She's No Southern Belle

Lois Wooten has been one of Savannah’s most visible residents for decades, a staple on the social scene. But how well do you really know the Hostess City’s beloved socialite and philanthropist? Maybe not as well as you think.

A small but strong voice comes from behind the heavy front door. “Who is it?,” she asks. This house once was the site of some of Savannah’s best parties, thrown by one of the Hostess City’s most cherished couples, but “Yo” doesn’t entertain as many guests since “Sweetheart” went away.

Today’s guest is a stranger, but you wouldn’t know it, because Lois Wooten never met one. She invites him into the home she and Frank built 50 years ago, welcoming him to the octagonal foyer modeled after the Owens-Thomas House, and asking him to make himself at home in the sitting room, adorned with antiques and original artwork.

Although the guest is here to interview her, Yo—a nickname she picked up because her grandchildren couldn’t pronounce the “L” in her first name—is just as eager to get to know him. She loves people, as she tells him several times during their morning together, and she loves to talk. She is one of the most famous socialites in a city full of them, after all.

Yo could tell stories for days, and she especially likes to reminisce about Sweetheart, the man who swept her off her feet in part because he reminded her so much of her daddy. Frank was a brilliant businessman and a gifted fundraiser, eager to support numerous non profits groups around Savannah. Lois has continued that philanthropy since his passing in 2007.

She launches into the story of how they met over blackberry cobbler at mutual friends’ house, and 45 minutes pass before she comes up for air. “But what do you want to talk about?” she asks. “Because you can’t put any of that in that ol’ magazine.”

This is a refrain that is repeated often throughout the morning, making it apparent that even though Yo has been one of the most visible women in Savannah for decades, sitting on the boards of numerous charities and rarely missing a social gathering, there is much that eludes those who only know her public persona.

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