Virgil T. Blossom Papers, 1952-1960

Manuscript Collection 1364



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VIRGIL T. BLOSSOM

Virgil T. Blossom (1907-1965) was born in Brookfield, Missouri. He attended Missouri Valley College at Marshall on an athletic scholarship, majoring in education, completing his degree in 1930. After earning a Master of Science degree from the University of Arkansas and taking classes at Northwestern University in Chicago, he started teaching and coaching athletics in the high school at Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he married Clarrene Tribble in 1934. In 1935 he went to Okmulgee, Oklahoma, as teacher and athletic director, then returned to Fayetteville High School three years later as principal. In 1942 he became Superintendent of Schools in Fayetteville. In 1953 he become Superintendent of Schools in Little Rock. Shortly after the Supreme Court found segregation to be unconstitutional, Blossom began working on a plan to integrate Little Rock's public schools. After an unsuccessful court challenge, Little Rock's plan was put into operation in the fall of 1957.

The papers pertain to the Central High crisis. Blossom became a central figure in the controversy, and he was removed as superintendent in November 1958. He wrote an account of the crisis, published as a series of articles, "The Untold Story of Little Rock," in Saturday Evening Post (May 23 - June 27, 1959) and then as a book, It Has Happened Here. After a short stay in New York, Blossom went to San Antonio, Texas, to continue his career in education.


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THE COLLECTION

Papers pertaining to Virgil T. Blossom's career as Superintendent of the Little Rock Public Schools, 1953-1958, especially his role in the desegregation crisis in 1957-58, were donated to Special Collections by his widow, Clarrene Tribble Blossom, and two daughters, Gail B. Moore and Bette Sue Streng, in July 1997.

Restrictions apply. Some of the papers pertain to the suspension and expulsion of a number of students during the Central High crisis. These records are restricted according to the student records policy of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (U. S. Code). Researchers desiring access to the material should consult with the Head of Special Collections.

Processed by Nan Lawler and Todd E. Lewis, August 1997. Special Collections Division, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas.


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Contents of Collection (33 boxes)
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Series 1. Personal and Professional Papers, 1952-1959. Boxes 1-2.

This series consists chiefly of correspondence, which is arranged chronologically. It also includes material pertaining to Blossom's account of the Central High crisis, published first as a series of articles for Saturday Evening Post ("The Untold Story of Little Rock," in six parts published May 23 - June 27, 1959) and then as a book, It Has Happened Here (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959). There is considerable overlap between the categories of Opinion Mail and Personal and Professional Papers.
Box 1
  1. Virgil Blossom biographical file.
  2. Personal and professional correspondence, Dec 1952 - Feb 1953.
  3. Personal and professional correspondence, Mar - May 1953.
  4. Personal and professional correspondence, June - Dec 1953.
  5. Personal and professional correspondence, n.d., 1953.
  6. Personal and professional correspondence, 1954.
  7. Personal and professional correspondence, 1955.
  8. Personal and professional correspondence, Jan - Feb 1956. Virgil Blossom, Greater Little Rock Man of the Year for 1955.
  9. Personal and professional correspondence, 1956.
  10. Personal and professional correspondence, 1957.
  11. Personal and professional correspondence, 1958.
  12. Personal and professional correspondence, November 1958. Termination file.
  13. Personal and professional correspondence, 1959.
Box 2
  1. Writings of Virgil Blossom--Publications correspondence, 1959.
  2. Writings of Virgil Blossom--Articles for Saturday Evening Post.
  3. Writings of Virgil Blossom--Book manuscript--Draft.
  4. Writings of Virgil Blossom--Book manuscript--Publisher's corrected copy, chapters 1-6.
  5. Writings of Virgil Blossom--Book manuscript--Publisher's corrected copy, chapters 7-15.
  6. Writings of Virgil Blossom--Other materials.
  7. Writings of Virgil Blossom--Photographs for book. Images 1-16 of the 101st Airborne, soldiers, students, school officials, and people on the streets (image #1 is in Oversize Box 32).

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Series 2. Legal Papers, 1954-1960. Boxes 3-5.

Apparently Blossom had begun to sort some of the papers in the series, perhaps in preparing to write the articles and book he published on the Little Rock crisis, and for a visual presentation on the subject (see Series 5). His arrangement of these materials stands at the beginning of Series 2 as General Files on Integration.

Other general legal files were arranged by alphabetically by subject, and more specific files were divided according to legal jurisdiction: state government, District Court, Chancery Court, Court of Appeals, and U.S. Supreme Court.

Restriction. Some legal papers pertain to suspensions or expulsions of pupils from Central High for racial incidents. Between September 1957 and Feb 1958, 184 pupils were suspended. Many of these students are well known because of radio broadcasts or newspaper reports. The records, however, are restricted according to the student records policy of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (U. S. Code). Researchers desiring access to the material should consult with the Head of Special Collections.

Box 3
    General Files on Integration
  1. Integration--1.
  2. Integration--2 (1 of 2).
  3. Integration--2 (2 of 2).
  4. III. Integration.
  5. III. Integration. Bill--Lawyers.
  6. III. Integration. Miscellaneous.
  7. Integration court suit (1 of 2).
  8. Integration court suit (2 of 2).
Box 4
    Other General Files
  1. Board Statements--Pupil Discipline (2/58?) & others. (public statements)
  2. Exhibits and other papers.
  3. Amis Guthridge correspondence, July 1957.
  4. Walter Guy Letter. Thomas Plan.
  5. Integration Plan.
  6. Legal papers--printed.
  7. Letter from White House to Mr. Lile.
  8. Little Rock School Board business--racial matters.
  9. News Release--North Central Assn.
  10. Petition for delay (1958) and failure of petition.
  11. Receipts, Expenditures, Aug 31, 1958. Budget, 1956-60.
  12. Requests of Negro Students, 9/58.
  13. Resignation: Henry V. Rath.
  14. Response to integration; attempts to stop integration.
  15. School Personnel. Expense. Value. Scholarships. 4 High Schools.
  16. Statements, notes, petition re Central High integration.
  17. Statements by Little Rock School Board & Virgil Blossom.
  18. Statements, Maps, etc., pertaining to integration.
  19. Testimonials of Teachers.
  20. Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools.
Box 5
    State government
  1. About State Legislation re: closing schools, leasing buildings, etc.
  2. Assignment of Pupils.
  3. General Assembly, Feb 1957.
  4. [Proclamations by Faubus.]
    District Court
  5. Aaron et al. vs. Cooper et al. Aug 15, 1956 District Court.
  6. Aaron et al. vs. Cooper et al. #3113. June 3-4, 1958.
  7. Aaron et al. vs. Cooper et al. #3113. June 5, 1958.
  8. District Court File 3113. Original Case (Judge Trimble).
  9. District Court (petition, statements, order).
  10. Opinions, District Court (3113).
  11. Little Rock School District court trial, June 2.
  12. U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Arkansas, Western Divison.
    Chancery Court
  13. Chancery Court, Pulaski County.
    Court of Appeals
  14. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
    U.S. Supreme Court
  15. Aaron et al. vs. Cooper et al. Aug 28, 1958. Supreme Court.
  16. Supreme Court, Sept 1958, Oct 1958.
  17. U.S. Supreme Court.

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Series 3. Opinion Mail, 1957-1958. Boxes 6-11.

This series represents world-wide response to the Little Rock Central High integration crisis. Many items were sent by special mail, often marked "personal" or "confidential." Some correspondence was addressed to "school board" or "Central High principal;" many were forwarded to Virgil Blossom. A few individuals wrote repeatedly in reaction to events. Some envelopes contained only printed matter, sometimes with handwritten comments. The envelopes frequently had no return addresses, and often bore rubber-stamped slogans or stickers such as "Remember Little Rock," "Brotherhood by Bayonet!" or "I do not trade with those who advertise in the ARKANSAS GAZETTE!" Samples bearing such slogans and stickers were kept in the collection; most other envelopes were discarded.

Letters were usually in response to particular events or persons: following desegregation of Central High in the fall of 1957, white students walked out; persecution of the "Little Rock nine" led to the suspension or expulsion of several students; one of the "nine" who retaliated against the whites was expelled in February 1958. Articles about Little Rock in the national press provoked mail, as did the commencement exercises in June 1958 when Ernest Greene received his diploma. Some correspondents sent contributions to a campaign to fund a private, all-white school. Some letters pertained to the closing of the Little Rock public schools. Some reacted to an incident when Blossom reportedly threw two reporters out of his office.

Apparently Blossom had begun to sort the opinion mail into "for" and "against" categories. His arrangement, ordered chronologically, stands at the beginning of Series 3. Other mail received was sorted only chronologically. Notes clipped to the papers were left in place. (Note: Files arranged by Blossom in Series 2, Legal Papers, also contain opinion mail.)

Box 6
  1. "For," Aug 1957.
  2. "For," Sept 1-7, 1957.
  3. "For," Sept 8-14, 1957.
  4. "For," Sept 15-30, 1957.
  5. "For," Oct 1-7, 1975.
  6. "For," Oct 8 - Nov 3, 1957; Nov 11, 1958.
  7. "For," no date.
  8. "Against," Jan 20, 1957; June - Aug 1957.
  9. "Against," Sept 1-15, 1957.
  10. "Against," Sept 16-30, 1957.
  11. "Against," Oct 1957.
  12. "Against," no date.
Box 7
  1. June 1957.
  2. July 1957.
  3. Aug 1957.
  4. Sept 1957.
  5. Oct 1-10, 1957.
  6. Oct 11-31, 1957.
  7. Nov 1957.
  8. Dec 1957.
  9. Jan 1958.
Box 8
  1. Feb 1-13, 1958.
  2. Feb 14-19, 1958.
  3. Feb 20-28, no day, 1958.
  4. Mar 1958.
  5. Apr 1958.
  6. May 1958.
  7. June 1-23, 1958.
  8. June 24-30, 1958.
Box 9
  1. July 1958.
  2. Aug 1-19, 1958.
  3. Aug 20, 1958.
  4. Aug 21-23, 1958.
  5. Aug 24-26, 1958.
  6. Aug 27-29, 1958.
Box 10
  1. Aug 30-31, no day, 1958.
  2. Sept 1-7, 1958.
  3. Sept 8-14, 1958.
  4. Sept 15-17, 1958.
  5. Sept 18-19, 1958.
  6. Sept 20-24, 1958.
Box 11
  1. Sept 24, 1958.
  2. Sept 25-30, 1958.
  3. Oct 1-6, 1958.
  4. Oct 7-31, 1958.
  5. Nov 1-17, 1958.
  6. Nov 18-30, 1958.
  7. Dec 1958.
  8. 1958 (no month).
  9. No date.

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Series 4. Little Rock Public School Administration, 1953-1958. Boxes 12-14.

This series consists mainly of minutes of the Board of Education.
Box 12
  1. Little Rock Board of Education--Correspondence, 1953.
  2. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, May - Dec 1954.
  3. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, Jan - March 1955.
  4. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, Apr - July 1955.
  5. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, Aug - Nov 1955.
  6. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, June 1954 Audit Report.
  7. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, 1954-1955 School District Budget.
  8. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, Jan - March 1956.
  9. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, Apr 1956.
  10. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, May 1956.
  11. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, June 1956.
Box 13
  1. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, July - Sept 1956.
  2. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, Oct - Dec 1956.
  3. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, Jan - March 1957.
  4. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, Apr 1957.
  5. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, 1957, New books for high school library.
  6. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, May 1957.
  7. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, June 1957.
  8. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, July - Sept 1957.
  9. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, Oct - Dec 1957.
  10. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, Jan - March 1958.
Box 14
  1. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, Apr 1958.
  2. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, May - June 1958.
  3. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, July - Aug 1958.
  4. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, Sept 1958.
  5. Little Rock Board of Education. Minutes of meetings, Oct - Nov 1958.
  6. Little Rock Board of Education. Statements on integration of public schools.
  7. Little Rock Board of Education. Miscellaneous materials.
  8. Teachers' salaries.

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Series 5. General Files, 1955-1958. Boxes 15-18.

This series includes materials that were not easily included elsewhere: information about Central High in general, material on education in general, segregationist materials, and a visual presentation concerning the Central High desegregation crisis.

The visual presentation is made of sixty "plates," each with a sheet of information, generally in the form of a list or outline. Handwritten and typed notes, apparently for this visual presentation, are in box 3, folder 4, of Series 2, Legal Papers. A spliced strip of slide film was made of the plates; the film is in Special Collections slide storage.

Also included here is a recording of two "pre-broadcast" interviews of Sammie Dean Parker. She was interviewed by Amis Guthridge, the program moderated by Wesley Pruden. Parker's parents also answered some questions. This recording was apparently in preparation for her appearance on television on March 4, 1958, the broadcast sponsored by the Freedom Fund for Little Rock.

Box 15
  1. Anti-Communism pamphlets, etc.
  2. Appointment Book, Sept 1957.
  3. Arkansas Education Association.
  4. Commencement addresses.
  5. Congressional Record, Feb 10, 1958.
  6. Education--Miscellaneous materials, 1951-1958.
  7. Education--Miscellaneous materials, no date.
  8. Education--Miscellaneous pamphlets, etc.
  9. Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, Jan - Feb 1956.
  10. Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, March - May 1956.
  11. Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, July 1956 - 1958.
  12. Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, Reports, 1956.
Box 16
  1. Governor's Advisory Committee on Education, Guide Lines, 1958.
  2. Governor's Conference on Education, 1955.
  3. Hall High School dedication (October 1957) photographs. Images 17-22 include the presentation of portrait of R. C. Hall, speeches in gymnasium, and speakers (image #22 is of Virgil Blossom).
  4. Integration and Civil Rights--Literature.
  5. Integration and Civil Rights--With All Deliberate Speed (ed. Don Shoemaker).
  6. Lakewood, Ohio, public schools material.
  7. Little Rock Central High School Daily Bulletins, Aug - Sept 1957.
  8. Little Rock Central High School Daily Bulletins, Oct 1957.
  9. Little Rock Central High School Daily Bulletins, Nov - Dec 1957.
  10. Little Rock Central High School Daily Bulletins, Jan 1958.
Box 17
  1. Little Rock Central High School Daily Bulletins, Feb 1958.
  2. Little Rock Central High School Daily Bulletins, March 1958.
  3. Little Rock Central High School Daily Bulletins, Apr 1958.
  4. Little Rock Central High School Daily Bulletins, May 1958.
  5. Little Rock Central High School crisis--Effects on business.
  6. Little Rock Central High School crisis--Miscellaneous materials.
  7. Little Rock Central High School crisis--Pamphlets, etc.
  8. Miscellaneous materials.
  9. Miscellaneous pamphlets, etc.
  10. National Education Association.
  11. Religion, morality, & patriotism--Pamphlets, etc.
  12. Schools Laws of Arkansas, 1957.
  13. Segregationist materials.
Box 18
  1. Visual presentation on Little Rock Central High School crisis, "plates" and text 1-20.
  2. Visual presentation on Little Rock Central High School crisis, "plates" and text 21-40.
  3. Visual presentation on Little Rock Central High School crisis, "plates" and text 41-60.
  4. Recording of Sammie Dean Parker interviews.

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Series 6. Clippings, 1954-1958. Boxes 19-32.

The clippings are arranged chronologically in three groups: personal clippings, clippings concerning education, and clippings concerning integration and civil rights. Note that the last group, by far the largest, includes more than just the Little Rock crisis. (Note: Files arranged by Blossom in Series 2, Legal Papers, also contain clippings.)

This series includes whole newspapers and bound newspapers as well as clippings. Included are complete runs of school newspapers from the three Little Rock high schools: Central, Hall, and Horace Mann. Broadsides have also been included in this series.

Box 19
    Personal
  1. Virgil Blossom personal file (one clipping in Box 32, oversize, folder 4).
    Education
  2. Miscellaneous clippings.
    Integration and Civil Rights
  3. May 17 - 31, 1954.
  4. June 1 - Aug 31, 1954.
  5. Sept 1 - Dec 31, 1954.
  6. Jan 1 - Dec 31, 1955.
  7. Jan 1 - March 31, 1956.
  8. Apr 1 - July 31, 1956.
  9. Aug 1 - 31, 1956.
Box 20
  1. Sept 1 - 31, 1956.
  2. Oct 1 - 31, 1956.
  3. Nov 1 - 30, 1956.
  4. Dec 1 - 31, 1956.
  5. Jan 1 - 31, 1956.
  6. Feb 1 - 28, 1957.
  7. March 1 - 31, 1957.
  8. Apr 1 - May 31, 1957.
  9. June 1 - 30, 1957.
Box 21
  1. July 1 - 15, 1957.
  2. July 16 - 31, 1957.
  3. Aug 1 - 15, 1957.
  4. Aug 16 - 25, 1957.
  5. Aug 26 - 31, 1957.
  6. Sept 1 - 4, 1957.
  7. Sept 5, 1957.
Box 22
  1. Sept 6 - 7, 1957.
  2. Sept 8 - 9, 1957.
  3. Sept 10 - 11, 1957.
  4. Sept 12 - 13, 1957.
  5. Sept 14 - 15, 1957.
  6. Sept 16 - 17, 1957.
  7. Sept 18 - 19, 1957.
  8. Sept 20 - 21, 1957.
Box 23
  1. Sept 22 - 23, 1957.
  2. Sept 24 - 25, 1957.
  3. Sept 26 - 27, 1957.
  4. Sept 28 - 29, 1957.
  5. Sept 30, 1957.
  6. Oct 1 - 2, 1957.
  7. Oct 3 - 4, 1957.
Box 24
  1. Oct 5 - 7, 1957.
  2. Oct 8 - 10, 1957.
  3. Oct 11 - 13, 1957.
  4. Oct 14 - 18, 1957.
  5. Oct 19 - 22, 1957.
  6. Oct 23 - 25, 1957.
  7. Oct 26 - 31, 1957.
  8. Nov 1 - 6, 1957.
Box 25
  1. Nov 7 - 12, 1957.
  2. Nov 13 - 16, 1957.
  3. Nov 17 - 20, 1957.
  4. Nov 21 - 25, 1957.
  5. Nov 26 - 30, 1957.
  6. Dec 1 - 10, 1957.
  7. Dec 11 - 20, 1957.
  8. Dec 21 - 31, 1957.
Box 26
  1. Jan 1 - 8, 1958.
  2. Jan 9 - 16, 1958.
  3. Jan 17 - 24, 1958.
  4. Jan 25 - 31, 1958.
  5. Feb 1 - 7, 1958.
  6. Feb 8 - 14, 1958.
  7. Feb 15 - 21, 1958.
  8. Feb 22 - 28, 1958.
  9. March 1 - 8, 1958.
  10. March 9 - 16, 1958.
Box 27
  1. March 17 - 24, 1958.
  2. March 25 - 31, 1958.
  3. Apr 1 - 8, 1958.
  4. Apr 9 - 16, 1958.
  5. Apr 17 - 24, 1958.
  6. Apr 25 - 30, 1958.
  7. May 1 - 8, 1958.
  8. May 9 - 16, 1958.
  9. May 17 - 24, 1958.
  10. May 25 - 31, 1958.
Box 28
  1. June 1 - 10, 1958.
  2. June 11 - 20, 1958.
  3. June 21 - 30, 1958.
  4. July 1 - 10, 1958.
  5. July 11 - 20, 1958.
  6. July 21 - 31, 1958.
  7. Aug 1 - 8, 1958.
  8. Aug 9 - 20, 1958.
  9. Aug 21 - 27, 1958.
  10. Aug 28 - 31, 1958.
Box 29
  1. Sept 1 - 4, 1958.
  2. Sept 5 - 8, 1958.
  3. Sept 9 - 12, 1958.
  4. Sept 13 - 16, 1958.
  5. Sept 17 - 20, 1958.
  6. Sept 21 - 23, 1958.
  7. Sept 24 - 25, 1958.
  8. Sept 26 - 30, 1958.
Box 30
  1. Oct 1 - 5, 1958.
  2. Oct 6 - 10, 1958.
  3. Oct 11 - 15, 1958.
  4. Oct 16 - 20, 1958.
  5. Oct 21 - 24, 1958.
  6. Oct 25 - 31, 1958.
  7. Nov 1 - 5, 1958.
Box 31
  1. Nov 6 - 10, 1958.
  2. Nov 11 - 13, 1958.
  3. Nov 14 - 18, 1958.
  4. Nov 19 - 23, 1958.
  5. Nov 24 - 30, 1958.
  6. Dec 1 - 31, 1958.
  7. Jan 1 - July 31, 1958.
  8. No date.
Box 32. Oversize materials.
  1. Horace Mann High School (Little Rock) Bearcat Flash, (vol. 29, nos. 1-6) Oct 1957 - May 1958.
  2. Hall High School (Little Rock) War Whoop, (vol. 1, nos. 1-15) Oct 10, 1957 - May 15, 1958.
  3. Southern Mediator Journal (Little Rock), May 31, 1958, and Sept 26, 1958.
  4. Miscellaneous Newspapers on Virgil Blossom and the Little Rock Central High crisis.
  5. Broadsides.
  6. Oversize photograph from Series 1, Personal and Professional Papers.

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