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Overview of the Collection

Repository: McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi

Creator: Donated by Prieur Jay Higginbotham in October 1974 and on February 2, 2001; donated by Jay Higginbotham via Peggy Price on March 22, 2000; donated by Jeanne Felicie Mercier March 27, 2003.

Collection Number: M126

Collection Title: Higginbotham (Prieur Jay) Papers

Size: .50 cubic foot

Language: English

Dates: 1958 – 2002 and undated

Collection Status: Processed

Abstract: The collection contains information concerning the personal and professional life of Jay Higginbotham. Items range from such things as personal correspondence to biographical information to his list of works.


2.  Subjects

Author—Mississippi – United States

Author—Alabama– United States

Teacher – Mississippi – United States

Teacher – Alabama – United States

Archivist – Alabama – Alabama


3.  Biographical/Historical Note

Prieur Jay Higginbotham was born on July 16, 1937 in Pascagoula, Mississippi, the eldest of three children born to Prieur Jay Higginbotham, Sr. and Vivian Inez Perez Higginbotham. His siblings are a sister, Mary Kay (born June 13, 1940) and a brother, Robert Dale (born December 29, 1943).

Jay Higginbotham was educated in the Pascagoula city schools, and upon graduation, he entered the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in Oxford, Mississippi, receiving the Bachelor of Arts in 1960. During his college years (1955 - 1960), he served as an Assistant Clerk in the Mississippi House of Representatives.

After graduating from Ole Miss, he taught high school, first in Mississippi, then in the Mobile County, Alabama Public Schools from 1962 until 1972. During that time, he married, and he and his wife, Louisa, now have three children --Jeanne, Denis, and Robert. In the same time period, he began to pursue a career as an author. The ensuing years saw Higginbotham evolve into a writer of history, novels, short stories, travel, adventure, family biographies, and articles for newspapers and historical journals. Among his books are The Mobile Indians; Pascagoula: Singing River City; Mobile: City By the Bay; Fort Maurepas: The Birth of Louisiana; Fast Train Russia; Autumn in Petrischevo; and Old Mobile.

Higginbotham is known for his narrative style of writing, which makes his books infinitely more readable than most scholarly works. His books have been widely acclaimed in the United States, France, Britain, and Spain. In 1966, Old Mobile won five literary awards.

It is no coincidence that five of Higginbotham's books deal with the French Colonial Period. His ancestors were predominantly French, and from an early age, he exhibited an abiding interest in the history of the United States Gulf Coast.

An extensive genealogical study of his family revealed that one ancestor, Joseph Simon Sieur de la Pointe, helped erect Fort Maurepas, on the east coast of Biloxi (Mississippi) Bay in 1699. Other ancestors were prominent political figures of the Gulf Coast area, including at least two mayors of New Orleans, Louisiana during the eighteenth century. Family pride is reflected in the handing down of names -- Jay and all of his children were given old family names.

In 1966, as a young, unattached school teacher, Higginbotham traveled to the (then) Soviet Union. While there, he rode the Trans-Siberian Main Line from Nakhodka (a port city on the east coast of Siberia, which borders the Sea of Japan) to Moscow, keeping a journal as he traveled. The journal lay dormant until about 1979, when a chance meeting with a Soviet citizen rekindled his interest. Soviet author, Lev Knjazev, visited the Mobile Public Library, where Higginbotham was employed, in search of books by Russian authors. The two men became so involved in a discussion of Higginbotham's trip through Siberia, that Higginbotham invited the other man to his home for dinner. Encouraged by the Soviet author, he began to write a book based on his journal. He continued his acquaintance with Knjazev, who had returned to his home in Vladivostok (in the former Soviet Union), and made five or six attempts to send him the manuscript for his perusal. However, it was lost in the mail each time, and he finally hit upon the idea of sending the manuscript one page at a time, in his letters. This plan proved viable, and Knjazev gave his enthusiastic approval, urging Higginbotham to complete the project. The result was Fast Train Russia.

In 1984, he visited the Soviet Union for a second time, and wrote Autumn in Petrischevo, based on that experience. He was impressed by the honesty and goodwill of the Soviet people, whose uppermost desire, according to Higginbotham, was to "... safeguard peace and avert nuclear war."

In 1973, Higginbotham applied for the position of Director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, but was passed over in favor of Mr. Elbert Hilliard, who remains in that position at this writing. In that same year, he secured employment at the Mobile Public Library, serving as Head of the Department of Local History between 1973 and 1978, and as acting Head of Special Collections from 1979 to 1980. Since 1980, he has acted as a research consultant for the library.

During his tenure at the Mobile Public Library, he assisted in the establishment of the Mobile Municipal Archives, becoming Director thereof in 1983. At this writing, Mr. Higginbotham resides in Mobile, and remained Director of the Mobile Municipal Archives until 2001. He also serves on the editorial board of the Gulf Coast Historical Review. His works have been distributed to over 125 countries and translated into more than 20 languages.

4.  Scope and Content Note

While this collection is relatively small in size and narrow in scope, it does contain some informative items concerning the personal and professional life of Jay Higginbotham.

The collection begins with a brief biographical sketch, followed by two photographs, and progresses to a series of correspondence which has been divided into four parts -- personal, professional, business and civic oriented, and greeting cards. Of interest among the professional correspondence is a letter from William F. Winter, who, at that time, was Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi, and president of the Board of Trustees, Mississippi Department of Archives and History (Mr. Winter went on to become Governor of Mississippi in 1980). The letter advises Jay Higginbotham that Mr. Elbert Hilliard has been selected as Director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, a position for which Higginbotham had applied. Also of interest are several letters, written in French and Spanish, to libraries in Paris, France and Valladolid, Spain.

Noteworthy among the greeting cards is a Christmas card that features a design drawn by artist, Ann Adams, a polio patient who trained herself to draw, holding a pencil between her teeth.

Following the correspondence is the item of the most intrinsic value - the handwritten manuscript of The Pascagoula Indians - inscribed in a simple, spiral notebook. Behind this text are other works of Jay Higginbotham some which are autographed.

The manuscript is followed by a sundry selection of items relating to the Higginbotham family, including such articles as Jay's Army Reserve identification card; a temporary driver's permit issued by the state of Alabama; genealogical information on Joseph Simon Sieur de la Pointe; and a description of Jay's responsibilities at the Mobile Public Library. Behind the Mobile Public Library folder is a file of Mobile Related Pamphlets.

Completing the collection are information concerning the Spanish Fort Museum in Pascagoula, Mississippi; newsletters - "The Arts in Mississippi" and "Six Flags Reporter" (Mobile, Alabama); news clippings; supplemental list including Jay and Louisa Higginbotham; “The Higginbotham Family Hour;” a description of Jackson County, Mississippi and the Pascagoula River; “The Les Descendants;” a photocopied article from the Florida Southern Quarterly, "Arriola's Report on the Founding of Pensacola."

5.  Arrangement

The collection starts out with biographical information then transitions to correspondence that are personal, professional, business, and greeting cards. Following the correspondence, the information ranges from a handwritten manuscript to other works by Jay Higginbotham. The collection wraps up with various family items.

6.  Related Material

Related collections at the University of Southern Mississippi include:

·         The Mobile Indians(2nd ed., Mobile, Ala.: Sir Rey's, 1966), call number E99.M698 H53 1966 (Cook).

·         The Pascagoula Indians(Mobile, Ala.: Colonial Books, 1967), call number E99.P26 H53 1967 (McCain).

·         Pascagoula: Singing River City(Mobile, Ala.: Gill Press, 1967), call number F349.P3 H5 (McCain).

·         Family Biographies: Brief Portraits of Some Ancestors and Members of the Higginbotham Family of Pascagoula(Mobile, Ala.: Colonial Books, 1967), call number CS71 .H6367 1967 (Cook).

·         Fort Maurepas: The Birth of Louisiana(Mobile, Ala.: Colonial Books, 1968), call number F349 .O23 H53 (McCain, Cox).

·         Sauvole de la Villantray de, The Journal of Sauvole: Historical Journal of the Establishment of the French in Louisiana, translated and edited by Jay Higginbotham (Mobile, Ala.: Colonial Books, 1969), call number F372 .F8713x 1969 (McCain).

·         Fort Maurepas: The Birth of Louisiana, 1699-1702(Pascagoula: Jackson County Historical Records, 1998), call number F349.O23 H53 1998 (Cox).

·         Fort Maurepas: The Birth of Louisiana, 1699-1702(Pascagoula, Miss.: Jackson County Historical Records, 1971), call number F349.O23 H53 1971 (McCain).

·         Brother Holyfield, a Novel(New York: Thomas-Hull, 1972), call number PS3558.I353 B7x (McCain).

·         Old Mobile: Fort Louis de la Louisiane, 1702-1711(Mobile, Ala.: Museum of the City of Mobile, 1977), call number F334.M6 H48x (McCain), F334.M6 H483 c2 (Cox).

·         Old Mobile: Fort Louis de la Louisiane, 1702-1711(Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1991), call number F334.M6 H483 1991 (Cook), F334.M6 H483 1991 (Cox).

·         Fast Train Russia(New York: Dodd, Mead, 1983), call number DK28 .H48 1983 (McCain).

·         Autumn in Petrishchevo(Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1987), call number DK29 .H54x 1987 (McCain).

·         Man, Nature & the Infinite: Random Thoughts and Impressions from the Journals, Interviews, Letters, Speeches and Notebooks of Jay Higginbotham, 1961-1977(Mobile, Ala.: Lighthouse Books, 1998), call number BJ1581.22 .H54 1998 (McCain).


7.  Administrative Information

Provenance: Donated by Prieur Jay Higginbotham in October 1974 and on February 2, 2001; donated by Jay Higginbotham via Peggy Price on March 22, 2000; donated by Jeanne Felicie Mercier March 27, 2003.

Use Restrictions: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code). Reproduction of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Provision of photocopies or digital reproductions does not constitute permission to publish, distribute, provide internet access to, or otherwise display images of materials in this collection. Copyright is retained by the lawful copyright holder, and it is the responsibility of the permission seeker to contact and secure permission from the copyright holder. Where copyright permission is not granted, images are only for use in private study subject to the Fair Use exceptions made in U.S. Copyright Law.

Access Restrictions: Available for research use by the serious student and scholar

Preferred Citation Method: In citing these materials, the following information should be included: Item, title of collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi.

Processing Information: Revised by Shawna Guidry, April 1, 2015.


Alabama Authors. “Higginbotham, Prieur Jay, Jr., 1937 - .” April 1, 2015).

Daniels, George H., ed. Gulf Coast Historical Review. Mobile, Alabama: History Department, University of South Alabama, Vol. 7, No. 2, Spring 1992.

Encyclopedia of Alabama. “Jay Higginbotham.” April 1, 2015)

Higginbotham, Jay.Family Biographies. Mobile, Alabama: Colonial Books, 1967.

Lloyd, James B. Lives of Mississippi Authors 1817-1967. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1981.

_____. The Writers Directory, 9th ed. Chicago and London: St. James Press, 1990.


8.  Container List

Box 1

Folder 1           Bibliography Information. 1965, 1973, 1991-2002, undated

Folder 2           Photograph: M126-1 an undated black and white photograph of Robert Hamilton, an ancestor of Jay Higginbotham

Photograph: M126-2 colored postcard dated 7/15/74 from Helsinki, Finland. It’s to Jay Higginbotham and his wife from Aunt Denise and Uncle Karl

Folder 3           Correspondence: Personal. December 31, 1972 – July 1974; n.d.

Folder 4           Correspondence: Professional. September 24, 1972 – December 28, 1973

Folder 5           Correspondence: Professional. January 6, 1974 – May 19, 1974; February 7, 2000; n.d.

Folder 6           Correspondence: Business and Civic Oriented. May 23, 1973 – May 6, 1974

Folder 7           Correspondence: Greeting Cards

Folder 8           Correspondence: Greeting Cards

Folder 9           Manuscript: The Pascagoula Indians. 1967

Folder 10         Bibliography of Higginbotham’s Works. 1959-1998

Folder 11         List of Higginbotham’s Published Works. 1954-1993

Folder 12         Higginbotham’s Autographed Works. Cuban Journaland If I Had the Power and Other Poems. 1993; 1999

Folder 13         Higginbotham’s Works. Liberty, Democracy, and Responsibility: Friends of Freedom Mobile, Alabama; U.S. – Cuban Relations: Speeches and Statements 1993-1994; Sharing; The Vital Alliance: Speeches and Statements on Soviet-American Relations 1979-1985. 1979-1985; 1993-1994; 1996

Folder 14         ID Cards, Receipt, and Invoice. Receipt and Temporary Driver’s Permit; Commercial Guaranty Bank card; Military Identification Card; Mobile, Alabama Principal’s Office Receipt; French receipt for Photography Services. 1958; 1972; 1973; n.d.

Folder 15         Genealogical Information on Joseph Simon De La Pointe. La Pointe is an ancestor of Jay Higginbotham. n.d.

Folder 16         Jay Higginbotham’s Responsibilities at Mobile Public Library. n.d.

Folder 17         Mobile Related Pamphlets. An Evening of Jewish Literature and Strategic Plan: Mobile Tricentenial Celebration 2001-2002. May 5, 1992 and July 1997.

Folder 18         Spanish Fort Museum. 1973-1974

Folder 19         Newsletter: “The Arts in Mississippi.” May 1974

Folder 20         Newsletter: “Six Flags Reporter.” Portrait of Henri de Tonti. In folder number 5, view the letters from Higginbotham to Caldwell Delaney discussing the authenticity of the Tonti portrait. May 1974

Folder 21         Newsclippings. 1973-1974; 1984-1987; 1990-1998; 2000; n.d.

Folder 22         Supplementary List. List of names including Jay and Louisa Higginbotham. n.d.

Folder 23         “The Higginbotham Family Hour.” n.d.

Folder 24         Description of Jackson County, Mississippi and the Pascagoula River, origin unknown. n.d.

Folder 25         Magazine: The Les Descendants. In the magazine is a story of Jay Higginbotham’s mother, Vivian Higginbotham. Spring 1998

Folder 26         Article: “Arriola’s Report on the Founding of Pensacola.” The article is from the Florida Historical Quarterly. n.d.


9.  Item List

Photograph Log

Box 1, Folder 2:

M126-1          Photograph of Robert Hamilton

                        6 ½ x 4½                     B&W               Undated

                        Robert Hamilton is an ancestor of Jay Higginbotham


M126-2          Postcard from Helsinki, Finland

                        4 ½ x 6 ½                    Colored           July 15, 1975

                        To Jay Higginbotham and his wife from Aunt Denise and Uncle Karl


10.  Publication Information

Publisher:                 The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries, Special Collections


Physical Address:  The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries

McCain Library & Archives

118 College Drive #5148

Hattiesburg, MS 39406-5148


Email Contact: To email, go to:

Revision Date: Last revised: April 1, 2015

Prepared and maintained by
The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries Special Collections
118 College Drive #5148   Hattiesburg, MS 39406-5148