Willis Edward Byrd family papers, 1864-1994

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Dr. Willis Edward Byrd was a chemistry professor at Lincoln University. The collection consists of an African American family's papers from the early to mid-twentith century, including correspondence and transcripts from Byrd's education at Talladega College and University of Iowa; some printed materials and writings collected by his parents, Edward D. and Annie L. Jones Byrd, documenting their connections with the Mulberry Rover Missionary Baptist Association, the Better Homes in America organization, and the American Missionary Association; letters to Byrd during his military service in World War II; letters and his employment contract as a chemistry professor at Lincoln University; photographs of Byrd and other family members, some identified, from the early 1900s; and other letters and educational ephemera, including printed materials from Spelman College and Morehouse College. Acquired as part of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture.
2.0 Linear Feet
Materials in English.
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Collection consists of assorted printed materials, photographs, and some letters and correspondence relating to the education and employment of Willis Edward Byrd and other members of the Byrd and Jones family, including his parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles.

Byrd's attendance and graduation from Talladega College, and his hiring as a chemistry professor at Lincoln University, represent the bulk of his personal papers. There are some photographs of him, including one in army uniform during World War II, and there are some letters to him from his father that discuss his army service and his father's hopes that he will stay focused on his "life's work," presumably meaning his education. Byrd's series also contains correspondence with prospective employers and transcripts from Talladega, Iowa, and Illinois.

Also included in the collection are materials collected or produced by other members of the Jones and Byrd family. Assorted printed materials collected by parents Edward D. Byrd and Annie L. Jones Byrd reflect their community and church activities in Georgia. The collection also contains family photographs of Byrd's parents' generation, including images of his mother, aunts, and uncles. Correspondence and handwritten drafts and reports from Annie L. Jones Byrd document her communications with Better Homes in America regarding the state of housing and education for African Americans in their community, as well as record her and her sister's search for employment as teachers in the mid-1910s. There are also printed materials from Spelman College and Morehouse College, acquired by Willis Edward Byrd's sibling Sarah L. Byrd King and her husband, Arteria King.

The original acquisition also contains a poll tax and property tax receipt from the early 20th century for Henry Adams, in Brazoria County, Texas; as well as a 19th century tax receipt for "Robert Ballentine's heirs." The connection or relationship these individuals have to the Byrd and Jones family is unclear.

Biographical / historical:

Willis Edward Byrd (1922-2015) was son to Edward D. Byrd and Annie L. Jones Byrd. He grew up in Athens, Georgia, and attended Talladega College. He served in the army during World War II, and was stationed in Italy. After the war, Byrd completed his studies at Talladega and later earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Iowa.

In 1949, Byrd joined the faculty at Lincoln University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he taught chemistry (as well as serving as administrator in various capactities) until he retired in 1988.

Acquisition information:
The Willis E. Byrd Family Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a purchase from Swann Auction Galleries in 2021.
Processing information:

Processed by Meghan Lyon, May 2021

Accessions described in this collection guide: 2021-0035


Collection is arranged into series: Willis Edward Byrd's materials (which are foldered chronologically), and Byrd Family materials (which are foldered by name).

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Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the Rubenstein Library's Citations, Permissions, and Copyright guide.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Willis E. Byrd Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.