The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Stout (Wilbur White) Papers
Wilbur White Stout was one of the most colorful and controversial individuals ever to dispense knowledge at the University of Southern Mississippi. As a professor of English from 1944 to 1965, and Chairman of the Division of Language and Literature from 1944 to 1950, his unique personality and unorthodox teaching methods made him a campus legend.
Dr. Stout was born on September 27, 1898, in Yadkinville, North Carolina. His parents were Henry Clay Stout and Martha Thompson Stout, both of whom were teachers in the Burlington, North Carolina public schools. His only sibling was a sister, Agnes. Stout attended the public schools in Burlington, graduating from high school in 1917. He then entered the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he spent the next nine years earning B. A. (1921); M. A. (1922); and Ph.D (1926) degrees in English. While at UNC, he was a member of the original "Carolina Playmakers", a dramatic group founded by Professor Frederick H. Koch. Among his classmates were Thomas Wolfe and Paul Green, who became renowned playwrights.
Upon leaving UNC, Stout taught briefly at Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia, then joined the faculty of Concord State College, also in West Virginia. He later taught at Kentucky Wesleyan, Mercer University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and Southwestern at Memphis. While at Concord State, Dr. Stout met his future bride, Pauline Rogers, who was a student in one of his classes, and after an eight-year courtship, they were married on September 1, 1936, in Princeton, West Virginia. No children were born of the union.
In 1944, Dr. Stout (known universally as "Doc") joined the faculty of Mississippi Southern College (now the University of Southern Mississippi) as a professor of English, and Chairman of the Division of Language and Literature, which encompassed English, Journalism, Speech, Library Science, Foreign Languages, and later, the Institute of Latin American Studies.
Doc was, first and foremost, an individualist. He believed that a well-educated person was one who could stand on his own feet and think for himself, and his classroom demeanor was designed to impart that philosophy to his students. To that end, he felt justified in using provocative means, and during his tenure at MSC-USM, he built a reputation as an eccentric by employing unusual and sometimes bizarre teaching methods. For example, he would walk into class; toss an orange at a student; and tell the student to make an impromptu speech on the subject. At other times, he would climb into the classroom over the transom to get the students' attention, or hide in a large cardboard box at the back of the room to see if anyone would be curious enough to check the contents. It is also said that he often used sarcasm to jolt students out of their complacency. But the most oft-told-tale about Doc concerns a dog that wandered into his second floor classroom in College Hall. Doc is said to have picked up the dog; crossed to a window; and dropped the animal to the ground. (according to the story, the dog landed safely on all four feet). The class was then instructed to write an essay about the dog's thoughts as it was falling.
Understandably, Doc's methods were called into question on more than one occasion, the most extreme being a situation in which the father of a student felt that Stout had insulted his son. The irate parent reportedly brought a gun on campus for the express purpose of shooting the offending professor. Fortunately, the situation was resolved without bloodshed.
In 1950, Stout was replaced as Chairman of the Division of Language and Literature by Dr. Thomas D. Young, and undoubtedly his unconventional tactics provided the impetus for the move. Doc remained as a professor of English, but it has been suggested that some animosity existed between the two men as a result. Nonetheless, Stout and Young collaborated in 1951 to create a literary map of Mississippi which was endorsed by the Mississippi Education Association, and was subsequently purchased by numerous schools and libraries.
Despite his penchant for conflict, Dr. Stout's contributions to the University of Southern Mississippi were many and varied. In 1946, he instituted the English Tutorial System, which featured weekly sessions with tutors, rather than conventional classes. He served on the Graduate School faculty, and assisted with campus publications, such as the Southerner and the Student Printz. In addition, he directed dramatics for several years, and gave freely of his time and energy to build stage sets and operate sound and lighting systems for campus productions. He was considered knowledgeable in the field of music, and worked closely with the Music Department. He also participated in decorating campus buildings at Christmas, and once climbed the dome atop the Administration Building to install speakers for playing Christmas carols. (It is said that he slipped a Chinese funeral march in with the carols that year.)
During the late 1950's and early 1960's, Doc mounted an all out effort to establish an outdoor theater on college-owned property. In connection with this project, he wrote a column for the Hattiesburg American entitled "Outdoor Drama" from approximately 1954 to 1961. The fact that the necessary financial support for the project never materialized was one of the major disappointments of his life. However, due largely to Doc's efforts, a new golf course and lake were built on the property.
Coupled with his interest in building an outdoor theater was the desire to provide an original drama for its initial production. The subject chosen was Red Eagle, Creek Indian chief defeated by Andrew Jackson at Horseshoe Bend. Col. Eugene A. Wink, a graduate student at MSC who planned to use Red Eagle as the subject of his masters thesis, agreed to write the script. Subsequently, both Wink and Stout did extensive research on Indian tribes native to the southeastern United States, with emphasis on the Creeks of Alabama, and both wrote several plays and short stories about Red Eagle.
Doc enjoyed reading, listening to music, writing book reviews, and gardening. He was active in the Hattiesburg Community Drama Association, and was a member of the Hattiesburg Rotary Club and Alpha Psi Omega fraternity. He attended Trinity Episcopal Church in Hattiesburg, and though he never became a member, he initiated a fund-raising project to replace the church's antiquated organ. In addition, Doc was an aspiring author. He wrote numerous short stories and plays, and among his published works are a play, "In Dixon's Kitchen", written in 1922, while he was a student at UNC, and an article entitled, "Lamhatty's Road Map", which appeared in the April, 1964 edition of Southern Quarterly.
Doc retired in June, 1963, but continued to teach on a part time basis. He died on July 7, 1965, due to complications following surgery, and is interred in the Burlington City Cemetery, Burlington, North Carolina. On November 3, 1967, Wilbur Stout Hall, consisting of two lecture halls, was dedicated in honor of his twenty-one years of service to the University of Southern Mississippi.
Wilbur White Stout was a complex individual whom it would be impossible to adequately describe in a limited space. He was over six feet tall, with a full head of thick white hair. He smoked a corncob pipe; wore a battered felt hat; and reportedly relished his reputation as an eccentric. A colleague described him as "a man who never did what he didn't want to do", and his widow, Mrs. Pauline Stout, likened him to James Hilton's "Mr. Chips." But in the final analysis, Doc's persona was probably most aptly defined by former local journalist, Percy D. East, who said "Those who know and understand this white-haired professor swear by him. Those who do not know and understand him swear at him.
A copy of Dr. Wilbur White Stout's book The Princess of the Wind -- And Her Children (Hattiesburg, Miss.: Mississippi Southern College, 19--), call number PS2949.S76 P75 1900z, is available in the McCain Library.
This collection focuses primarily on Dr. Wilbur White Stout's interest in Native Americans and the theater, but also contains academic, historical, and personal information. While there are several items in the collection dated in the late eighteenth, and early nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the bulk of materials are confined to the period 1945-1965. The collection features a topical arrangement, and has been divided into six major series.
The majority of the materials in this series are of a personal nature, and include photographs, personal data, newsclippings and correspondence, plus seven short stories and numerous book reviews written by Dr. Stout. Among the photographs are several snapshots of Stout during the 1950's, photos of an oil portrait of Creek Indian princess, Sehoy, two photos of Charles Weatherford (son of Red Eagle), and several photos of Indian flutes. Newsclippings consist of articles written about Dr. Stout and/or the University of Southern Mississippi. Worthy of note are several biographical sketches of Stout, an April Fool spoof in which Stout is the central character (Mar. 30, 1945), and two 1955 editorials -- one endorsing Dr. R. A. McLemore for president of Mississippi Southern College, and the other denouncing Dr. R. C. Cook's quest for the same office. The correspondence provides a showcase for Stout's letter-writing style, which is often comical, candid, and curt. Examples of this style are a letter to the Hammond Organ Company (Nov. 30, 1957) and a series of letters to Andrew Turnbull (June 10 - July, 1963) in which Stout shares his memories of playwright, Thomas Wolfe. Other items of interest are royalty statements for Stout's Play, "In Dixon's Kitchen"; a copy of the Literary Map of Mississippi created by Stout and Dr. T. D. Young in 1951; maps of the MSC farm and recreational area; mementoes from Mercer University and the University of North Carolina; and three folders of music-related items (scores, folk music catalogs, and information concerning the bagpipe).
This series is composed of materials related to Stout's activities as a professor of English. The series begins with correspondence, which again demonstrates Stout's particular flair. A typical example among correspondence concerning students is an exchange between Stout and head football coach, Thad "Pie" Vann, concerning the conduct of athletes on scholarship (Sept. 15th & 18th, 1961). Next are course outlines detailing various English courses, an exam schedule, a summary of final grades in the English Department, and a folder containing individual class schedules of high school boys in grades nine through twelve (the purpose of these class schedules is not known). These items are followed by synopses of music used by Stout in his classes, including the works of such classical composers as Chopin, Liszt, Mozart, and Wagner, as well as the more contemporary Igor Stravinsky. Instructional materials in the series reflect the types of prose and poetry studied in Stout's classes and his efforts to correlate literature and music. Unique among the instructional materials are a series of classroom lectures on sound discs which were used by the English Department at MSC in approximately 1950. The voice on the recordings has been identified as that of J. T. Palmer, an instructor in the English Department, and subjects of the lectures are eighteenth century music, and English and Italian sonnets. Of additional interest is a reel-to-reel recording of a literary festival held on the MSC campus in April 1953, featuring speeches by J. F. Bozard, Kermit Hunter, and Karl Shapiro. Also in the series are short stories, plays, research papers, and an eighth grade lesson plan written by students of Stout. Newsclippings and articles in the series relate primarily to well-known authors such as William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Mark Twain, and Sinclair Lewis. Educational Publications date from 1931-1962, and among the titles are Aim: A Journal of Inspired Education; The American Scholar; College News and Views; Mississippi Educational Advance; South Atlantic Bulletin; and Singers in the Dawn: A Brief Anthology of American Negro Poetry. Dispersed throughout the series are miscellaneous items such as a copy of the Picture Bulletin of the Mississippi Southern College Graduate Faculty (ca. 1950); a pamphlet entitled "Language and Literature at Mississippi Southern"; musical scores for "Alma Mater" and "Southern to the Top"; a speech entitled "In Defense of the Humanities, or the Forgotten Men of Modern Education"; and a packet entitled "Fact-Writing, Case History # 1", which is a step-by-step guide for students of factual writing. (1946).
Series III is comprised of materials related to the theater in general, as well as items pertaining to Stout's proposed outdoor theater. Among the materials are correspondence, newsclippings, speeches, maps and drawings of the proposed outdoor theater, publications, theatrical articles, and a series of programs and brochures. Correspondence in this series is devoted primarily to efforts to establish an outdoor theater at MSC, and Dr. Stout's activities in connection with the Hattiesburg Drama Association. There is a significant amount of correspondence between Stout and Kermit Hunter of the University of North Carolina, who was considered an authority on outdoor drama. Newsclippings consist chiefly of Stout's column "Outdoor Drama" (1954-1961), but also include other theater-related articles by Stout and various other authors. These are followed by a map and drawings showing the location and design of the proposed theater. Publications are next, and among them are Dramatic Workshop, Playbill, and Southern Theatre News. Theatrical articles consist of reviews of both traditional and outdoor plays. Examples are the entire text of Arthur Miller's "After the Fall", plus three reviews of the play, and an article on Japanese "Noh" theater. The majority of programs and brochures in the series are from outdoor productions such as "The Lost Colony", "Unto These Hills", and "Wilderness Road", but there are also programs from such traditional indoor productions as "Auntie Mame", "Hamlet", and "Macbeth." Also included is a small collection of programs and brochures from plays produced by the Carolina Playmakers of the University of North Carolina, plus a copy of "The Carolina Playbook", which provides a history of the Carolina Playmakers from 1918-1944. Other noteworthy items are materials relating to the Southeastern Theatre Conference, which Stout attended on a regular basis; information concerning operation of an outdoor theater; a speech by Frederick H. Koch, founder of the Carolina Playmakers; and three speeches by Wilbur Stout. Notable among Stout's speeches is "The Negro in the Temple of Democracy" (ca. 1951). The final item in the series is a selection of postcards portraying various outdoor theaters and scenes from outdoor productions.
Series IV is the largest in the collection, and represents several years' research on tribes native to the southeastern United States, particularly the Creeks of Alabama. A significant amount of the research traces the history of the Creek War and the genealogy of William Weatherford (also known as Red Eagle). Red Eagle was the great grandson of Sehoy, Princess of the Wind Clan, and interestingly, Sehoy was the name chosen for the lake built at the USM golf course. Research materials in this series consist of printed matter as well as Dr. Stout's personal notes. Other items in the series are correspondence, short stories written by Stout, newsclippings, articles, publications, brochures, postcards, graphic materials, music, maps, the Cherokee alphabet, the Choctaw "Indian Lord's Prayer", artifacts, and memorabilia. Much of the correspondence in this series is between Stout and various repositories of historical information, and reflects his dogged pursuit of Red Eagle's ancestors. Short stories in the series are by-products of Stout's research, and bear such titles as "The Princess of the Wind and Her Children" and "Son of Red Eagle." A folder of newsclippings contains several interesting articles on the Choctaws of Mississippi and Red Eagle. Examples of articles copied from periodicals are "Drums of the Toli", which concerns Mississippi Choctaws, and an article about Red Eagle's famous leap into the Alabama River aboard his horse, Arrow. Publications in this series include several particularly esoteric titles. Among them are Ceremonial songs of the Creek and Yuchi Indians; The Cherokees; Laws of the Creek Nation; and This is the American Indian. The heart of the series is the research materials in boxes 10, 11, and 12. Box 10 contains primarily materials photocopied from various historical publications, and the first two folders deal with the histories of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee. Folder three concerns French forts in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. Folders four through nine contain materials on the Creek tribe, including topical history, battles, the Creek War, and Red Eagle family members, (e.g., Alexander and Lachlan McGillivray, Peter McQueen and the Weatherfords). Folder 10 is devoted to the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes, and folders 11 and 12 contain alphabetically arranged biographical and genealogical information on various ancestors and descendants of Red Eagle. Folder 13 houses printed materials on miscellaneous topics, and the remainder of the series (boxes 11 & 12) consists of Dr. Stout's personal notes - some typed and some handwritten. Box 11 contains chronologies of events, additional biographical and genealogical information, and miscellaneous topics. Box 12 holds a collection of 4" x 6" note cards arranged alphabetically by subject, followed by a chronology of historic events and a bibliography of sources. Other noteworthy items placed intermittently in the series are several nice watercolor drawings by MSC student, Kay Freeman; a reel-to-reel recording of Choctaw dances; a photographic copy of the original "Lamhatty's Road Map"; part of an Indian loom; and two Choctaw stick ball sticks.
Series V consists almost exclusively of plays and short stories about Red Eagle written by Stout and Col. Eugene Wink. Completing the series are newsclippings, production notes, graphic materials, and music scores -- all related to a proposed outdoor production about Red Eagle.
Series VI pertains to Mississippi and American history, and the most interesting item therein is a reel-to-reel recording of a memorial service held for Senator Theodore G. Bilbo (D-Miss.) in a joint session of the Mississippi House and Senate on February 9, 1948. Also in the series are an article concerning the John Ford Home in Marion County, Mississippi, and one entitled "The Story of Pascagoula." Newsclippings cover such topics as Andrew Jackson, the Natchez Trace, Amite County, Mississippi's sesquicentennial celebration, and civil rights (including articles documenting integration of the University of Mississippi in 1962). A wide range of subjects and personalities are explored in the two folders of articles copied from periodicals. Among them are the Revolutionary War; the Civil War; homes of various presidents; Jamestown, Virginia; El Dorado, Arkansas; the 145th anniversary of Liberty, Mississippi; The John Ford House; the Sevier family of Tennessee; Abraham Lincoln; and Daniel Boone. Publications in the series include a selection of small booklets concerning public buildings in colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. The Capitol describes the building in which the Virginia General Assembly met from 1704-1779; The Governor's Palace details the house built in 1705 to house Virginia's governors when Williamsburg was the state's capital. The Public Gaol chronicles the history of the Williamsburg prison from 1704-1779, and The Raleigh Tavern concerns a large tavern built prior to 1742, and named for Sir Walter Raleigh. Maps in the series are of historic Boston, British West Florida, and Augusta, Georgia. Other items of interest are photographic copies of pages from the Tuscumbia (Alabama) Patriot (1827), edited by Henry S. Foote who later became governor of Mississippi, and a photographic copy of the Floridian (Aug. 18, 1821). Rounding out the series are brochures and postcards advertising sites of historic interest in Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, and Louisiana.
This collection reveals much about the diverse interests of Dr. Wilbur White Stout, and would be of particular value to researchers of outdoor theater, or Native American tribes of the southeastern United States. In addition, the Academic series contains good examples of course outlines and types of instructional materials used by Stout from approximately 1939-1963.