Former historical society director Kitty Oliver dies

jkovac@macon.comJanuary 26, 2014 

Kitty Oliver led the Middle Georgia Historical Society from 1982 until 2002.

ROBERT SEAY — The Telegraph

Kitty Oliver, a fifth-generation Maconite who served for two decades as director of the Middle Georgia Historical Society, died Sunday. She was 86.

Her ties to the city date back to her great-great-grandfather who settled in a village on the east side of the Ocmulgee River before Macon was named.

Her great-grandparents once lived in the Sidney Lanier Cottage. Willingham High School, now Southwest, was named for her maternal grandfather.

But her family may best be known for its 10,000-square-foot Greek Revival home. The white-columned Raines-Carmichael House, with its cupola and curved veranda, overlooks the corner of Georgia Avenue and College Street near the main post office.

Oliver’s family bought the place during World War II and restored it. In 1951, Oliver and her late husband Lee, an architect, married there. As a bride, she entered down the spiral staircase of the home’s rotunda. She later raised her own family in the house.

In 1978, the house, then well over a century old, was named a National Historic Landmark.

Katherine “Kitty” Carmichael Oliver attended Duke University and graduated from Mercer University, where she majored in journalism and social science.

For years she taught Sunday school at Christ Episcopal Church, and she also volunteered with, among other groups, Friends of the Library, the American Red Cross and the March of Dimes.

She directed the historical society from 1982 until 2002, but was a member of the organization for much longer. When she took the helm in ‘82, she thought it’d be a temporary gig. It wasn’t.

Her fondness for the city and its history kept Oliver active as she did her best to keep the past alive for future generations.

She once declared the historical society’s members “the best public relations people Macon has.”

Oliver enjoyed digging through archives at the Washington Memorial Library.

“You never know what you might learn,” she told a Telegraph reporter in 2002 when she stepped down as director.

“It’s just been so much fun,” she said, “learning about the history of Macon and passing it on to others.”

She said at the time that she’d recently overheard a man at her bank criticizing the city.

“I just wanted to go step on his foot,” she said. “Macon is super.”

On Sunday evening, Oliver’s daughter Kacy Discher said, “She was very proud of Macon.”

Discher said her mother’s latest cause was the preservation of Fort Hawkins.

“She just knew how to get things done,” Discher said. “She took charge -- and it was done the right way.”

Oliver’s funeral arrangements were incomplete.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.

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