Thomas Gerstle Abernethy collection, 1943-1972

Abernethy, Thomas Gerstle, 1903-1998


454 boxes, 38 steel index card drawers, 17 framed items, and 21 publications (237 linear ft).
Papers documenting Abernethy's thirty years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives -- Includes files relating to military service academy appointments, patronage appointments, constituent case work, and constituent requests, and invitations, legislative files, committee files, subject files, political and campaign files, and public relations files. Includes extensive coverage of Abernethy's service on the House Committee on Agriculture and its subcommitteees on Cotton, Departmental Oversight, and Fertilizer and Farm Machinery, as well as the House District of Columbia Committee. Other topics include Camp Shelby; civil rights and race relations; congressional trips to Africa, Suriname, and elsewhere; contested elections; Natchez Trace Parkway; postal service in Mississippi; Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway; and Tombigbee River flood control.
In addition to the boxes of files, the Thomas G. Abernethy Papers also include thirty-eight steel drawers of index cards. In a letter to the university, Abernethy explained their creation in the following manner: "A card was made up for every person (we missed a few and skipped a few) who communicated with us over our thirty years. Entries were made on the card of such communications as were received from each writer, what he wrote about, the date, etc." The cards are arranged alphabetically by name. The description of one audio reel-to-reel recording is available online at Due to copyright, access to the recording itself is restricted to onsite computers in the J.D. Williams Library.
U.S. Representative from Mississippi -- Thomas Gerstle Abernethy was born on 16 May 1903 in Eupora, Webster County, Miss. He attended the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and the University of Mississippi Law School. He graduated from the law school of Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn., in 1924. Abernethy began practicing law in his hometown the following year, and he served as mayor of Eupora from 1927 to 1929. He opened another law practice after moving to Okolona in 1929. From 1936 to 1942, Abernethy was the district attorney for the third judicial district of Mississippi. In 1942, Abernethy won election as a Democrat from the northeastern fourth district of Mississippi to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1943-1944, he chaired the Committee on Elections No. 1 which judges the elections, returns, and qualifications of House members and deals with contested elections. The only serious reelection contest Abernethy faced occurred in 1952 after Mississippi underwent reapportionment following the loss of a congressional seat. Abernethy successfully campaigned against fellow Democratic colleague John Rankin (in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1920) to win the seat for the first district which encompassed the central portions of the state from the Delta counties along the Mississippi River to the hill counties along the Alabama border. Abernethy served as a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1948, 1956, and 1960. In 1972, he announced his decision not to run for reelection. A conservative Democrat during his political career, Abernethy increasingly endorsed and voted for Republicans after his retirement. He died of heart failure in a Jackson, Miss., nursing home on 11 June 1998.
The collection is open for research This collection is stored at an off-site facility. Researchers interested in using this collection must contact Archives and Special Collections at least two business days in advance of their planned visit (phone: (662) 915-7408; e-mail:
Cite as: Thomas G. Abernethy Collection (MUM00001). The Department of Archives and Special Collections, J.D. Williams Library, The University of Mississippi.
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