The collection primarily concerns Hudgens' activities after 1949, and consists of correspondence, printed materials, personal and organizational papers, many of Hudgens' writings, topical publications and notes, and other miscellaneous papers. Excellent coverage of the pre-l950 period is found in The Reminiscences of Robert W. Hudgens, microfiche no. 95 of Part II of the Columbia Oral History Collection, available in the Newspapers and Microforms Department.
Hudgens' continuing interest and involvement in the field of economic development at home and abroad is reflected in the files for the Farmers Home Administration (1938-1972), International Development Services (1956-1971), the American International Association (1948-1972), Agricultural Workers (1952-1971), the Society for International Development (1959-1972), the International Study and Research Institute (1963-1970), the National Advisory Committee on Farm Labor (1958-1968), the National Sharecroppers Fund (1962-1972), the National Council on Agricultural Life and Labor (1951-1967), and in files for individuals that shared his concerns and interest in the subject, such as Will Winton Alexander, Paul Henson Appleby, Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Luigi Gino Ligutti, Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, Paul Schuster Taylor, and James Gray Maddox. There are files for the Delmo Housing Corporation and Gee's Bend, Alabama, which were cooperative projects that confronted Depression-era problems.
Hudgens was actively involved in religious organizations and in churches. He was president of the board of directors of Faith At Work, and the file for this organization covers the years 1951-1972. There are also files for the Riverside Church, New York (1956-1971) and the United Church of Christ in Chapel Hill, N.C. (1958-1973).
Hudgens' involvement in a number of state and local groups after his retirement to Chapel Hill is shown in such files as those for the Chapel Hill Historical Society (1967-1972), the Men's Garden Club of Chapel Hill (1963-1970), Friends of the Chapel Hill Public Library (1967-1972), and the North Carolina Council on World Affairs.
Hudgens was an active, and often welcome, speaker and writer on current events and on the lessons he learned in dealing with economic development and rural problems, and several files contain examples of his notes, speeches and writings. For example, he was Regents Lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley (1955), and was a guest lecturer at The Citadel (1963-1967), Syracuse University (Paul H. Appleby File, 1949-1954) and Columbia University (1954-1955). He was a participant in the Ray Kaighn Conversation Group in Chapel Hill. He was also proprietor of the Rooster Press of Chapel Hill whose publications were Hudgens' essays and editorials on current events and Southern culture, many of which were reprinted in several North Carolina newspapers, as well as miscellaneous cards, calendars, announcements, etc.
Other significant files include the Cosmos Club, Washington, D.C. (1946-1972); the Southeast Public Health Foundation (1965-1972), which he helped to found; and those of many acquaintances of note. There are several files dealing directly with Hudgens and his works (Biographical, Financial, Miscellaneous Writings and Rooster Press), as well as correspondence with numerous of his relatives.
Robert Watts "Pete" Hudgens (1896-1973), an investment banker, government official, corporation executive and amateur printer, was born in Laurens County, South Carolina. He graduated from the Citadel in 1915. He served to the rank of captain in the U.S. Army in World War I, was severely wounded in 1918, and spent three years in hospitals before being discharged in 1921. He then became an investment banker, a partner in the firm of Alester G. Furman, his father-in-law, in Greenville, S.C. During his years with the firm (1921-1934) he was also an official of the Greenville Chapter of the American Red Cross and the South Carolina Red Cross, and in these capacities he became involved with the relief of farmers who were suffering economic hardship in the state. To help them he developed a program known as supervised credit, which combined credit with technical assistance. Supervised credit was first used, successfully, in Abbeville County, S.C. (1932-1933), with the assistance of a grant from the American Red Cross, and eventually became the basis of programs used by the Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration. Hudgens' success in rural development led to his 14 years of service in government organizations: the Subsistence Homestead program (1934-1935); the Resettlement Administration, as Louisiana State Director (1935-1936) and as regional director for the Southeast (1936-1937); and the Farm Security Administration, as regional director for the Southeast, and as assistant and then associate, director of the administration (1937-1946).
Hudgens left government service in 1946 and worked a year as director of field organizations for the American Red Cross (1946-1947). He then became executive director of Nelson Rockefeller's American International Association for Economic and Social Development (1948-1953), where he was able to work with rural development programs in other countries, especially in Latin America.
These same concepts were carried over to International Development Services, Inc., which Hudgens formed in 1953. He served as its president until his retirement to Chapel Hill, N.C., in 1963.