Renowned quilter Martha Skelton dies|’A wonderful teacher’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 6, 2008

One of America’s best-known quilters is being remembered by friends as a teacher and mentor for those in the craft that is also an art.

Martha Butcher Skelton, also a noted educator, died Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, at River Region Medical Center. She was 89.

“She was a well-rounded person,” Mississippi Quilting Association member Cay Jones said. “She was more than just a quilter — a brilliant quilter and wonderful teacher.”

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Mrs. Skelton was born in West Virginia and moved from Tulsa, Okla., to Vicksburg in 1947.

She was a graduate of University High School in Norman, Okla., and received degrees in geology and in library science from the University of Oklahoma. After moving to Vicksburg, she was librarian at H.V. Cooper High School for a number of years.

A founding member of the state quilting organization, Mrs. Skelton had sewn more than 200 quilts since age 15. Some have been displayed in the Museum of American Folk Art in New York, the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and were part of a traveling exhibition sponsored by Family Circle magazine.

The state association raised funds and conducted taped interviews that led to a book released in June, “Martha Skelton: Master Quilter of Mississippi,” by author Mary Elizabeth Johnson, in which Skelton’s work is highlighted in text and photographs.

Jones said Mrs. Skelton’s experience as a librarian at Vicksburg High School helped her teach others and become an inspiration.

“She would teach (quilting) anytime she was asked to teach,” Jones said.

Member Bobbie Gray also called Mrs. Skelton’s influence on quilting significant.

“She helped us see possibilities in our quilting that we couldn’t see,” Gray said. 

Mrs. Skelton was predeceased by her husband, Alan Gordon Skelton; three sisters: Virginia Hamner, Sarah Rose Crim and Betty Jo McCollum; and two brothers, Harold Emory Butcher and Walter William Butcher.

She is survived by a daughter, Ann Hope Skelton Deemer and her husband, Troy, of Westwego, La.; a son, Gordon Skelton and his wife, Janet, of Madison; one granddaughter, Jennifer Ann Fentress of Baton Rouge; one grandson, Marc Alan Fentress of Maricopa, Ariz.; and a sister, Garnet Butcher Coulter of San Antonio, Texas.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Riles Funeral Home chapel with Dr. Scott L. Reiber, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, officiating. Burial will be at Green Acres Memorial Park.

Visitation will be Friday from 9 a.m. until the hour of the service at the funeral home.


 Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at