For three generations, Austin family marches in MSU graduations

Bill Austin, a quiet man who spoke through his actions more than words, was intensely proud of his affiliation with Mississippi State University. He often observed, “I bleed Mississippi State maroon.”

Austin’s Maroon bloodline was obviously strong in his descendants.

When Jesse William “Bill” Austin Sr. earned his undergraduate degree from Mississippi State College in 1938, there was no way to know that he was beginning a family tradition that would peak in 1968 and again in 2018 with the MSU graduations of his son and grandson.

Bill Austin would go on to earn his medical degree from Tulane Medical School in 1942, shortly before entering the U.S. Army for service in World War II. He was a battalion surgeon in the U.S. 3rd Army in the European Theater, where he served in five major battles from the Normandy invasion until VE-Day–including harrowing combat service during the Battle of the Bulge.

Austin earned the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart. After his military service, he returned to Forest to practice medicine with his father, Dr. R.B. Austin. During his long and distinguished 39-year medical practice in Scott County, Austin delivered over 3,500 babies and most of them were born outside a hospital setting.

“Doctor Bill” and his wife, Opal, were the parents of daughters Sue Thigpen and Judy Webb and sons Jesse William “Ace” Austin Jr., Richard Austin and Terry Austin. There were 14 grandchildren and a great-grandchild at the time of his death on Feb. 12, 2001, at the age of 84.

Bill’s son, Dr. Jesse William “Ace” Austin Jr., who would follow in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps as a physician, earned an undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry from Mississippi State in 1968, 30 years after his father’s graduation.

While at State, “Ace” finished first in his pre-med class, studying chemistry under the legendary professor Clyde Q. Sheely and embryology under Dr. L.L. Ellis. He was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and won an honorary award from Phi Kappa Phi.

Dr. “Ace” Austin enjoyed a long career as an emergency medicine physician in the Montgomery, Alabama, area, where he served for 25 years as the deputy coroner in Montgomery County. Early in his career, he was chief of Womack Army Hospital Emergency Room at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

He and wife Dockery are the parents of three children: Matthew Pittman Austin, and twins Jennie Dockery Austin and Jesse William Austin III.

In May 2018, Jesse William Austin III became the third generation of the Austin line to graduate from Mississippi State University–80 years after his grandfather and 50 years after his father.

Jesse Austin was a star member of the MSU Track and Field team during his four years at State as a decathlete participating in 10 events–with pole vaulting as his specialty. He served as president of the MSU “M” Club and received the SEC Scholar-Athlete Award for four consecutive semesters at MSU.

He is continuing the Austin family tradition of service to mankind as a student in the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Dentistry.

By Sid Salter | Photo by Beth Wynn