Monday, October 13, 2008

The Dr. Thomas Perkins Abernethy Collection of Americana

(Dr. Thomas Perkins Abernethy, 1890-1975)

The Abernethy Collection, the select private library of Dr. Thomas Perkins Abernethy, was donated by Abernethy to Marion Military Institute, circa 1970. The collection consists of some 950 volumes including many first editions and rare books, the oldest being published in 1779. Seven books written by Dr. Abernethy are also part of the collection.

Here are three of Dr. Abernethy’s historical books centering on Tennessee, Virginia, and Alabama:




MMI President Paul B. Robinson with Dr. Abernethy in the Archives Room of the Baer Memorial Library.

Dr. Abernethy conversing with Mrs. Woody S. Moore, MMI Librarian, about the donation of his personal library to MMI.

Born in Collirene, Alabama, on August 25, 1890, Thomas Perkins Abernethy was a member of the Marion Military Institute Class of 1908 (he was a cadet sergeant and played on the football team), and a 1912 graduate of the College of Charleston in South Carolina. He also taught at MMI for a number of years (1912-1914, 1919-1921) while completing his graduate work (M.A., 1915; Ph.D., 1922) in history at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

Captain Abernethy held the Chair of History at MMI.

Dr. Abernethy married Ida Robertson, the secretary to the president of Marion Military Institute, on December 6, 1917.

Upon completion of his graduate studies at Harvard, Dr. Abernethy embarked upon a distinguished career as a Southern historian and professor. He taught at Vanderbilt University, the University of Chattanooga, and the University of Alabama, before joining the faculty at the University of Virginia as the Richmond Alumni Professor of History in 1930. Dr. Abernethy’s career culminated in his serving as chair of the Corcoran Department of History at UVA, one of the premier departments of history in the country. He retired from UVA in 1961, but also taught briefly at the University of Texas and the University of Arizona.

Dr. Abernethy received an Honorary Doctor of Literature (Litt. D.) from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He was also honored by a festschrift entitled The Old Dominion: Essays for Thomas Perkins Abernethy, edited by Darrett B. Rutman (1964).

Among his many contributions to the field of history, Dr. Abernethy co-founded and served as third president of the Southern Historical Association. He also served on the executive board of the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond for over a quarter century.

Dr. Thomas Perkins Abernethy – a true son of MMI - died in Charlottesville, Virginia, on November 12, 1975.