Call Number:       UA 2-1-1

Name:             An Inventory of the Papers of Richard Holmes Powell (1875-1947) held in the 
                         Valdosta State University Archives.

Dates:                1895-1933

Size:                  9 boxes


Dr. Richard Holmes Powell was the first president of South Georgia State Normal College.  He was elected in 1911 by the Board of Trustees, and served for 22 years (1911-1933).  Dr. Powell was born in Blakely, Georgia, in 1875.  He received an A.B. from Mercer University in 1894, an M.A. from the University of Colorado in 1898, and an honorary LL.D. from the University of Georgia in 1924.  He married Freida Berens in 1907, and they had three sons: Alfred, David and Richard; and one daughter, Elizabeth (Betsy).

Prior to his appointment at SGSNC, Powell held several distinguished positions in his career as an educator/administrator.  He was the principal of the Tennille (Ga.) Institute (1984-96); the head of the English department at the  New Mexico Normal School in Las Vegas, N.M. (1898-1903); and associate professor of English and history at the Colorado State Normal School in Greeley, Colo. (1903-06).  Powell returned to Georgia in 1906, and was the head of the English department at the Georgia Normal and Industrial College in Milledgeville (1906-10).  He later became the State Supervisor for Rural Education (1910-11), then accepted the post as president of SGSNC.

Powell was integral to the establishment and development of SGSNC.  He was on the committee that selected the Spanish-style architecture, and oversaw the construction of the first buildings on campus, including West Hall, Converse Hall, and Ashley Hall.  He possessed a keen sense of duty regarding the educations of the young ladies at the school, and sought nothing but the best for them, including teachers and amenities.

The school opened its doors to students in 1913.  During Powell's tenure, it evolved from a high school and junior college to one offering a four-year, bachelor's degree program. This is remarkable, considering the country was struggling with a lagging post-WWI economy that drifted into the Great Depression.  Money was always a struggle, yet under Powell's direction, the school weathered the rough spots and continued to grow.  In 1922, the school's name was changed to Georgia State Womans College at Valdosta by a legislative act, and a four-year degree program was offered.  The last high school class graduated in 1927, and requirements for faculty were strengthened-- new faculty hires had to have a master's degree.  GSWC became a fully-accredited liberal arts and teachers' college in 1931.

Many student activities and traditions were established during Powell's presidency, including a Medieval Christmas Festival and May Day Festival.  GSWC publications include the Pine Branch, established in 1917; Campus Glimpses, started in 1920; and the Pine Cone, the school yearbook, began in 1924.

The newly-formed Regents of the University System of Georgia reassigned Powell in 1933 as president of the Co-ordinate College in Athens.  His departure greatly upset the College and Valdosta communities.  He retired in Athens in 1946, and was killed in an automobile accident there on June 2, 1947.

Scope and Content:

The papers in this collection are of particular interest and importance.  They are the earliest records of establishing a college in Southwest Georgia, and clearly indicate the city of Valdosta's and Lowndes County's desire to have an institute of higher learning.  Powell took his job as the first president of the College very seriously, and this is reflected in his writings and correspondence.  His papers outline the struggles of literally starting a school from the ground up, and deal with issues such as construction, finances, faculty and students. The bulk of the collection is comprised of correspondence with various education officials, such as the school's Board of Trustees, the chancellor of the University System of Georgia, and, in later years, members of the Board of Regents.  Part of this collection are two bound volumes of meeting minutes of the Board of Trustees, which include Powell's annual report on the state of the College from 1911 to 1931.  These reports provide an excellent yearly analysis of the trials and tribulations involved with managing all aspects of a developing school.  Some of Powell's additional writings include the history of some of the College's early traditions, such as the May Day and Christmas festivals.  He was also a sought-after speaker, and many of his speeches, both to GSWC students and statewide civic associations, are part of this collection.  These addresses reveal his commitment to education, and how strongly important he felt it was.  Powell was also a very scholarly man, and we are fortunate to have some of the papers he submitted as part of his undergraduate and graduate work.  Thanks to Powell's daughter, Betsy, the collection includes a variety of photographs, spanning the years 1913-1940.  These include snapshots of life at the College as well as some family pictures.  Lastly, true prizes of the collection are ten Babylonian clay tablets, of which eight are in excellent condition.  During his stint as a Red Cross volunteer during World War I, Powell acquired the tablets from Edgar J. Banks, also known as "the original Indiana Jones." Each tablet is accompanied by a translation of the cuneiform writing. Powell brought the tablets back to Valdosta for the College students' benefit.  The tablets have been scanned and are on online exhibit with their translations and history.  Three boxes of duplicates of most of Powell's original papers are part of the collection.  Researchers will be given a duplicate to review when available, rather than an original document.  This is an effort to preserve the historical first documents of the College.  The final box contains the hood of Dr. Powell's academic regalia.

Subject Headings: 

Subject headings in the general category often refer to the entire collection. When this is the case, they are not linked.  Links from the headings represent starting places for research; however, the heading, linked or unlinked, can refer to many places in the collection.



Powell, Richard Holmes

Board of Regents-1

Board of Regents-2

Board of Trustees-1


South Georgia State Normal College


Georgia State Womans College

Board of Trustees-2

Board of Trustees-3

Special Topics

Special Topics

Ashley Hall

Babylonian Clay Tablets (Info)

Christmas Festival

Commencement Addresses

Babylonian Clay Tablets(Exhibit)

May Day Festival

Training School

Converse Hall

J.F. Wood-1

J.F. Wood-2



Edgar J. Banks

Byron Bower

Erle Cocke

Annie Powe Hopper

Lucian Lamar Knight

T.B. McDowell

Edith Patterson

Jere Pound

Alfred Powell

Arthur Powell

Betsy Powell

B.D. Purcell

Charles Snelling

Hughes Spalding

Morton Turner

Rev. Richard W. Wallace

J.F. Wood


 Related Collections

Related Collections


Campus Glimpses

Faculty Minutes

Lawson Jones

Emma Sue Morris King

Jean Loggins

Newspaper Clippings File

Pine Branch

Pine Cone

VSU History

Natalie Sirmans Williams

J.F. Wood

Alumni Association (UA 24)

Edith Patterson



The papers include the following parts:

Box 1: Biographical Materials and Board of Trustees Minutes (5 folders and two bound volumes)

Box 2: Correspondence, 1912-1933 (10 folders)

Box 3: Correspondence, 1933 (7 folders)

Box 4: Special Topics (11 folders)

Box 5: Articles & Speeches (18 folders)

Box 6: Babylonian Clay Tablets (12 folders)  (Online Exhibit of Tablets)

Below are boxes of duplicates for most of the original papers in this collection. Researchers will be given a duplicate to review when available, rather than an original document, unless an original is specifically requested.  This is an effort to preserve the historical first documents of the College.

Box 7: Correspondence (duplicates)-because this box duplicates contents of Boxes 2 and 3, these links are repeated here.

Box 8: Special Topics (duplicates)-because this box duplicates the contents of Box 4, this link is repeated.

Box 9: Articles & Speeches (duplicates)-because this box duplicates the contents of Box 5, this link is repeated.

Box 10: Academic Regalia: contains Dr. Powell's academic hood.  Purple velvet border, with red and black satin inset.

Processing Date: Partial support for this project came from the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Board, The Georgia Archives, Office of the Secretary of State.  Amy R. King of the VSU MLIS program and Deborah S. Davis, completed March 2003. Thank you to Steven Brown and the University Archives of the University of Georgia for extra information on President Powell in Athens.