Lily Peter, Arkansas state poet laureate, was born on June 2, 1891, to William Oliver Peter and Florence Mobrey Peter in Phillips County, Arkansas. The eldest of ten children, she assumed the responsibility of their family farm when her father died in an accident in 1907. Peter graduated valedictorian from her high school in Ohio, Arkansas, and returned home to teach in small local schools. Though she struggled financially, she managed to make the farm successful and even bought a second plantation with her brother. After her brother passed away, she managed both plantations. Peter experimented in organic farming and was an active voice in conservation and environmental issues.
In addition to teaching and running the plantations, Peter studied English at Columbia and Vanderbilt universities and earned a master’s degree from Vanderbilt. She also studied violin at Juilliard and became a supporter of the fine arts by donating money to build the Lily Peter Auditorium in Helena, Arkansas. Throughout her life, she wrote lyrical and historical poetry depicting the Arkansas Delta and was the state's Poet Laureate from 1971 to 1991. She died July 26, 1991.
From 1980 to 1989, Ouachita Baptist University Professor of English Johnny Wink corresponded with Lily Peter, Poet Laureate of Arkansas. Those letters as well as newsclippings and poetry are found in this collection.
Lily Peter Letters. Riley-Hickingbotham Library Archives and Special Collections, Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas.