The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Preer (George Thomas) Papers
Collection Number: M215
Dates: 1948 - 1979
Volume: .90 cu. ft.
Restrictions: Available for research use by the serious student and scholar.
George Thomas Preer, born December 7, 1906 , in Columbus , Georgia , was educated in the schools of Columbus . After graduating from Davidson College in 1929, he pursued graduate studies at Harvard and Brown Universities , receiving an MA from the latter in 1930. His studies at Columbia Theological Seminary culminated in his graduation magna cum laude in 1935 and his ordination as a Presbyterian minister. He married Gertrude Gardenshire Reiney of Columbus , Georgia , on August 27, 1937 . They had no children. While attending the University of Virginia , he served as student pastor and was awarded a PhD in 1938.
Preer held pastorates in Oakdale, Louisiana; College Park, Georgia; Lafayette, Louisiana; and Collins, Mississippi. In 1954, he was assigned to Mississippi Southern College (now, the University of Southern Mississippi ) as counselor to students and advisor to Westminster Fellowship, the Presbyterian Church youth organization. Along with other ministers on campus and in town, he played an active organizational role in the annual campus Religious Emphasis Week. In addition to his duties at Mississippi Southern College, in 1959 Preer accepted a position teaching Philosophy and Greek at Belhaven College in Jackson , Mississippi . For two semesters he worked for both institutions, but the heavy workload forced him to make a choice, and he resigned from his counseling position to teach full time at Belhaven. The Preers kept their residence in Hattiesburg , where they spent holidays and most weekends, and returned to live permanently in Hattiesburg after his retirement from Belhaven in 1972.
During his years in Mississippi , Reverend Preer held services, performed marriages, officiated at funerals, and conducted other religious rites in communities throughout south Mississippi . His activities with the Civitan Club in Hattiesburg included work with the Boy Scout troop they sponsored. A member of the South Mississippi Presbytery for thirty years, he served Presbyterian churches in the area until his death in 1981.
Contents of the collection.
"Services Saturday for Dr. George T. Preer." Hattiesburg American , June 12, 1981 .
The bulk of the George Thomas Preer Papers consists of diaries in which Preer recorded minute details from his daily life, his occupational activities, and his avocational pastimes of gardening, carpentry, and writing. Many friends and associates are mentioned, as are current events of 1948, and 1955 - 1979.
The first diary covers events of 1948 when Preer held a pastorate in Lafayette , Louisiana . The remaining annual diaries, from 1955 - 1979, chronicle events and daily life at Mississippi Southern College, at Belhaven College , and in Hattiesburg , Mississippi . Mentioned with less frequency, are various other towns and citizens of south Mississippi . Sermons, essays, letters, and other memorabilia complete the collection.
Journal entries from 1955 - 1960 document activities at Mississippi Southern College, especially those associated with religious groups on campus. Emphasis is on the activities of the campus branch of Westminster Fellowship, the Presbyterian youth organization. During this five-year period, significant events were Religious Emphasis Week, homecomings, retreats, and incidents indicating growing pressure from the administration to relocate religious organizations to offices off campus. Included in the diaries, which document the mores and concerns of students of the 1950's and 1960's, are Preer's records of formal and informal counseling sessions with students, and of social interaction with townspeople and students. Referred to frequently, but missing from the collection, are student publications, " Mouse" and "Spirit."
The collection contains references to Dr. and Mrs. Preer's involvement in civic, church, and social activities. Mrs. Preer held membership in garden and home demonstration clubs, as well as church circle societies. Dr. Preer was active in the Civitan Club and in the Boy Scout troop they sponsored. He attended meetings of the Central and South Mississippi Presbyteries and recorded his observations in his diary, including some heated confrontations over the growing conflict between liberals and conservatives in the Presbyterian Church, as well as attempts to deal with problems of integration.
Preer's hobbies of gardening (which he saw as "God's Divine Purpose" expressed in nature) and amateur meteorology are recorded in great detail. Some sections of the diaries are labeled, "Yard and Garden," though other information is recorded. Interspersed with the mundane events of daily life, including meals served, furniture arrangement, and money management, are comments on news events - local, national and international. Throughout the writings are expressions of Preer's religious philosophy and his attempts to reconcile Christian ideals with daily life both for himself and for his flock. after Preer's retirement in 1972, there are fewer entries, perhaps because there was less activity.
The correspondence in the collection includes a series of letters written in 1973 to Dr. Charles E. S. Kraemer, Moderator, General Assembly, Presbyterian Church , U. S. , in Richmond , Virginia . Preer summarizes his opinions, previously expressed in his diaries, about conflict in the Presbyterian church between liberals and conservatives over such issues as social activism and ordination of women. In May 1973, in Atlanta , the conservatives withdrew from the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. and formed the Presbyterian Church of America. Expressing concern about the number of local churches withdrawing from the Synod, Preer includes a list of dissenters in the Hattiesburg area.