Thomas McCarver Rayburn
A memorial mass for Thomas McCarver Rayburn will begin at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Meridian with Father Matthew Simmons officiating. The family will receive friends beginning at 10 a.m.
Interment rites will begin at 1 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Oxford with Father Joe Tonos officiating.
Robert Barham Family Funeral Home of Meridian is in charge of arrangements.
Rayburn, 43, passed away on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, at his home in Hattiesburg.
Carver was born on June 6, 1978, in Oxford where he began his infinite and deep love for Ole Miss. He moved to Meridian in 1993 at the beginning of his freshman year and graduated from Meridian High School in 1997.
His love for people fostered many relationships, which led him to serve as president of the Delta Chi chapter of Phi Kappa fraternity in high school. He was also chosen as a little brother for the Dusty Social Service Club. Carver was a parishioner at St. Patrick Catholic Church where he was a member of the Knights of Columbus.
Carver returned to Oxford where he received a bachelor of arts degree 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 most Ole Miss sporting events with a true passion for Ole Miss football and The Grove.
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 served as editor and publisher of The Clarke County Tribune in Quitman (Emmerich Newspapers) and later associate publisher of The Neshoba Democrat in Philadelphia (Prince Media Group).
He wrote for many publications over the years including The Local Voice (Oxford), Southeastern Football Saturdays (Vicksburg), The New Albany Gazette, Rebel Yell Magazine (New Albany), The Meridian Star, the Hattiesburg American and Offbeat Magazine (New Orleans).
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, a past president of the 155-year-old trade organization and 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 pandemic.
Former Gov. Haley R. Barbour was a friend of Rayburn’s now late father Tommy from their law school days at Ole Miss and had come to know Carver well. The former governor was aware of Carver’s struggle with addiction and was an encouragement to him. Barbour said to a friend once, “Carver’s brilliant when he’s sober.”
At the time of his passing, Carver was working for the New South Restaurant Group at The Midtowner in Hattiesburg where he admired his boss Robert St. John and loved getting to know his many customers. Days before his death, Carver was helping to craft a digital marketing campaign for the restaurant group.
Carver was preceded in death by his father, Samuel Thomas Rayburn of Oxford, and grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Aron Haywood Hooker of West Point and Mr. and Mrs. Harry Newton Rayburn, Sr. of Grenada.
He is survived by his son, Thomas Hartfield Rayburn of Hattiesburg; parents Elizabeth and Charles Herron of Meridian; stepmother Paige Bruce Smith of Oxford; brothers Andrew Newton Rayburn (Nature) of Oxford; Shelby Hooker Rayburn of Birmingham; Suzanne Herron Helveston (Campbell) of Oxford; EA Montgomery (John) of Birmingham; Samuel Taylor Rayburn (Mary Banks) and sister Samantha Paige Rayburn all of Oxford; nieces and nephews Alexandria Rayburn, Patton and Collins Helveston, John, Maclaine, Julianne, and Olen Montgomery along with many aunts, uncles, and cousins.
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.