Madam O’Connor

Regina Lucille Cline was born on January 27, 1896 to Peter J. Cline and his second wife, Margaret Ida Treanor Cline, in Milledgeville, Georgia. The prominent Irish Catholic family was well known and well-liked by many in the Middle Georgia area. Peter made his fortune through various business ventures in Milledgeville and Macon, establishing the family’s prominence with the purchase of the Cline Mansion on Green Street just after the Civil War. He was later elected Mayor of Milledgeville (1889-1891). Young Regina grew up here, amongst the parties and position of her father and older formidable siblings. She spent the last six years of her teens attending Mount St. Joseph Boarding and Day School for Girls in Augusta, graduating in 1916.

Regina, early 1900s. Andalusia Collection: 2019.1.233.

In the summer of 1922, Regina met Edward O’Connor Jr. at the wedding of her brother Herbert to Anne O’Connor, Edward’s sister, in Savannah, Georgia. After a brief courtship, the two married on October 14 in a small ceremony at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Milledgeville. The marriage was announced in the Savannah Morning News by Regina’s older brother Dr. Bernard Cline, who had taken on the role of patriarch after her father’s death in 1916. The couple then moved to Savannah, where, in 1925, the birth of their only child, Mary Flannery changed Regina’s life.

Regina, 1927. Andalusia Collection: 2019.1.30

The family moved to Milledgeville in 1938, and after the unexpected death of Edward O’Connor three years later, Dr. Cline sent Regina to bookkeeping school in Atlanta. Her training would be of assistance to him as manager of Andalusia’s farm operation and would also provide Regina with income to raise her now teenage daughter. The two women would live in Regina’s childhood home on Greene Street, where they were very near and involved in town life. While maintaining a strict and proper house, the beautiful and charismatic Regina invested herself into work at Andalusia. Along with processing milk orders and billing, Regina oversaw improvements to and the installations of multiple outer buildings. Dr. Cline depended upon her entirely and eventually left the vast property and business to her and their brother Louis Cline after his death in 1947.

Regina, 1946. Andalusia Collection: 2019.1.349

Just before Christmas in 1950, Flannery fell ill, having been diagnosed with lupus (the same disease that so quickly took Edward.  Regina immediately went into survival mode. The mother and daughter moved to the farmhouse at Andalusia, which offered Regina the ability to continue as overseer of the farm and be close-at-hand for Flannery’s recovery needs. The two women would live together for the next thirteen years, enduring the roller-coaster of Flannery’s health.

Regina continued to increase the prosperity of the farm. From the centralized location of her office in the Main House, Regina could do business over the phone, or, as Flannery put it, “she sits in the back hall now and talks to the vet, the seed man, the feed man, the tractor & implement man . . .”[1] The office, adjacent to the Mud Room, allowed her easy access to the farm with a doorway to meet and discuss tasks with farmhands. The male-dominated profession of dairy farming in the 1950s was an unexpected place to find an unmarried woman running an operation.  However, Regina was anything but out of place. At cow auctions, she “gets treated in high style by the auctioneer.”[2] It was Regina who decided to switch from dairy cows to beef cattle in the early 1960s. Beyond cows, Regina utilized acreage to grow hay, Bermuda grass, rye, and fescue to feed the herds, turning profits and assisting in self-sustainment. She was often seen in her red coat frisking the magnolias, driving the stick-shift to inspect fences, steering unwanted mules from the grounds, helping to hay the fields, or designing improvements for the livestock.

Regina, 1964. Andalusia Collection: 2019.1.236

Besides the farm duties, Regina continued her role as the dedicated housewife and mother as Flannery was not depended on to take care of the house or be the hostess.[3] Most notably, Regina performed all of the cooking, while Flannery made all of the requests. In 1956, “I convinced my parent to cook a goose for Thanksgiving, though she is opposed in principle to geese, on or off the table.”[4] Regina’s dislike of the meal furthered when directions told her to first wash the bird in soap before cooking. As it proceeded, unflattering smells from the kitchen were enough to displease Regina. “When she served it, it didn’t look like much but it tasted all right. We are still eating it and it don’t improve with age.”[5] Flannery did not completely escape household duties as Regina put her to work washing dishes, though she did not mind, as the warm water was soothing for her aching bones.[6]

Together, the two women worked in unison, opening the farmhouse to the many family and friends who came to stay. Flannery provided the conversation, and Regina provided the atmosphere, though many have noted that they were initially held at a distance by Regina until she saw their true nature. After that, they could be welcomed with open arms and threats of, “My mother indicates that she will get YOU in trouble with the Holy Office if you miss any further appointments at her table.”[7]

Regina, 1974. Andalusia Collection: 2019.1.238

After her daughter’s death in 1964, Regina continued to manage Andalusia’s affairs but did so from the Cline House. Life at Andalusia would never be the same. Regina continued to host Flannery’s friends and acquaintances as they would visit Milledgeville, taking them out to the farm to see her famed peafowl and sit on the porch and reminisce. In her later years, Regina kept to herself at the Greene Street home, tucked away from the world. Upon his last visit with her in 1987, Father James McCown recalls Regina’s “sharp blue eyes and clear articulation.”[8] Regina Lucile Cline O’Connor would live to the age of 99, when she was finally laid to rest between her husband and daughter.

[1] Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being, ed. Sally Fitzgerald, (New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1988), 169.

[2] Ibid., 177.

[3] The Letters of Flannery O’Connor and Caroline Gordon, ed. Christine Flanagan, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2018), 9.

[4] The Habit of Being, 184.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Brad Gooch, Flannery, (New York: Little, Brown and Company 2009), 224.

[7] Flannery O’Connor, Good Things Out of Nazareth, ed. Benjamin B. Alexander, (United States: Convergent Books, 2019), 149.

[8] Ibid., 353.

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