The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
Alphabetical List of All Collections | Collections Listed By Subject
Collection Title: Foster (Mildred Seymour) Papers
Mildred Maggie Seymour was born on May 16, 1909, in Seymour, Mississippi (on the western shore of the Back Bay of Biloxi, in Harrison County. It is now known as St. Martin). She was the eldest of three daughters born to Vaneaton Francis Seymour and Ada Anna Richards Seymour. Her siblings were Dorothy Iris Seymour (born December 29, 1912) and Eula Agnes Seymour (born July 23, 1915). The girls were christened Catholic, but reared in the Methodist church, after their mother's conversion to Methodism.
The Seymours are one of the oldest families in the Biloxi Bay area. Vaneaton Seymour's lineage has been traced to Joseph Simon de la Pointe, a colonel in the Army of France, who, in 1715, built what is now known as the "Old Spanish Fort" in Pascagoula, (Jackson County) Mississippi. The fort remained in the family until 1780, when it was confiscated by the Spanish. Descendants of Simon (pronounced, see-mone') were given the English name, Seymour, when Mississippi was organized as a territory in 1798. The family's ancestry has also been linked to Jean Baptiste Baudreau de Graveline, who assisted in establishing Fort Maurepas, on the eastern shore of Biloxi Bay, in 1699.
Mildred Seymour grew up on her father's farm and cattle ranch in St. Martin. She attended the Harrison-Jackson Line School in kindergarten through grade six, and the Biloxi City Schools in grades seven through twelve, graduating from Biloxi High School on May 25, 1928. During her high school years, she acquired the nickname "Mil."
She entered State Teachers College (now the University of Southern Mississippi) in the summer of 1928, where she majored in elementary education. While at S.T.C., she was a member of the White Caps Club, the M. Esther Rogers Home Economics Club, and the Mississippian Literary Society, serving as treasurer of the latter in 1929-30. In May of 1930, she was awarded a two-year teaching certificate, which qualified her for a Mississippi teaching license, renewable every five years.
In the fall of 1930, she secured a position teaching first grade at Improve School in Columbia, Mississippi, initiating a career that would span six decades. In the early 1930s, she returned to Biloxi, where she taught for forty-one years. Most of those years were spent teaching first grade at Gorenflo Elementary School, but she was teaching at St. Martin School in Jackson County, Mississippi, when she retired in 1974. However, her retirement from fulltime teaching was by no means the end of her career. She continued to work as a substitute teacher for another eighteen years, when, at the age of eighty-one, poor health forced her to give it up.
On December 7, 1932, Mildred married Charles M. Clark, whom she met while he was in the Coast Guard in Biloxi. When Clark's stint in the Coast Guard was completed, the newlyweds moved to Mr. Clark's hometown, Indianapolis, Indiana. No children were born to the marriage, which ended in divorce after a year or two. After the divorce, Mildred returned to Mississippi and resumed her teaching career, remaining single until June 8, 1942, when she married Charles B. "Charlie" Foster, a Biloxi businessman who dealt in commercial plumbing facilities. Again, no children were born of the union.
Mildred and Charlie Foster resided on Cuevas Street in Biloxi until the late 1950s, when they built a new house, in St. Martin, on land inherited from Mildred's father. Located on Bridge View Drive, less than three blocks from where Mildred was born, the new home was named, "April Bayou." Unfortunately, Charlie died of a heart attack on April 30, 1960, shortly after moving into the new house.
After Charlie's death, a niece, who was the mother of five children, divorced her husband. The niece was unable to provide for the children (three boys and two girls) alone, so it was decided that the two older boys would remain with their father; the older girl would live with her mother; and Mildred would adopt the two youngest children -- a boy (Charlie, about four years old) and a girl (Wendy, about three years old). At this writing, Charlie lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Wendy resides in Great Falls, Montana.
Mildred was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Biloxi. She also held memberships in the Biloxi Education Association, the Mississippi Education Association, the National Education Association, The Mississippi Retired Teachers Association, and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Biloxi Elks Club. Other areas of interest were music and gardening. Mildred Seymour Foster died on February 26, 1993, of cancer. She is interred in Southern Memorial Park Cemetery in Biloxi, next to her husband, Charlie.
Hundreds of children passed through Mildred Foster's classroom during her long career. In fact, she has been quoted as saying that, for someone who never had children of her own, "...I sure had a lot of them." Undoubtedly, her steadfast devotion to duty has placed her among the ranks of unsung heroes who are the backbone and fiber of the American way of life. In Mildred's case, the quality of steadfastness was detected while she was a student at State Teachers College, and the point was made rather nicely in the 1930 yearbook, the Neka Camon" "She's gay, she's true, she's sad and bad, like me and you; / but good or bad, gay or sad, she's just Mildred."
This collection consists of a variety of items relative to Mildred Seymour Foster, from her kindergarten report card in 1915, to her obituary in 1993. The primary focus, however, is on her careers at Biloxi High School and State Teachers College (1928 - 1930). Much of the collection sustained water damage during Hurricane Camille in August 1969, when Mrs. Foster's home was inundated by four feet of water.
The collection begins with biographical data, such as, Mildred's report cards for kindergarten through grade four, and grades seven through twelve; cards showing membership in the Mississippi Education Association; her obituary; and two marriage licenses issued to Mildred Seymour and Charles M. Clark, one of which was never used.
Following the biographical data is a series of photographs that depict Mildred Foster from her high school graduation in 1928, to her sister, Dorothy Williams' golden wedding anniversary in 1980. The series also contains a significant number of photographs taken on the State Teachers College campus between 1928 and 1930. Other photographs of interest are a series taken in the Biloxi area in 1947, after a hurricane (this was before hurricanes were assigned names). Among these are a photograph of Mildred and Charlie Foster's home on Cuevas Street, as well as, shots of the Buena Vista Hotel, where Mississippi Highway Patrolmen were holding a convention -- their patrol cars were demolished by the storm.
Next, is a series of materials pertaining to Biloxi High School, which begins with a copy of the Biloxi High School newspaper, "The War Whoop." The centerpiece of the Biloxi High series is a scrapbook kept by Mildred during her senior year. The scrapbook was damaged during Hurricane Camille, and has been photocopied onto acid-free paper as a preservation measure. One interesting entry in the scrapbook is a list of "Ten Modern Commandments" (example: Thou shalt not park and pet); another is a cigarette stub with the caption, "one of Frank Bullard's Lucky Strikes." It also contains lists of class members, class officers, faculty members, and graduation gifts. Loose items that were undamaged have been maintained in their original forms. These include name cards, greeting cards, napkins, and gift tags.
An autograph book from Mildred's senior year in high school is next, and a typical entry is: "When sitting under the chestnut tree, look at the nuts and think of me."
A series of items pertaining to State Teachers College follow the autograph book. Items of interest are copies of the S.T.C. Alma Mater," Steps in S.T.C. Classification", and " Campus Regulations."
The remainder of the collection consists of miscellaneous items of memorabilia, such as, stationery and a theatrical program from Improve School; a commencement program for St. Martin School; and a script entitled "Aunt Peggy's Wood-Pile."
This collection would be of interest to a researcher for a variety of reasons:
The 1947 hurricane photographs are of good quality, and feature some of the same scenes depicted in Charles Sullivan's Hurricanes of the Gulf Coast.