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Ray M. Thompson Papers

Identifier: M8

Scope and Contents

The Ray M. Thompson Papers are comprised primarily of newspaper clippings, magazine articles, photographs, and the manuscript for a proposed book, most of which were generated between 1943 and 1972. The vast majority of articles were written by Mr. Thompson, but some were written by, or in collaboration with Thompson's wife, Sue.

Materials in the collection trace the history of Mississippi from the first settlement at Fort Maurepas (now Ocean Springs), established in 1699 by Pierre LeMoyne d'Iberville, through approximately 1972. In addition, there are articles relating to the history of Louisiana.

This collection contains a plethora of interesting and unique information concerning the history of Mississippi, and should be of interest to anyone researching the state. In addition, Mr. Thompson's somewhat unique writing style may be of interest to students of journalism.


  • Creation: circa 1837-1972

Biographical / Historical

Raymond Matthew "Ray" Thompson was born on May 29, 1898, in Lee Township, Ohio. He was a veteran of World War I and owner of an advertising agency that served Ohio and Pennsylvania. In 1940, Thompson and his wife, Ellen Ursula "Sue" Thompson, sold the advertising agency and moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. In his new home, Ray edited a travel magazine for the Mississippi Shipping Company, compiled and published a guide book entitled “New Orleans From A to Z”, and wrote “The Land of Lafitte the Pirate”. In the mean time, Sue opened an art supply store in the French Quarter called House of the Artists.

In 1950, Thompson was commissioned by “Ford Magazine” to write a story on the man made beaches of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In the course of his research for the story, both he and Sue became fascinated by the Mississippi Coast, and ultimately moved both home and business to West Beach Boulevard in Biloxi.

Thompson was deeply interested in history, particularly the Civil War period, and by 1952 he was contributing articles to “Down South Magazine” on a regular basis. In 1956 he got the idea for a newspaper column that would focus on historical and current events peculiar to the Gulf Coast, and began researching the project. The result was a column entitled "Know Your Coast", which was published in the “Biloxi/Gulfport Daily Herald”, beginning on March 1, 1956. In 1960 the scope of the column was expanded to include historical or unusual people, places, and events throughout Mississippi, and its name was changed to "Know Your State." For the new column, Thompson gathered little-known snippets of Mississippi history, folklore, and culture from which he created a colorful mosaic of life in the "Magnolia State", past and present. After the name change, the column was published continually until 1969 in the Biloxi/Gulfport “Daily Herald”, the “Jackson Daily News”, and the Jackson “Clarion-Ledger”.

Thompson continued to write until about 1972, producing numerous newspaper and magazine articles in addition to the "Know Your Coast/Know Your State" series, all with an historical theme. Some articles were joint efforts with his wife, Sue. In 1957 Thompson wrote a booklet entitled “The Confederate Shrine of Beauvoir, The Last Home of Jefferson Davis”, and in the mid 1960s, he prepared a manuscript for a book to be titled “Know Your Coast: The Mississippi Gulf Coast From the Pascagoula to the Pearl”. Unfortunately, the book was never published. Other professional activities include editorship of the “Jefferson Parish (Louisiana) Yearly Review” in 1962.

Ray Thompson died on December 25, 1977 at Driftwood Nursing Home in Gulfport. Both he and Sue are interred at Southern Memorial Park in Biloxi, Mississippi. They are survived by a daughter, Rae Corinne Thompson.


4.75 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



Literary manuscripts, publications files, photographs, news clippings of this popular Gulf Coast newspaper columnist.


The collection has been divided into six series:

Series I: "Know Your Coast"

Series II: "Know Your State"

Series III: Miscellaneous Newspaper and Magazine Articles By Ray and Sue Thompson

Series IV: Manuscript for Proposed Book, Know Your Coast: The Mississippi Gulf Coast From the Pascagoula to the Pearl

Series V: Miscellaneous Items

Series VI: Photographs

Appendix: Index of Columns, "Know Your Coast" 1956-1960

Items in Series I, II, III, and V are arranged chronologically. Series IV is arranged by chapter and Series VI is arranged numerically.

Two additional finding aids - an index of "Know Your Coast" and "Know Your State" columns and a photograph log - have been prepared and added to this guide in the form of appendices. The index includes dates, titles, and subjects of columns, and the photograph log provides a brief description of each image in the collection.


Acquired by the University of Southern Mississippi in October 1973, from Mrs. Sue Thompson.

Existence and Location of Copies

For Digitized Materials from this collection, see: External Documents link at bottom of page.

Related Collections

Stevens (M. James) Mississippi and Gulf Coast Research Collection

Fourchy (Alexander) and Nixon (John) Papers, 1837, M9

Foster (Mildred Seymour) Papers, 1915-1993, M97

Hurricane Camille Photograph Collection, M315

Hubbard (Bob) Hurricane Camille Photographs, 1969, M259

Hurricanes of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Collection, M282

Related Materials


Copies of books by Ray M. Thompson and publications in which his columns appeared are available in the Cook and McCain Libraries:

New Orleans, from A to Z; Questions You Will Ask about This City of Charm and its Famous French Quarter (New Orleans: House of the Artist, 1951), call number F379.N5 T46x (Cook).

The Confederate Shrine of Beauvoir: The Last Home of Jefferson Davis (Biloxi, Miss.: C.C. Hamill, 1957), call number E467.1.D26 T45 (McCain).

The Daily Herald [microform], call number AN2.B55 H47 (Cook).

Jackson Daily News [microform], call number AN2.J33 E94 (Cook).

Clarion-Ledger [microform], call number AN2.J34 C75 (Cook).

Ray M. Thompson 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