Hobo to Presidential Advisor

We got a request recently for a copy of a dissertation done at the University of North Carolina in 1928. Because of its age and condition we decided to digitize it rather than try to photocopy it. Therefore you will be able to find a digital copy of “A study of mob action in the south” by John Roy Steelman on Internet Archive. For me, however, a bonus of the process was learning more about Steelman himself. Steelman’s obituary in the New York Times of July 22, 1999, is titled “From riding the rails to top Truman aid.” During the Great Depression Steelman earned money for college by working at a number of jobs, including being a “blanket stiff,” a roving agricultural laborer who carried his blanket with him as he hoboed from job to job. Steelman got his undergraduate degree from Henderson-Brown College in Arkadephia, Arkansas. He received his doctorate in 1928 from the University of North Carolina in economics and sociology. After serving in a number of government positions, Steelman became an advisor to President Harry Truman with the title, Assistant to the President. Steelman’s dissertation is an exhaustive study of violence, particularly racial violence, in the south. Our copy has a number of fascinating hand-drawn charts and graphs.