter, her homes, her gravemarker, artwork related to Porter, and Mexico. The collection also includes photographs of Paul Porter. There are audio tapes of telephone conversations between Mr. Porter and Porter and of one of her dinner parties, one tape of commercially recorded music, and several video cassettes relating to Porter. Also included are a photograph of Paul Porter with First Lady Laura Bush framed with Mrs. Bush to Mr. Porter and a plaque recognizing Porter as a member of the Texas Literary Hall of Fame.


Harrison Paul Porter was born July 29, 1921, in Houston, Texas, the second of the four children of Constance Eve Ingalls Porter and Harry Ray Porter. His father, also known as Harrison Paul Porter, was Katherine Anne Porter's brother. Mr. Porter's siblings were Dorothy Rae, Constance Elita, and Charles Boone.

He graduated from John H. Reagan High School in Houston in 1939, served in the army in Europe in World War II, then attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). There, he majored in general studies and wrote movie and dance reviews and political columns for the university newspaper. He also met Salka Viertel, who wrote some of Greta Garbo's early films. Mr. Porter left UCLA to write movies with Viertel. After this project failed, Mr. Porter returned to Houston and worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad as a claims adjuster. In 1960, he began work in New York City as an executive assistant to David Muss, Chairman of the Board of the Muss-Tankoos Corporation, which builds and manages shopping malls. He retired from Muss-Tankoos in 1986. From 1987 to 1997, he lived in Austin, Texas. He relocated to Houston, Texas, in May 1997. Paul Porter died July 28, 2012, in Houston.

Mr. Porter met Katherine Anne Porter in Houston in 1937, and they became devoted to one another. They shared interests in music, art, and writing, and he often sought her advice on books and music. They began corresponding when Porter returned to Louisiana in 1938 and continued to do so very frequently until Porter was no longer able to correspond. Some of her letters to him were published in Mademoiselle as "Letters to a Nephew: Observations on--Pets, Poets, Sex, Love, Hate, Fame, Treason" in April 1966. She encouraged him to write and critiqued his works; two of his short stories were published in Accent in 1951. He also published book and dance reviews in the Houston Post and the New York Herald Tribune. He eventually decided to pursue a more stable, practical career in business.

Mr. Porter was frequently involved in the practical matters of Katherine Anne's life; he found her new homes and moved her possessions when she was unable to do so. He became Katherine Anne Porter's legal guardian in 1977. Porter had become incapable of managing her own affairs; her behavior was erratic and she had begun to give valuable possessions to strangers. When he wrote her that the court had granted him the guardianship, she became angry and accused him of trying to mistreat her. He spent the years of the guardianship struggling to manage her complex financial, legal, and literary matters while keeping his job at Muss-Tankoos. He moved her to Carriage Hill Nursing Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, in March 1980, where she died that September. Mr. Porter remained legally in charge of Porter's affairs until 1981; the estate was at last settled in 1985.


The materials have been divided into seven series.

Series 1
Series 2
Guardianship Records
Series 3
Printed Matter and Notes
Series 4
Audiovisual Materials
Series 5
Series 6
Series 7

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Paul Porter's papers came to the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries in four major groups. The first, consisting of the Paul Porter and Katherine Anne Porter correspondence, some other correspondence, and the clipping and recipe collection, was purchased by the Libraries in 1982. The guardianship records, which include correspondence, financial records, legal documents, photographs, publications, press releases, work papers, and audio tapes, were donated by Mr. Porter in 1989. Mr. Porter gave the third group, consisting of additional correspondence, guardianship records, and photographs, in July 1994. The Libraries also received other small groups of materials from Mr. Porter in 1986, 1987, primarily correspondence, records, books, magazine articles, photographs, and memorabilia. Between 1999 and 2005, Mr. Porter donated additional materials that were integrated into the Papers of Katherine Anne Porter collection or the Papers of Paul Porter collection as appropriate. In October 2010, Mr. Porter donated additional correspondence, manuscripts, notes clippings, publications, audiovisual materials, photographs, and memorabilia. These items and files donated in September 2004 were incorporated into the collection in Spring 2011.

Related Material

Materials related to the papers of Paul Porter may be found in several of the literary manuscript collections held in Special Collections. Most are in the papers of Katherine Anne Porter, where there are fourteen folders of correspondence between Mr. Porter and Porter; this is the source for the other side of the correspondence represented in this collection. Porter gave the recipe clippings in this collection to Mr. Porter; the remainder of her recipes can be found in her papers. There are a number of pictures of Mr. Porter and of Porter that he took, in the Katherine Anne Porter photograph collection. Other related materials can be found in the papers of Katherine Anne Porter's family and associates with whom Mr. Porter communicated including Mr. Porter's cousin Ann Heintze, Miss Porter's lawyer E. Barrett Prettyman, publisher Seymour Lawrence, and literary trustee Isabel Bayley. There is also one folder of Paul Porter correspondence, 1977-1990, in the papers of Thomas F. Walsh. A related collection, the Paul Porter Collection of Katherine Anne Porter, may also be found in Texas State University's Wittliff Collections.

Processing Information

The first group of Paul Porter's papers was purchased by the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries in 1982 and was processed by Mary Boccaccio. When Mr. Porter donated the guardianship records in 1989, a preliminary inventory was prepared, and Mr. Porter's arrangement of these records was retained. Mr. Porter visited the university in the spring of 1994 and worked on the papers with the Curator of Literary Manuscripts, weeding out some extraneous materials. The two collections, which had a great deal of similar information and were from the same time period, were combined and completely reprocessed in July-August 1994. A new series-level arrangement was created. Mr. Porter made his third major donation in July 1994; those materials, also of similar form and subject, were integrated into the existing arrangement.

The processing consisted mainly of combining and reconciling the three groups of records, which included interfiling materials from different folders. Some folders were also broken down for more logical access: items in one "Miscellaneous" correspondence folder were filed with appropriate subjects; some of the correspondents merited their own folders.

Four folders of correspondence--that with Cyrilly Abels, Matthew Josephson, Seymour Lawrence, and Current Biography--were moved to the papers of Katherine Anne Porter, as they were her correspondence and did not involve Mr. Porter or the guardianship. The folder of correspondence from John Melville, which would seemingly be part of the same category, was not moved to Porter's papers because Melville bequeathed his letters from Porter to Paul Porter. A letter to Porter from Upton Brady at Atlantic Monthly Press and a letter from Edna Edison to Porter were moved to Porter's papers, at Mr. Porter's suggestion. A 1966 edition of Craig Claiborne's The New York Times Menu Cook Book annotated in Porter's hand and dust jackets for Harcourt, Brace editions of Porter's Pale Horse, Pale Rider and The Days Before were transferred to the Marylandia and Rare Books Department. The folders in the entire collection were retitled, as appropriate, and placed in alphabetical order within their series.

The collection of clippings and recipes was classified by authorship and subject; all materials clipped from magazines and newspapers were copied to acid-free paper, and all available bibliographic information was transferred. All materials were placed in new acid-free folders and boxes.

In September 1999, Mr. Porter donated a small grouping of guardianship records relating to Roger Brooks. In October 1999, these materials, which Mr. Porter had arranged in chronological order, were housed in an acid-free folder and placed in Series 2, Box 1, of the collection.

In February 2006, additional gifts from Mr. Porter, donated between 1999 and 2005 were incorporated into the collection. As a result of this incorporation, Series 3: Printed Matter and Notes and Series 4: Audiovisual Materials were renamed, Series 6: Photographs was reorganized and renumbered, and Series 5: Books was created from books donated by Mr. Porter. Additionally, Series 7: Memorabilia was created by moving two pieces of memorabilia into the collection from the Katherine Anne Porter Papers.

In Spring 2011, additional materials donated by Mr. Porter in September 2004 and October 2010 were incorporated into the collection. The bulk of the materials consisted of correspondence and other printed matter that were incorporated into the existing Series 1: Correspondence and Series 3: Printed Matter and Notes. Other materials incorporated at this time include a number of audio and video tapes, as well as books, photographs, and memorabilia items.

Guide to the Paul Porter papers
Processed by Mary Boccaccio, 1982.
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