This Goodly Land

Celestine Sibley (May 23, 1917–August 15, 1999)

Other Names Used

Alabama Connections

Selected Works

Literary Awards

Biographical Information

Celestine Sibley was born in Holley, Fla. When her parents separated, she and her mother moved to Mobile. When Sibley’s mother remarried, they moved to Hatter’s Mill at Creola, Ala., where her stepfather’s family had a lumber business. Sibley commuted to Mobile to attend high school where she worked on the school newspaper and got a part-time job at the Mobile Press. After graduation from high school in 1933, she worked full-time at the Press. When Spring Hill College began allowing women to enroll, Sibley attended classes there while still working for the newspaper. In 1936, Sibley married a fellow newspaper reporter and moved with him to Pensacola, Fla. The two worked at the Pensacola News-Journal for five years. Following the advice of the newspaper’s editor, Sibley continued to use her maiden name for her writing. In 1941, the couple moved to Atlanta, where Sibley took a job at The Atlanta Constitution. In 1944, while taking time off to care for her children, Sibley began writing a twice-weekly column for the Constitution. For several years, she moved between Atlanta and Florida, following her husband as he changed jobs. During this time, she was also writing articles and stories for magazines such as True Story.

When The Atlanta Constitution and The Atlanta Journal merged in 1950, Sibley’s job with the newspaper was expanded to include twice-yearly trips to Hollywood to cover new movies for the Sunday magazine. On one of her trips to the West Coast, Sibley began writing a murder mystery set in a newsroom. The Malignant Heart was published in 1958. In 1963, she published a history of Atlanta called Peachtree Street, U.S.A., and, the following year, she published a collection of her stories under the title Christmas in Georgia. Sibley continued to work as a newspaper reporter, including covering the trials of James Earl Ray (Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassin), Arthur Bremer (Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace’s assailant), and fellow Alabama writer Jesse Hill Ford. Sibley wrote nonfiction books, including a history of Rich’s department stores and a biography of wildlife artist Sallie Middleton. She wrote several novels, including one based on her family, Jincey. She also wrote a series of murder mysteries featuring a reporter heroine. Her memoir Turned Funny was published in 1988. After her retirement from newspaper reporting, Sibley continued to write her nationally-syndicated columns. Her last column was published a few weeks before her death from cancer at her home in Dog Island, Fla.

Interests and Themes

Celestine Sibley’s nonfiction is based largely on her life and work as a newspaper reporter in the South. Turned Funny is a frank look at her long colorful life. Her novels and murder mysteries are set in the places where she lived in the South.

For More Information

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Reference Books

Reference Web Sites

Location of Papers

Photo courtesy of Sibley Fleming.

Last updated on Jun 03, 2008.

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