A Guide to the Annabel Murray U. S. Coast Guard SPARS Collection, 1937-1946
U. S. Coast Guard SPARS lieutenant Lillian Annabel Murray Thomas (1912-2008) was born in Austin, Texas, and daughter of R. V. and Jesse Murray. She attended Austin High School, graduating in 1929, and later the University of Texas (UT), where in 1935 she earned a BA in Journalism and an MA in 1940. A lover of music, Murray studied voice at the Institute of Musical Art in New York City immediately following high school, and later spent a summer at Julliard in 1936.
During World War II, Murray served for over two years with the SPARS, the third women’s service branch of the U. S. Coast Guard created in 1942 to release men from jobs at shore so they could fight overseas. It was the Dean of Women at UT, Murray believed, who initiated her enlistment with the SPARS. Murray became one of the first group of thirteen enrollees, where she served from 1943-1946, speaking at numerous war bond drives, and working as a recruitment officer in several locations across the U. S., including Austin; New London, Connecticut; New York; Palm Beach, Florida; San Antonio; and Seattle, Washington. Among the highlights of her career was a two-week war bond tour through the northwest with prizefighter and Coast Guard officer Jack Dempsey.
Once the war ended, Murray resided back in Austin, initially teaching journalism, and later as an interviewer of applicants for G. I. loans at a local bank. Through an introduction from a friend at work, she met her husband Tommy Thomas. They were married in 1947 and had two daughters, Margaret and Frances.
Engelbrecht, Margaret. “Annabel’s History.” April 2006.
Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home. “Memorial Obituary Lillian Annabel Murray Thomas.” Accessed October 27, 2011. http://wcfish.tributes.com/show/Lillian-Thomas-84535443.
Scrapbooks, newspapers and clippings, pamphlets, books, photographs, recruiting material, postcards, soldier’s songbooks, church programs, correspondence, U. S. Naval Training School material, a logbook, office supplies, and a CD compose the Annabel Murray U. S. Coast Guard SPARS Collection, 1937-1946, documenting the history of the SPARS, particularly Murray’s experience as a recruiting officer in Connecticut, New York, Florida, Austin, San Antonio, and Seattle.
The scrapbooks (July 5, 1943- May 2, 1944) contain photographs of SPARS, a typed Merry Christmas letter written by Murray to prospective SPARS, articles from the American-Statesman, Austin American, Corpus Christi Times, Dallas News, San Antonio Express, and several other news publications throughout Texas, highlighting information on recruitment, training, travel, events and activities, as well as some articles featuring Murray, including one on her being assigned to SPAR recruitment duty in the Austin area. Newspapers and clippings (February 8, 1943-October 21, 1945) cover similar topics as those in the scrapbooks, and additionally include publications outside of Texas, such as the Palm Beach Sun and The Seattle Times. Pamphlets contain information promoting enlistment to the U. S. Coast Guard, particularly the SPARS branch. Books (1939-1945), some inscribed by Murray, cover topics such as leadership, women soldiers, and issues concerning the U. S. Coast guards and military life. Photographs (1944-1945) capture SPARS at events, in group shots, Murray with Jack Dempsey, and a three-quarter-length formal portrait of Murray in her SPAR uniform. Recruiting material, composed of posters, cards, stickers, and stamps, promote enlistment to the SPARS through catchy slogans and advertisements for enlistment cruises. Postcards, mostly blank, are of women in uniform, and scenic and architectural views of places where Murray was stationed, including Austin, Palm Beach, and Seattle. Soldier’s songbooks are comprised of many popular hymns, including “You’re a Grand Old Flag, “God Bless America,” and “This is My Country.” Additionally included are the official coast guard marching song, and the official song of the United States Army Air Corps. Church programs (1943-1945) are from the University Christian Church in Seattle, and the Sunday morning worship service for the U. S. Coast Guard training station in Palm Beach, presumably when Murray was stationed in these locations. Correspondence (1943-1944) is composed of Photostats of letters written by Murray’s mother to family members informing them of her daughter’s acceptance as one of the first officers of the SPARS, and two letters addressed to Murray from the War Chest regarding her participation in speaking engagements. Other correspondence includes official orders to Murray, particularly while she was stationed in Seattle. U. S. Training School materials consist of numerous documents from the facility located in the Bronx, N. Y., including orders from commanding officers, assignments, and lists of soldier’s with their religious orientation, and billet and service numbers. Murray’s logbook (July 1, 1943-May 12, 1994) notes activities, articles published on SPARS, applicant information, test scores, and enlistments. Office supplies consist of three SPAR pencils, and Murray’s personal insignia stamp. Lastly, the collection includes a compact disc of SPAR WWII, UT home movies (1937-1945).
This collection is open for research use.
Use of video material by appointment only; please contact repository for more information.
Use of digital material by appointment only; please contact digital archivist for more information.
Annabel Murray U. S. Coast Guard SPARS Collection, 1937-1946, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Maria Soscia, October 2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers