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Tennessee Williams’ Papers Go To Harvard, But Literary Rights With Sister

March 23, 1988

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) _ Tennessee Williams’ sister will maintain literary rights to the late playwright’s documents and personal files, but Harvard University may take possession of them for study, a judge has ruled.

Williams, whose plays included ″A Streetcar Named Desire″ and ″Cat On a Hot Tin Roof,″ died in New York City in 1983 at 71. He willed to Harvard a bundle of papers, reportedly appraised at $175,000, that include plays and other manuscripts, some unpublished.

Trustees for 78-year-old Rose Williams, who has long been institutionalized, wanted the papers given ″in trust″ so the manuscripts could be sold if she needed money. Trustee John Eastman of New York said Miss Williams’ annual expenses average $200,000.

Harvard maintained it had the right to possession of the papers, now held in vaults by estate executor Southeast Bank in Miami.

At a hearing Tuesday, one of the final steps toward distribution of the Williams’ estate, Monroe County Circuit Judge Helio Gomez said he found no reason why the school could not take the papers.

Harvard attorney Frank Connors promised Miss Williams’ trustees she will receive the earnings of any publication or documents with commercial value. Williams’ royalties totaled $3.1 million from February 1984 to August 1987, he added.

″We are not taking the literary rights,″ Connors said. ″We are simply talking about the papers physically being there (at Harvard) where scholars can see them.″

Miss Williams has been at the private Stony Lodge Sanitarium in Ossining, N.Y., for 53 years. She underwent a lobotomy decades ago. Many of Williams’ plays are said to reflect his feelings toward his sister and other people who are lonely or mentally disabled.

The papers in question include some unpublished plays and manuscripts, said attorney Jim Hendrick, who represents Miss William’s trustees.

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