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O'Keefe Family Archive

 Unprocessed Collection
Identifier: AM20-032

Scope and Contents

The majority of the collection centers around Jeremiah Joseph "Jerry" O'Keefe and his political career.

Other materials include: photo album & scrapbook of Mary Cahill O'Keefe; photo album of Teresa Slattery O'Keefe; Jerry O'Keefe Legislative scrapbook; Jerry O'Keefe Political Career scrapbooks (2); Collected newspapers re Biloxi Mayor Hart Chinn and John A. O'Keefe, his successor; various plaques, awards, and proclamations.


  • Majority of material found within circa 1913-2016

Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the united States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical / Historical

Edward “Ned” O’Keefe immigrated to the United States from Ireland in the mid-1800s. Settling in Ocean Springs, MS he married a fellow Irish immigrant, Mary Tracy. The progeny of the first O’Keefe family has had a prominent role in the Gulf Coast business and political spheres across successive generations. Among its members have been mayors, state legislators, city officials, military personnel, and leaders of various civic organizations. The mainstay of the family business ventures has been the family funeral home business. However, at various times, the family has operated a charcoal business, a boarding house, a livery stable, a gas station, a car dealership, an insurance company, and real estate developments.

Jeremiah Joseph "Jerry" O'Keefe, III (July 12, 1923 – August 23, 2016) had an especially far-reaching role in growing the family business and engaging in Coast community activities. He was born in Ocean Springs, MS and was schooled at St. Alphonsus Elementary School and later Sacred Heart Academy in Biloxi. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Jerry enlisted, hoping to become a pilot. He received his wings from the U.S. Marines in May, 1943. In 1944, before leaving for his assignment with the Pacific Fleet, he married his childhood sweetheart, Annette Saxon, and started what would be a family of thirteen children.

During combat, Jerry earned the status of 'ace' fighter pilot and was later awarded the US Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, Gold Star and, in 2015, the Congressional Gold Medal for American Aces.

After the war, Mr. O'Keefe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans, LA and rejoined the family funeral business, over which he assumed control upon the disability and death of his father. He later acquired the Bradford Funeral Home, forming Bradford-O'Keefe Funeral Services. With wife Annette, he founded Gulf National Life Insurance Company in 1958.

Jerry loved public service, serving in the MS State Legislature from 1959 to 1963 and as Mayor of Biloxi from 1973 to 1981. He also was a generous philanthropist and tireless fundraiser for charities, including Nativity BVM Catholic Church, the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, and the Boy Scouts.

He and Annette founded the O'Keefe Foundation in 1996 to benefit local charities and, upon Annette's death in 1998, he initiated a lead gift in support of the George Ohr Museum's plan to build a new facility. As the project grew in scope, Jerry assumed major fundraising duties for the museum and it was ultimately renamed the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Annette's honor. In 1999 Jerry married Martha Peterson, with whom he enjoyed the final 17 years of his life.


10 Cubic Feet : 302A.B15.O3-6

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Given By: Jeffrey O'Keefe

Date of Receipt: August 5, 2020

Related Materials

Oral history with Jeremiah J. O'Keefe, 2000. See: EXTERNAL DOCUMENTS link at bottom of page.

Cooking on the coast: the O'Keefe family recipe book / compilation and research Rose Annette O'Keefe; production and editing Joseph Saxon O'Keefe, 1994. Available in McCain Library: Mississippiana TX715.2.S68 O45 1994

O'Keefe Family Papers
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001