Friday, March 19, 2010

The Insect Man of Hill Country --- Francis Flavius Bibby

[Note: Hill Country is a column from the Monroe Journal, Amory, Mississippi. My articles appear there every other week. After the column appears in MOJO it is then published here on the blog. I am happy to be writing in the newspaper of the Hill Country, the Monroe Journal. Below is the column from March 17, 2010.]

The Insect Man --- Francis Flavius Bibby

by Terry Thornton

One of the most interesting adults I knew in the 1950s was the entomologist Francis Flavius Bibby. During the summers when cotton insects were on the rampage devouring cotton plants in the Hill Country, Mr. Bibby would often take a break from his field studies and stop by my father's store in Parham for gasoline, soft drinks, and a snack. And he would talk with my father about bugs and bollworms and other fascinating critters.

As a twelve-year old, I found Mr. Bibby interesting for a variety of reasons. One, his name was unusual and pronounced "B.B." And when he was mentioned as "F.F. Bibby" it sounded wonderfully as if "F.F.B.B." was his name.

Two, I thought he looked somewhat like the bugs he was so passionate about.

Three, Mr. Bibby was a big talker --- he was interested in lots of things but he was obviously an expert-on-the-go about insects. He had vast knowledge of crop insects in particular.

Four, once I learned his given names were Francis Flavius, I knew he was a special person.

Francis Flavius Bibby was the first scientifically educated man I ever met. F. F. Bibby was the first entomologist I ever knew. The second was my entomology professor, Dr. Hull, at the University of Mississippi. Both were passionate about insects.

And to me, they both looked like the critters to which they devoted lifetimes of study.

Francis Flavious Bibby was born in Smithville, Mississippi, son of Marian and Phebe Bibby. He is listed in their household on the 1900 census as a 6-year-old. In the household with Flavious and his parents were sister Dellie, 14 (later to become the wife of Dr. Benjamin C. Tubb of Smithville) and his aunt Luella Bibby, 30 (Luella is buried at New Hope Cemetery in Parham. She shares a grave stone with her nephew Archie, son of James Bibby. Archie was Flavious' first cousin.).

In 1918 Francis F. Bibby completed a World War 1 draft card. He was then residing in Alachua County, Florida, at Gainesville. His World War 1 induction card shows that he enrolled in the Navy at Jacksonville and his home address was his place of employment in Florida, the Florida State Plant Board at Gainesville. Obviously Mr. Bibby had completed his university training and had found employment as an entomologist in Florida.

A variety of interesting artifacts document Mr. Bibby's life according to There is a U.S. Passport Application for F. F. Bibby to go to Mexico to study the pink cotton bollworm for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 1939, Mr. Bibby is listed as a passenger on the Santa Barbara which sailed from Calloa, Peru, to New York. And Mr. Bibby is listed in Who's Who in the South and Southwest in 1976 and 1978. The final entry is notice of his death on the Social Security Death Index.

Francis Flavious Bibby died in March 1980. His last residence was Smithville, the place of his birth 86 years earlier.

Google searches and Google Book searches for Francis Flavius Bibby or F.F. Bibby show numerous references in a variety of national and international entomological publications. While in the Navy during the war, Mr. Bibby did entomological field studies at various islands while on shore leave. I found no on-line family trees to indicate his family although one undocumented tree indicated that he was married several times and had no children.

If you have information about F.F. Bibby, I'd most appreciate hearing from you. Of major interest are his journals, field notes and photographs. Does anyone know where they are housed?


Terry Thornton is a retired college administrator and former Amory Middle School principal who resides in Fulton. He can be contacted at or at his FaceBook account.


1 comment:

Dorene from Ohio said...

Terry -

Mr. Bibby sounds fascinating! In our area, we had a scientist named Professor Moseley, who was brilliant in regards to all the local flora and fauna, but he wore the same coat for 40 years!

I love to read about interesting and intelligent people who have gone before us!

Great post!!