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Collection Title: Bilbo (Theodore G.) Papers

Collection Number: M2

Dates: 1905-1947

Volume: 690 cu. ft.

Provenance: Donated by Theodore Bilbo's son and daughter, Col. Theodore G. Bilbo, Jr. and Mrs. Jessie Bilbo Burge, in 1961.

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

Theodore G. Bilbo Portrait (ca. 1928)

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Theodore G. Bilbo, the thirty-second governor of Mississippi, was perhaps the most controversial figure ever to serve as chief executive of the state.

He was born on October 13, 1877 at Juniper Grove in Pearl River County. He attended Vanderbilt University, and taught school for six years. In 1908 he was admitted to the bar in Tennessee but began the practice of law in Poplarville, Mississippi.

Bilbo entered politics in 1909 as state senator from the Fourth District. Before the end of his term an unsuccessful effort was made by the Senate to expel him after the first in his career of several accusations of accepting bribes. In 1911 Senator Bilbo was elected after a stormy campaign as lieutenant governor to serve with Governor Earl L. Brewer. Four years later he entered the race for governor and was elected over four opponents.

Governor Bilbo was inaugurated on January 18, 1916, and his administration during the next four years was as progressive as that of any in the history of the state. His administration instituted notable reforms in the highway system, in fiscal policies, and in education. Under his administration the State Tax Commission, the Mississippi Industrial Training School, the Game and Fish Commission, the State Plant Board, and the State Board of Embalming were established.

Bilbo was again a candidate for governor in 1923 but was defeated by Henry L. Whitfield. In 1927 he ran again, with M.S. Conner, A.C Anderson, and Governor Dennis Murphree as opponents. Although he led Governor Murphree by nearly 65,000 votes in the first primary, he was able to exceed him in the second by only a little over 10,000 votes.

Governor Bilbo was inaugurated the second time on January 17, 1928. The next four years were filled with controversies over a state-owned printing plant, brick roads, the removal of the University of Mississippi to Jackson, the firing of college presidents and professors, and the building of the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield. Two state officials were impeached; one resigned and one was exonerated. The Depression added to Governor Bilbo's troubles, so that when he went out of office in 1932, both he and the state were bankrupt.

In 1934 Governor Bilbo ran for the United States Senate against Senator Hubert D. Stephens, Ross A. Collins, and Frank H. Harper. Although Stephens led in the first primary, Governor Bilbo won in the second by about 6,000 votes. He was re-elected in 1940 over Governor Hugh L. White. In 1946 he defeated four opponents for a third term, but, again facing charges of accepting bribes, was refused his seat when he appeared to be sworn in the third time. He died in New Orleans on August 21, 1947.

Scope and Content:

The Theodore G. Bilbo Papers document the activities of the former Mississippi governor and United States Senator from approximately 1905-1947. To facilitate its use, the collection has been divided into the following seven subgroups:


Subgroup I: Early Life and Politics Through First Governorship, 1905-1920, Box 1

Subgroup I consists of personal records, items pertaining to the 1910 bribery trial, and materials regarding Bilbo's first term as governor (1916-1920).


Subgroup II: Private Law Practice and Mississippi Free Lance, 1920-1928, Boxes 2 - 34

Materials in Subgroup II cover the period between Bilbo's first and second terms as governor of Mississippi. Included are personal papers, personal correspondence, campaign correspondence, newspaper clippings, assorted business and professional papers, and materials relating to Bilbo's controversial weekly political newspaper, Mississippi Free Lance, which was published in Jackson.


Subgroup III: Second Term As Governor, 1928-1932, Boxes 35-129

Boxes 35 -100 of this subgroup contain general correspondence to and from Gov. Bilbo, which has been designated either "A" or "B." Correspondence designated "A" consists of letters written to Bilbo, and is arranged chronologically, and alphabetically, by surname of the writer or by the name of the agency of origin. "B" correspondence signifies letters written by Bilbo, and is arranged chronologically, and alphabetically, by name of the individual or agency to whom it is directed.

Boxes 101-111 are comprised of gubernatorial subject files, which are arranged alphabetically.

Boxes 112-129 contain newspaper clippings from 1928-1932.


Subgroup IV: Private Law Practice & U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1932-1935, Boxes 130-169

Boxes 130-164 consist of general correspondence relating to Bilbo's activities in the interval between his second term as governor and his election to the U.S. Senate. In 1933, through the efforts of Sen. Pat Harrison, Bilbo was given a position in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, where he was assigned to compile a scrapbook for the AAA from newspapers, magazines, and other published sources. Bilbo called himself "Advisory Counselor", but his enemies dubbed him "Pastemaster General." Correspondence in this grouping is arranged in the same manner as in Subgroup III.

Boxes 165-169 contain newspaper clippings from 1932-1935.


Subgroup V: United States Senate, 1935-1947, Boxes 170 - 1167

Materials in Subgroup V have been divided into three subheadings: General Correspondence, Subject Files, and Newspaper Clippings.

Correspondence (Boxes 170-969) contain letters to and from Bilbo, and are arranged in the manner described in Subgroup III. This series contains a wealth of information regarding the activities and ideology of Senator Bilbo. 

Sen. Bilbo's Subject Files (Boxes 970-1145) are arranged alphabetically, and consist of files kept by Bilbo during his two terms of office.

Newspaper Clippings (Boxes 1146-1167) are arranged chronologically, and document events between 1935 and 1947.


Subgroup VI: Photographs, Boxes 1168-1174

  1. Photographs in Subgroup VI date from circa 1888-1953, and have been divided into seven categories:
  2. Theodore G. Bilbo (Boxes 1168-1170)
  3. Bilbo Family Members (Box 1170)
  4. Dream Houses I & II, and Juniper Grove Baptist Church (Box 1170)
  5. Identified Individuals (Boxes 1170-1171)
  6. Unidentified Individuals (Boxes 1171-1172)
  7. Places (Box 1173)
  8. Subjects (Box 1174)


Subgroup VII: Miscellaneous Materials, Boxes 1175-1188 and Oversize Folders

Subgroup VII is comprised of a variety of materials that did not fit well in any other category. Included are manuscripts of Redneck Liberal, a biography of Theodore G. Bilbo written by Chester M. Morgan; bound copies of Mississippi Free Lance; two copies of Take Your Choice: Segregation or Mongrelization by Theodore G. Bilbo; approximately 2000 signed "Peace Movement of Ethiopia" petitions; reference materials relating to Bilbo; political broadsides, handbills, and pamphlets; and artifacts and memorabilia. A unique item in this subgroup is a segment of carpet taken from the speaker's stand at President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1941 inaugural address.


This collection provides insight into the government of the state of Mississippi in the early decades of the twentieth century, as well as American culture, political climate, and governmental activities during the Great Depression and World War II. It paints a definitive portrait of one of Mississippi's most colorful and controversial political figures, and is of immeasurable value to researchers of both Mississippi and American history.

Related Collections:

Col. Theodore G. Bilbo, Jr. [son] Oral History Interview, vol. 151. A copy of the transcript is available in the McCain Library, call number F341.5 .M57.

George W. Bilbo [nephew] Oral History Interview, vol. 440. A copy of the transcript is available in the McCain Library, call number F341.5 .M57.

J.O. Bilbo [nephew] Oral History Interview, vol. 453. A copy of the transcript is available in the McCain Library, call number F341.5 .M57.

Tullos (R. Ingram) Papers, 1934-1947, M 242


The following publications by Theodore G. Bilbo are available in the Cook and McCain Libraries:

Mississippi Free Lance [microform] (Jackson, Miss.), call number AN2.J33 M577 (Cook).

Welcome Address / Delivered by Governor Theo. G. Bilbo to the Fortieth Annual Confederate Veterans Reunion (Biloxi, Miss.: s.n., 1930), call number E650 .W44 1930 (McCain).

Report of the Mississippi Building Commission to the Mississippi Legislature, February 1, 1930, Theo G. Bilbo, Chairman (Jackson, Miss.?: The Commission, 1930), call number KFM7062.5.L34 A25 1930 (McCain).

Special Message by Gov. Theo. G. Bilbo to the Extraordinary Session, Oct. 20, 1931: Recommending State Ownership and Control of Gas and Electric Power for the People of Mississippi (Jackson, Miss.?: s.n., 1931?), call number HD2767.M74 M572 1931 (McCain).

Extension of Remarks of the Hon. Theodore G. Bilbo of Mississippi in the Senate of the United States, April 17, 1944 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1944), call number E749 .B55 1944 (McCain).

Speech of Hon. Theodore G. Bilbo of Mississippi in the Senate of the United States, Thursday, December 14, 1944 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1945), call number HG1591 .B55 1945 (McCain).

Speeches of Senator Theodore G. Bilbo of Mississippi in the Senate of the United States, June 27, 28, July 3, 6, 24, and 28, 1945 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1945), call number HD4903.5.U5 B55 1945 (McCain).

Speeches of Senator Theodore G. Bilbo of Mississippi in the Senate of the United States, October 3, 4, and 24, 1945 (Washington, D.C: GPO, 1945), call number HE1063 .B55 1945 (McCain).

Speeches of Senator Theodore G. Bilbo of Mississippi in the Senate of the United States, September 20, 1945 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1945), call number S541 .B55 1945 (McCain).

Speeches of Hon. Theodore G. Bilbo of Mississippi in the Senate of the United States, January 30, 31, and February 7, 1946 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1946), call number E742.5 .B55 1946 (McCain).

Take Your Choice; Separation or Mongrelization (Poplarville, Miss., Dream House Publishing Company, 1947), call number E185.61 .B55 (Cook, McCain).

Speeches of Hon. Theodore G. Bilbo of Mississippi in the Senate of the United States, May 10 and 14, 1945 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1945), call number HD4903.5.U5 B54 1945 (McCain).


Box and Folder List: Click here to access a list of the contents of the collection.


Accessions: Click here to access a list of recent additions to the collection.


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