Willis D. Weatherford papers, 1911-1969.

Creator: Weatherford, Willis D. (Willis Duke), 1875-1970.
Collection number: 3831
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Abstract: Willis D. Weatherford of Black Mountain, N.C., was president of the Blue Ridge Assembly, Black Mountain, N.C., 1906-1944; president of the Y.M.C.A. Graduate School, Nashville, Tenn., 1919-1946; trustee of Berea College, Berea, Ky., 1916-ca. 1962; faculty member of Fisk University, 1936-1946; director of the Southern Appalachian Studies Project, 1956-1968; and lifelong student of race relations in the South. Correspondence, financial records, printed material, reports, writings, speeches, photos, and other material relating to the professional and personal life of Willis D. Weatherford. Many items are records, 1917-1944, of the YMCA Graduate School and of the Blue Ridge Assembly. Other papers document Weatherford’s involvement, 1911-1943, in the YMCA at the regional and national level; his tenure, 1936-1946, as a professor at Fisk University; his involvement in the Commission for Interracial Cooperation and other interracial organizations, 1923-1969; his position on the board of trustees and as assistant to the president of Berea College, Berea, Ky., 1924-1969; his role as initiator and director of the Southern Appalachian Studies Project, 1956-1968; his membership on the North Carolina Governor’s Coordinating Council on Aging; and his service on the board of directors of the American Cast Iron Pipe Company of Birmingham, Ala., which supported the Blue Ridge Assembly. Individuals important in the collection include Thomas Elsa Jones, president of Fisk University; William J. Hutchins and his son Francis S. Hutchins, both presidents of Berea College; playwright Paul Green; Tennessee congressman John Sparkman; writer and Weatherford biographer Wilma Dykeman; individuals involved with the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, including director Will W. Alexander, secretary James D. Burton, women’s work director Jessie Daniel Ames, educational director Robert B. Eleazor, Arthur F. Raper, and Howard W. Odum; Roy Rowe; North Carolina Governor Dan K. Moore; and Fletcher Sims Brockman of the YMCA.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Materials relating to African Americans can be found throughout the collection. The papers contain information on the courses Weatherford taught at the YMCA Graduate School; problems of interracial conferences in an era of segregation; his efforts to achieve racial equality in YMCA institutions (1919-1936); and his activities in the Committee for Youth Work Among Negroes (especially 1945). Weatherford’s participation in a variety of interracial organizations, especially the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, and his research on race relations are particularly well documented.

Folder 1352 contains documentation related to pay of African American workers at the Blue Ridge Association in Black Mountain, NC in 1931 for cleaning and cooking services.

Folder 1825 contains correspondence between Weatherford and Jack Lipsey (14 April and 21 April 1933). Lipsey was the long time cook at Blue Ridge and Weatherford is writing him about arrangements for the upcoming conference season. It appears Lipsey was in charge of securing other African American workers for kitchen duties.

Folder 2088 contains letters written to Weatherford by several African American men and women in 1935, looking for work at Blue Ridge for the summer.

Folder 2219 has a list entitled “Years of Service at Blue Ridge”, which contains the names of employees (many African American) and how long they had been working there.

For more information about W.D. Weatherford and the Blue Ridge Association, please see the following article by Andrew McNeill Canady: “The Limits to Improving Race Relations in the South: The YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, North Carolina, 1906-1930”, North Carolina Historical Review, volume LXXXVI, number 4, October 2009.