Tyrrell Historical Library, Beaumont Public Library System

Finding Aid for Looney Family Photograph Albums, circa 1930-2011

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Looney, Wilber Carroll, 1891-1978; Looney, Thyrza Head, 1898-1992
Title: Looney Family Photograph Albums
Dates: 1930-2011
Creator Abstract: Wilber C. Looney was a prominent Beaumont, Texas, businessman and was a retired Southeast Texas manager from Westinghouse Electric Corp. He and his wife, Thyrza, a renowned local interior designer, resided at a now-historical home on North Eleventh and Toccoa Streets. Known then as the Vaughn House, the couple restored the Victorian cottage into a plantation-style mansion in 1948.
Content Abstract: The collection primarily contains photographs from the Looneys' personal photo albums, featuring photos of family and friends, and vacation photos. It also includes a few personal keepsakes and newspaper clippings, as well as obituaries for the couple and their children.
Identification: AC-603
Extent: 2 boxes, approximately 2 cubic feet.
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Tyrrell Historical Library, Beaumont Public Libraries,  695 Pearl St,  Beaumont, TX 77701

Biographical Note

Wilber Carroll Looney was born in Branchville, Texas, on November 4, 1891, to W.C. and Mary H. Looney. He had one younger brother, Ralph. He and his parents later moved to Milam, Texas, and he lived there until age 19. By age 20, he was attending the University of Texas at Austin, and was described in a 1912 yearbook, called The Cactus, as "an expert electrician – or will be some day if he ever comes out of that Rip Van Winkle attitude." He later moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and worked as an electrical engineer for Westinghouse Electric Corp. He served in the United States Navy until 1921. He then moved to Beaumont, Texas in the late 1920s, where he met Thyrza Head. They were wed in Dallas, on October 18, 1930.

Thyrza Head Looney (1898-1992), who was widely known and highly respected as an interior designer, was the daughter of Margaret and Charles E. Head and was one of five children. She was born in Bowie, Texas, on January 28, 1898. At an early age, she moved with her family to McAlister, Oklahoma, where she received her early education. Thyrza graduated from the University of Oklahoma and continued her formal education at Columbia University and The Fashion Academy of New York City. In her long and distinguished interior design career, she was recognized as a leader in her field, first starting out in Dallas, in 1920, as the head decorator for Halaby Galleries, and later associated with the decorating department of the Neiman Marcus Stores in Dallas. This company specialized in fine antiques and interior decoration and Thyrza decorated houses on Bel Clair, Beverly Drive and DeLoach, possibly even for the famous oil tycoon, DeGoya. She was a frequent traveler, using her trips to find unique artwork for clients and friends.

In 1930, Wilber C. Looney proposed to her at the Dallas Country Club, and they were married. Looney, a lifetime Westinghouse employee in management, moved with her to Beaumont that same year. In 1931, she opened her interior design studio in the city. She was soon called upon by the McFaddin-Ward House to design upholstery and draperies.

The Looneys had two children, William "Billy" Charles Looney (1932-2011) and Thyrza Lee Looney Tyrrell (1936-1998), who followed in her mother's footsteps and also became one of the area's leading interior designers. In the 1970s, she was briefly married to Harry Tyrrell, and kept this last name when they divorced. Billy was also briefly married and then divorced, and was an expert in stereo and hi-fi audio equipment, often operating the sound system at the Julie Rogers Theater.

Circa 1949, Thyrza purchased an old Victorian property that was set to be demolished, winning her bid with an extra 25 cents she tacked on, and began to renovate it. The Looneys moved the house two miles down Eleventh Street to where it now sits, at 2700 Toccoa Road. "Workmen jacked it up and they built the same house under it, added huge columns on two sides, and you had a 'Louisiana Plantation House' and a new address," Don Burkman wrote in a July 2006 letter donated to the Tyrrell Historical Library. "The street to the south was added and Thyrza got to choose its name. Toccoa comes from the name of the Looney's collie dog, whose name was Tock."

A newspaper article in the Beaumont Journal, in the late fall of 1948, noted the drastic remodeling that evolved from what once was an old Victorian cottage into a Louisiana plantation-style mansion, replete with interior decorating touches by Mrs. W.C. Looney herself. Built in 1881, the Looneys purchased the old Vaughn house property from the American Legion (which bought it in 1945) and converted it into the headquarters for Mrs. Looney's interior design business and living quarters for the family. Downstairs quarters included nine rooms and two halls. The upstairs quarters contained eight rooms, a screened porch and two baths. "Mrs. W.C. Looney said she later met a number of people who used to drive to the spot on Sunday afternoons and spend a few hours watching the raising of the cottage 10 feet off the ground, the construction of a solid brick house underneath and the placing of eight white columns across the front of the structure," the Journal reported. The home was the site for many social functions in the Looneys' heyday, up to and including Thyrza's 90th birthday party, in January 1988.

Among Thyrza Head Looney's major interior decorating projects in the area were: The Town Club, American National Bank (1963); Beaumont Savings & Loan (1965); Beaumont Country Club (1981); the Carol Tyrrell Kyle Green Room at the Julie Rogers Theater (1984); restoration designer, McFaddin-Ward Museum (1984-1985); and numerous homes in Beaumont, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. She held professional memberships in The American Society of Interior Designers and was also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Symphony League of Beaumont, the First United Methodist Church of Beaumont, the Beaumont Country Club, the Beaumont Music Commission, the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, the Texas Gulf Coast Historical Society, and many other community and civic organizations. She was widely recognized by her peers, and received a number of awards for her work, including being named one of seven Outstanding Interior Designers in the Southwest by Interior Designers Magazine, in 1953. During her 62-year career, she was also listed in "Who's Who of American Women", 1958-1959; "Who's Who in Commerce and Industry", 1961; and "Who's Who of Interior Designers", 1988-1989.

Wilber C. Looney preceded Thyrza Head Looney in death, at age 86, in July 1978, at MD Anderson in Houston, after a long illness. Thyrza died at Hamilton Nursing Home, at age 94, in February 1992. Their children, Thyrza and Billy, died in 1998 and 2011, respectively. All of the Looney family is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Beaumont.

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains photographs from W.C. and Thyrza Head Looneys' personal photograph albums. These pictures depict their family and friends in various locations, including on cruise vacations, on the shores of Lake Superior, in New York City, and at home in Beaumont. The collection also includes personal keepsakes, such as travel circulars from New York City restaurants and hotels, a French casino in Quebec, Canada, and an old postcard from Austria. The collection also contains newspaper clippings from The Beaumont Enterprise, including articles on the remodeling of the Looneys' historic home, Thyrza Looney's involvement with the Junior Red Cross, and obituaries for Wilber C. Looney and Thyrza Head Looney, and their two children.


Organization of Collection

This collection is organized into two scrapbooks in two boxes.


Access Restrictions

Some restrictions may apply.


The Tyrrell Historical Library does not hold copyright for most of its collections. The researcher must secure permission to publish. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to the Tyrrell Historical Library. The researcher assumes full responsibility for complying with copyright, literary property rights, and libel laws.

Index Terms

Personal Names
Looney, Thyrza Head, 1898-1992
Looney, Thyrza Lee Tyrrell, 1936-1998
Looney, William Carroll, 1891-1978
Looney, William Charles, 1932-2011
American National Bank (Beaumont, Tex.)
Beaumont Country Club (Beaumont, Tex.)
Beaumont Savings & Loan (Beaumont, Tex.)
Columbia University (New York, N.Y.)
The Fashion Academy of New York City (New York, N.Y.)
Halaby Galleries (Dallas, Tex.)
Hotel Beaumont (Beaumont, Tex.)
Jefferson Theatre (Beaumont, Tex.)
Julie Rogers Theater (Beaumont, Tex.)
McFaddin-Ward House (Beaumont, Tex.)
Neiman Marcus Stores (Dallas, Tex.)
Tyrrell Historical Library (Beaumont, Tex.)
University of Oklahoma (Norman, Okla.)
University of Texas (Austin, Tex.)
Vaughn House (Beaumont, Tex.)
Historic buildings--Beaumont (Tex.)
Historical sites
Interior design
Local history
Photography of families
Voyages and travels
Austin (Tex.)
Dallas (Tex.)
New York City (N.Y.)
Greeting cards
Photograph albums

Separated Material


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Wilber C. and Thyrza Head Looney Collection, circa 1930-1992, AC-603, Tyrrell Historical Library, Beaumont, Texas.

Acquisition Information

The W.C. and Thyrza Head Looney Scrapbook was donated by Thomas J. Sibley in 2011. Note that the scrapbook had sustained water damage from Hurricane Rita in 2005. The photo album of Thyrza's ninetieth birthday party was donated by Judith Linsley and the McFaddin-Ward House in 2012 June.

Processing Information

Processed by Tyrrell Historical Library staff.

Finding aid revised and encoded by Tyrrell Historical Library staff, 2012 December.

Detailed Description of the Collection


Wilber C. and Thyrza Head Looney Collection, circa 1930-2012

Descriptions of the scrapbook's photographs are given page-by-page. The names of all identified persons are included in the description of the page, as well.
Box Page
1 1 Beaumont Journal article about the Looney mansion
2 The Looney Home
3 The Looney Home
4 Wilber and Thyrza Looney on a cruise vacation
5 Wilber and Thyrza Looney on a cruise vacation
6 Wilber and Thyrza Looney on a cruise vacation
7 Wilber and Thyrza Looney at home
8 The Looney family; Thyrza at social events
9 Thyrza Looney's 90th birthday party, 1988
10 Wilber and Thyrza Looney's 45th wedding anniversary party
11 45th wedding anniversary party
12 Thyrza and Wilber
13 The Looney family
14 Christmas photos, circa 1940s
15 Lake Superior and Duluth, Minnesota, vacation photos, circa 1940s
16 Graduation program, Beaumont High School, 1952
17 William Charles Looney's high school diploma, from Beaumont High School, granted 1952 May 28
18 Souvenir photo from The Plaza in New York City
19 Wilber and Thyrza attending a costume party, circa 1960s?
20 Photos from costume party
21 Photos from costume party
22 Photos from costume party
23 Portrait of Thyrza Lee Looney Tyrrell as a young girl, circa 1940s
24 Photos of Thyrza Lee in high school, circa 1950s
25 Potrait of Thyrza Lee, circa 1960s
26 Souvenir photo of Thyrza Lee and unidentified man (possibly Harry Tyrrell), from the German-American Rathskeller in New York City, circa 1960s
27 Souvenir photo of Thyrza Lee and unidentified man, from El Chico in New York City, circa 1960s
28 Souvenir photo of Thyrza Lee and unidentified man, from the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, circa 1960s
29 Diploma from the Wine Advisory Board, issued to Thyrza Lee Looney, for completion of Wine Study Course, 1963 November 05
30 Photos of Thyrza Lee and Harry Tyrrell's wedding
31 Portrait of Thyrza Lee in ballgown
32 Souvenir photo from the French Casino at the Manoir Richelieu in Murray Bay, Quebec, Canada; newspaper clipping of Junior Red Cross of Beaumont
33 Photographs of trip to Austria
34 Thyrza Lee's travel photos, 1984-1993
35 Photographs of Thyrza Head and Thyrza Lee
36 Photographs of Thyrza Lee's pet Schnauzers
37 Photographs of pet Schnauzers
38 Photographs of Thyrza Head's birthday party, circa 1990-1992
39 Thyrza Lee Looney Tyrrell's obituary, 1998 May 28
40 Melody Maids informational sheet
Box Page
2 Inside cover Photograph from Thyrza and Wilber's 45th wedding anniversary party, held at the Beaumont Country Club, 1975
1 Invitation; photo of the Looney home
2 The Looney Home
3 Thyrza Head Looney
4 Decorations
5 Catering staff; Decorations
6 Catering staff; Decorations; Jack and Kelly McNeill, Jean Gonsoulin, Betty Leaf
7 Party guests, Mary Cecil (facing camera)
8 Party guests, and Dr. Crager, Betty Wells, Thyrza
9 From left to right: Betty Leaf, Carol Tyrrell Kyle, Peter Wells, Helen Griffin, Billy Looney(?), and other party guests
10 Marion Campbell and Thyrza; Thyrza with her daughter, Thyrza Looney Tyrrell
11 Helen Griffin with Thyrza
12 Elta Williams with Thyrza
13 Dr. Crager with Thyrza, and other party guests
14 Unidentified guests
15 Lee Stedman, and other party guests
16 Unidentified guests with Thyrza
17 Dewey and Jean Gonsoulin; Betty MacCorg with Thyrza Looney Tyrrell
18 Janie Stedman(?); Billy Looney with Thyrza
19 Unidentified guests with Thyrza
20 Don Burkman with Thyrza
21 Thyrza with Don Burkman and Thyrza Looney Tyrrell
22 Thyrza with the birthday cake
23 Thyrza with the birthday cake
24 Thyrza with pet dog
25 Decorations
26 Catering staff; Decorations
27 Thyrza's pet dog, with puppies
28 Thyrza's pet dog, with puppies
29 Birthday cake and decorations
30 Decorations
31 Decorations
32 Decorations
33 Decorations
34 Decorations
35 Johnny, a member of the catering staff from the Beaumont Country Club
36 Decorations