Historian Blanche Terry dies at 83

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 12, 2004

[11/10/04]Alma Blanche Smith Terry, whose mind was recognized as a storehouse of Vicksburg history, died Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2004, at River Region Medical Center. She was 83.

“Literally generations have depended on the amazing amount of information she had at her fingertips,” said Connie Hinman, a member of the advisory council of the Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society.

Tony Dardeau, also a member and former president of the group that operates the Old Court House Museum, said he often watched as Mrs. Terry chatted with visitors who had some connection to Vicksburg.

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“She seemed to know if their family had been here for three weeks back in 1861,” he said.

Mrs. Terry worked at the museum for 35 years, starting when the founder, Eva W. Davis, was still active. She retired in 2003 as assistant director.

“In my years working with her, I became convinced that every office needed a Blanche Terry,” said Gordon Cotton, director and curator. “She was devoted to her job and interested in people.”

Cotton also said Mrs. Terry was one of the happiest people he knew.

“She came to work happy, was happy all day and left happy,” he said.

Another friend who worked with her at the museum was Kathleen Haskins, who recalled watching Mrs. Terry in action. “She was one of the most energetic people I have ever known,” she said.

Haskins also said Mrs. Terry was always gracious, always a lady and capable of doing anything that needed to be done and always thoughtful in the process. She coordinated several large re-enactments, and that meant hauling water and ice and serving meals to hundreds of “soldiers.”

Mrs. Terry was a native of Vicksburg and received her education at St. Francis Xavier Academy. She attended both St. Paul and St. Michael Catholic churches.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Joseph Ray Terry Sr.

She is survived by two sons, J. Ray Terry Jr. of Memphis and James L. Terry of Jackson; a daughter, Dr. Ginny Terry Raymond of Tuscaloosa, Ala.; seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren and a number of nieces and nephews.

“Mother was a person who loved Vicksburg and most of all the Old Court House Museum,” Ray Terry said. “Where ever I would take her, she would tell people about Vicksburg.”

He said his mother possessed a keen wit, a trait she apparently inherited from her father, the late Dr. George F. Smith.

He also said other than her children, two of her major sources of pride were an award bestowed on her by a governor of Mississippi and a key to the city presented to her by former Vicksburg Mayor Joe Loviza.

Hinman said Mrs. Terry’s knowledge of Vicksburg history was without parallel. “She had a wonderful sense of humor and a bright, retentive mind,” Hinman said.

Services for Mrs. Terry will be at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Michael Catholic Church. Burial will be at Cedar Hill Cemetery with Fisher Funeral Home in charge.

Visitation will be from 5 until 7 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home with a Christian religious service at 7 p.m.

The family requests that memorials be donations to St. Michael Catholic Church, St. Paul Catholic Church, the Old Court House Museum-Eva W. Davis Memorial or Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society.