If you live anywhere in the Magnolia State, chances are you know, or have at least met, Ray Bellande.
He lives in Ocean Springs and is known as a well-versed Mississippi history buff, and has now been named the official historian for the city of Ocean Springs.
“Our city and community are very fortunate to have Ray Bellande as an enthusiastic and reliable resource as it pertains to maintaining our rich history,” said Ocean Springs Mayor Kenny Holloway. “It only makes sense to proclaim him as the official historian of the city of Ocean Springs. Thank you, Ray, for your dedication to the history of our city.”
Holloway declared Bellande as a historian in a board of aldermen with a key to the city and a proclamation on March 7, which also happened to be Bellande’s 80th birthday.
Bellande replied that everyone is a historian, and he doesn’t deserve an award for just doing what he does every day.
However, city leaders feel Bellande is deserving and has gone above and beyond by devoting countless hours, days, nights, and years to gather the history of Ocean Springs. Throughout all of that time, he has completed extensive research and documented the rich cultural history of Ocean Springs.
Because of Belleande’s efforts, there is a monumental amount of information about the homes, buildings, and businesses since the city was established in 1699. Numerous landmarks, lands, and properties have been protected and saved by his efforts and by educating citizens. He played an integral role in creating the inaugural Ocean Springs Cemetery Tour held each October and he extensively researched each character portrayed to authenticate it.
But the biggest contribution he has given to the city is he single-handedly wrote and created the Ocean Springs Archives.
He has been a member of several groups like the Jackson County Historical Society, Jackson County Genealogical Society, Ocean Springs Genealogical, Fort Maurepas Society, and many others on the Coast and throughout the state.
Bellande was born in 1943 in Biloxi and he received a degree in petroleum geology from Mississippi State University in 1965. He worked for companies like Humble Oil and Tenneco before becoming an independent geologist and oil operator in 1980. In 1993, he began writing a weekly history column for the Ocean Springs Record. Bellande has also written several books such as The Bellande Cemetery: A History and Register, Ocean Springs Hotels and Tourist Homes, and Ocean Springs The Way We Were.
His efforts will no doubt forever contribute to shaping the city of Ocean Springs and its future.
Photos are courtesy of the city of Ocean Springs