In an interview with Southern Living editor-in-chief Sid Evans last summer, celebrated writer Julia Reed described the first holiday gathering she hosted in her Greenville, Mississippi cottage: "There was lots of food, lots of booze, and lots of people I love." It's a fitting description of the Delta-born storyteller's lively approach to playing hostess—something she did often and well until she passed away in August 2020, following a battle with cancer. Before she died, and in keeping with her great love for people and her philanthropic spirit, Reed established a charitable trust to continue her support of the missions and organizations she held dear.
While still in its early stages, the Julia Evans Reed Charitable Trust is committed to serving organizations that the writer partnered with in her lifetime, like the Link-Stryjewski Foundation and the Greenville Arts Council & E.E. Bass Foundation, as well as those her trustees believe she would choose to support if she were still here.
"She told all of us that we would know her heart and wanted us to donate to the things that we knew that she would want to," says Jessica Brent, a trustee and close friend of Reed's since fifth grade. "She didn't want it to be a limited list."
This Friday, on February 5, New Orleans-based Neal Auction Company is hosting a one-day, online sale of Reed's estate. The collection of china, antiques, and objets d'art offers a colorful, if familiar, glimpse of her homes in New York, New Orleans, and Mississippi—the doors of which she freely flung open for her well-attended fetes. Proceeds will go to the Julia Evans Reed Charitable Trust.
Some of the items in the auction, including the "Brown Pelican" print, were from Brown Water Books, the shop Reed opened in downtown Greenville, Mississippi, in May 2020. Brent says those are especially meaningful to her. "Who builds a house and starts two businesses after a cancer diagnosis—a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. I mean, who does that?," says Brent. "Only Julia. But those pieces are especially poignant to me because what she was going to do with her last time here was enrich and bring books to this place, where our last little bookstore closed several years ago."
It's that generous spirit—and Reed's penchant for celebrations—that Brent will always hold close.
"Julia made everything special," she says. "I'm going to remember her in that way. Don't forget that you've got to celebrate life a little bit every day, no matter what else is happening, you know. It's part of gratitude, the celebrating. She really did just squeeze everything there was out of the days that she lived."
The auction goes live on Friday, February 5, at 1 p.m. Central, and you can browse the catalog here.