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Collection Title: Austin (O.V.) Papers

Collection Number: M309

Dates: 1921-1938

Volume: .10 cubic feet

Provenance: Transferred from the Mississippiana Verticle File, on August 15, 1988.

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

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Oliver V. Austin was a Jones County, Mississippi native, born on September 25, 1890. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in 1911, and completed his Masters Degree at Ole Miss in 1912. In 1920, he attended a summer session for football coaches at the University of Illinois, and in 1929-30, he worked towards his doctorate in science at the University of Chicago.

Austin's work in the public school systems includes time spent at Jones County Agricultural High School (1914-15) where he taught science and directed athletics. He also served as principal and athletic director in Greenwood Mississippi (1916-17). During WWI, Austin served in the U.S. Army as an instructor in Elementary Physics and Electricity at the Artillery Officers Training School at Camp Taylor, Kentucky (1917).

In 1921, Austin came to Mississippi Normal College (now the University of Southern Mississippi) as Assistant Science Instructor, and Director of Athletics. As head coach, O.V. "Spout" Austin took charge of football, basketball and baseball. Undaunted by scheduling difficulties and the discouraging lack of support offered by the local community, he arranged games with other colleges that were designed to evoke public interest and involvement. In 1922, Mr. Austin replaced R.J. Slay as Head of the Science Department, and in 1924, he relinquished his athletic responsibilities. In 1943, O.V. Austin was named Head of the Physical Science and Mathematics Division, and remained so until his retirement due to ill health in 1955. Austin was also president of the Mississippi Academy of Science.

O.V. Austin wed Ruth Sharbrough in 1922, who gave birth to two children, O.V. Austin, Jr. who died at age two in 1925 and Ruthlyn Austin. Austin's wife died in 1943, and he remained a widower until his own death on May 22, 1960. Mr. Austin, his wife, and son are interred in Ellisville Cemetery, Ellisville, Mississippi.

Scope and Content:

This collection contains three folders of materials relating to the personal and professional activities of Oliver V. Austin. Folder one consists of personal and professional correspondence written primarily between 1921 and 1923, and is arranged chronologically.

The personal correspondence in folder one includes a short note from O.V. Austin to his future wife, then Ruth Sharbrough; letters concerning the health of his wife, Ruth, and their newborn son, O.V. Austin Jr. A letter to Ruth Austin from her aunt at Battle Creek Sanitarium offers advice concerning the nursing of the infant and urges Ruth to get medical attention if the current situation does not improve. The final personal correspondence is written on Wiggins Methodist Episcopal Church stationary. In the letter, Pastor M.B. Sharbrough writes Mr. Austin concerning the medical condition of his wife, Ruth, who is at this point, improving under the pastor's care (possibly a relative). There is also mention of the baby's nutrition, as affected by his mother's illness.

The three typed professional correspondences in folder one document the process of scheduling athletic events, one aspect of O.V. Austin's activities as Director of Athletics (Research indicates that scheduling was a rather difficult task, and the Mississippi Normal College often had to play against local high school teams). Austin's correspondence shows his efforts to schedule athletic events with other colleges, which helped solicit community support. A telegram (Nov. 11, 1923) records an offer from C.J. McNaspy of Lafayette, Louisiana concerning a possible monetary transaction in relation to a game against Lafayette. The second professional correspondence (Dec. 6, 1923) is typed on Louisiana College Department of Athletic letterhead, from H.E. Waldon who is responding affirmatively to an offer made by Austin concerning the scheduling of a football game for the following season. The third professional correspondence is typed on Spring Hill College, Alabama Department of Athletics letterhead (Dec. 8, 1923), from William S. Harty, who is attempting to schedule basketball games with Mississippi Normal College for the following season.

Folder two contains miscellaneous material such as a memo mentioning several commercial businesses such as Fine Brothers, Walker-Clower Drug Co., and A.E. Shoemaker. Also included is a Mississippi Normal College letterhead which lists the college faculty (including O.V. Austin), and a Surplus U.S. Army Goods & General Merchandise wholesale mail-order catalog (Oct. 25, 1923).

Folder three contains 16 photographs (M309-1 through M309-16). Two photos are of the Third Army Mobile Field Station in Forrest County (1938), and the remaining 14 comprise a photographic tour of the USS Constitution after its restoration (circa 1931-1934).

This collection should aid any researcher interested in the history of USM, the history of USM intercollegiate activities, or photographs of the restoration of the USS Constitution.

Related Collections:

RG 2 USM Photograph Collection

RG 32 University Union and Student Activities

RG 42 Intercollegiate Athletics


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Revised: December 17, 2004