Published on August 17th, 2021 | by TLV News0
Obituary: Thomas McCarver Rayburn, June 6, 1978 – August 13, 2021
Thomas McCarver Rayburn passed away on Friday, August 13, 2021, at his home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Carver was born on June 6, 1978, in Oxford, Miss.; where began his infinite and deep love for Ole Miss. He moved to Meridian, Miss. in 1993 at the start of his freshman year and graduated from Meridian High School in 1997. Carver’s outgoing and jovial personality made him popular in high school, where he was elected president of the Delta Chi chapter of Phi Kappa fraternity, and was also chosen as a little brother for the Dusty Social Service Club.
He returned to Oxford where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Public Relations from the University of Mississippi. While at Ole Miss, Carver served as president, vice president, and philanthropy chairman of the Mississippi Gamma chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. He loved and embraced every minute of his college experience, attending Ole Miss sporting events with a true passion for Ole Miss football and The Grove.
Inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Carver was known to don a red and blue-themed costume that is best described as resembling the character “Mushmouth” from the 1970’s cartoon Fat Albert &The Cosby Kids. He loved the Ole Miss Rebels so much that he tattooed the mascot Colonel Reb on his back.
Coming from a family with a long musical pedigree, Carver was no different. A talented guitarist and bass guitarist from an early age, he formed his own rock ‘n’ roll bands and played many shows. He eventually landed a job at the famed Hoka Theatre in Oxford, booking touring bands and entertaining audiences.
Carver was a gifted journalist who excelled as a writer, advertising director, editor, and publisher. He was featured in many publications including The Local Voice (Rayburn Publishing in Oxford), Neshoba County Democrat (Prince Media Group in Philadelphia, Miss.), The Ole Miss Spirit (Oxford), The Meridian Star (Meridian), The Hattiesburg American (Hattiesburg), OffBeat magazine (New Orleans, Louisiana), The Clarke County Tribune (Emmerich Publishing Group in Quitman, Miss.), Southeastern Football Saturdays (Vicksburg, Miss.), The New Albany Gazette (New Albany, Miss.), Rebel Yell magazine (New Albany), and others. Carver was also employed in public relations for Ole Miss Sports Information, working with ESPN, CBS, Fox Sports South, and Jefferson Pilot.
“Carver was a valuable part of the Mississippi Press Association family,” said James E. Prince III, his former employer at Prince Media Group. “He had a keen mind, a quick wit, and could hone in on the truth. He knew right from wrong and didn’t shy away from encouraging his boss to speak truth to power. Carver could turn out award-winning sports stories with one hand tied behind his back blindfolded.”
Active in Alcoholics Anonymous, Carver established and facilitated AA meetings for the Forrest County Jail and local homeless shelters in the Hattiesburg area. He was also instrumental in creating virtual AA meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former Mississippi Governor Haley R. Barbour is a friend of the Rayburn family and he knew Carver well. The former governor knew of Carver’s struggle with addiction and was an encouragement to him. Barbour said to a friend once, “Carver is brilliant when he’s sober.”
At the time of his passing, Carver was working for the New South Restaurant Group at The Midtowner, where he admired his boss Robert St. John and loved getting to know his customers. Days before his death, Carver was helping to craft a digital marketing campaign for the restaurant group.
Carver is preceded in death by his father, Samuel Thomas Rayburn of Oxford, and grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Aron Haywood Hooker of West Point, Miss. and Mr. and Mrs. Harry Newton Rayburn, Sr. of Grenada, Miss.
He is survived by his son, Thomas Hartfield Rayburn, Hattiesburg; mother Elizabeth Hooker Herron and stepfather Charles Herron, Meridian; stepmother Paige Bruce Smith, Oxford; siblings Andrew Newton Rayburn (Nature), Oxford; Shelby Hooker Rayburn, Birmingham, Alabama; Suzanne Herron Helveston (Campbell), Oxford; Elizabeth Ann (EA) Montgomery (John), Birmingham; Samuel Taylor Rayburn (Mary Banks), and Samantha Paige Rayburn, all of Oxford; nieces Patton and Collins Helveston, Alexandria Rayburn, and nephew Olen Montgomery; many aunts, uncles, and cousins.
A memorial mass for Mr. Thomas McCarver Rayburn will begin at 11 am on Thursday, August 19, 2021 at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Meridian, with Father Matthew Simmons officiating. Interment rites will begin at 1 pm on Friday, August 20, 2021 at St. Peter’s Cemetery (Oxford Memorial Cemetery) in Oxford, with Father Joe Tonos officiating. Robert Barham Family Funeral Home is honored to be entrusted with the arrangements.
Memorial gifts may be sent to The William Magee Center for Wellness Education c/o The University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS, 38655, or the charity of the donor’s choice.