Roscoe Conkling Simmons, Sr. Family Papers
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Roscoe Conkling Simmons, Sr. Family Papers

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Auburn Avenue Research Library
Title: Roscoe Conkling Simmons, Sr. Family Papers
Dates: 1937-1959 1937-1959
Quantity: 7.0 Linear feet
Identification: aarl005-010

Biographical/Historical Note

Roscoe Conkling Murray Simmons (1881-1951), son of Emory Simmons, principal of a black high school in Hollandale, Mississippi and Willie Murray, was reportedly born June 20, 1881 in Greenview but raised in Aberdeen, Mississippi. He was also the nephew of Margaret Murray Washington, wife of Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute. He was educated in the Mississippi school system and attended Tuskegee Institute and graduated from there in 1899. During his life, Simmons worked as an office boy for Ohio Senator Mark Hanna, and after college graduation, he worked as a reporter for the Pensacola Daily News and later the Washington, D.C. Record. He also taught school in Holly Springs Mississippi.

Roscoe Simmons also worked as a journalist for the Demonstrator, the Age, and the Colored American Magazine. Simmons also worked for the Chicago Tribune, where he wrote the column the "Untold Story" for nine years. He was also columnist and promoter for the Chicago Defender where he wrote the column "The Week." He was a great orator, active in Republican politics, said to be friends to three presidents (Harding, Hoover and Theodore Roosevelt) and an authority on Abraham Lincoln. Roscoe Conkling Simmons died in April 1951.

Roscoe Conkling Simmons married his second wife Althea Amaryllis Merchant (1898-1981) in August 1929. She was raised in St. Louis, Missouri and was the daughter of Mary and James F. Merchant (railroad porter clerk). She attended the University of Illinois (1916-1920) and was a member and leader of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. After graduation, she became a teacher at a high school in St. Louis and the regional director of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She also taught in the Chicago public school system.

Mr. and Mrs. Simmons had two sons, William Murray Simmons and Thomas Murray Simmons. William Murray Simmons was born June 22, 1930. He attended St. Phillip High School in Chicago where he was a reporter for the school newspaper and played in the band. He later attended Harvard College on scholarship and was elected president of the Harvard Crimson, the undergraduate newspaper. He graduated from Harvard, Magna Cum Laude in 1952. Prior to attending Harvard Law School, William Simmons served as a captain in the United States Force. He earned his L.L.B. degree from Harvard Law in 1960 and spent his life as a lawyer in Boston, Massachusetts. Thomas Murray Simmons was born in 1932 also in Chicago, and educated in the Chicago school system. He attended Loyola University and received a Bachelor's degree in history in 1953. He graduated from Boston College Law School in 1956 where he had the honor of being the second African American graduate. Thomas Simmons spent his professional career as an attorney in private and general practice in Boston. He also taught courses at Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. Thomas Murray Simmons died November 28, 2009 at the age of 77. Little is know about Roscoe Conkling Simmons's eldest son, Roscoe C. Simmons, Jr. However, he was popularly known as "Red" Simmons, well known night club entertainer. During the 1930s, Red Simmons was married to Pearl Baines, New York song and dance headliner.


Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of approximately six linear feet of materials that document the lives of Roscoe Conkling Simmons and his family. The collection ranges from the 1914 to 1981 with the bulk of the papers ranging from 1937 to 1959. It is arranged in four series: Simmons Family, Letters; Photographs and Books and features correspondence, cards and telegrams. It also contains invitations, a diaries, newspaper clippings, photographs, and books.


Container List

 

Series 1: Simmons Family

This series is divided into two sub-series: A- Roscoe Conkling Simmons and B - Althea Merchant Simmons. It features items that belonged to or referenced to individual family members including a few ephemeral items that belonged to William and Thomas Simmons.



Subseries A: Roscoe Conkling Simmons

Box

Fldr

11Death Notices, April 28-29, 1951
2Invitations - President H, Hoover Republican Nomination Invitation & Remodel of Abraham Lincoln Tomb, 1931 & 1932
3Pay Stub / Chicago Tribune, March 1951
4Tax Bill & Payments
5A Cause Without a Grievance-Address to the Peace Conference by Roscoe C. Simmons (United States of America), February 5, 1919
6Program - Col. Roscoe Conkling Simmons - Clairton High School, Sponsored by the Negro Civic and Protection League, January 28, NY.
7Program - 2nd Annual Lincoln Memorial Banquet - Berwyn Chamber of Commerce - Sokol Berwyn Hall, February 12, 1941
8Program - The Brotherhood of St Stephens presents The Emancipation Day Speaker - Hon. Roscoe Conklin Simmons, January 1, 1945
9Program - Featuring the Hon. Roscoe Conkling Simmons - Zion Baptist Church. Hand written note to Althea on the opposite side, March 22, 1946
10Program - Commemoration: Address by Roscoe Conkling Simmons - Ryman Auditorium - Auspices: Davidson County Negro Voters League, May 2, 1948
11Programs - Colombia Theatre Programme List & Intolerance Program / The Crisis by Winston Churchill - Grand Central Theater, 1916
12Pamphlet - Team Work... Booker T, Washington, Tuskegee Institute, 1941

Box

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21Poster/broadside -"HEAR COL. ROSCOE CONKLING SIMMONS - WORLD'S GREATEST ORATOR - NEPHEW BOOKER WASHINGTON - SUBJECT: "COMMUNISM vs. AMERICANISM" ( also has photo of Roscoe Simmons), November 28, 1949
2 MacArthur Speaks to the Nation, Chicago Sunday Tribune: Rotogravure Section (Roscoe Simmons is in the back row), May 27, 1951
3"Race Traitor Comes to Surface," The East Tennessee (newspaper article about Simmons), February 21, 1918
4"Chicago Negro Officers Back From France," Chicago Daily Tribune, February 28, 1919
5"My Country-My Flag - Patriotic Address by Col. Roscoe Conkling Simmons," Oakland Sunshine Newspaper, February 2, 1918
6"Simmons Speaks In Defense Of GOP," St. Louis American newspaper, August 4, 1934
7"Don't Shoot Mob-Moody Roscoe Simons Denounces KKK," The Louisville News (Headline front page only), May 2, 1920
8"Landon Declares against Lynching," Second Ward News (Chicago Newspaper with Roscoe Simmons photo feature on cover as "The Wizard" - Greatest speaker & writer of modern times. Oracle of the Republican Party and idol of young people.), October 10, 1936
9Newspaper clipping - Roscoe speaks to Klan, No Date



Subseries B: Althea Amaryllis Merchant - Simmons (b. 1898 - d. 1981)

Box

Fldr

11Cards/ Telegrams from Roscoe Simmons to Althea Simmons, 1931- 1951
2Social Security Information, No Date
3Althea Merchant's Dairy, 1916
4University of Illinois Graduation Booklet, 1920
5Reference Letters, 1920-1929
6Correspondence / Ephemera from the University of Chicago, 1941-1951
7Chicago Historical Society Exhibit / Sponsored by Six Negro Sororities, 1946
8Theta Omega Chapter of AKA memorabilia, 1955
9The Ivey Leaf financial booklet
10State of Illinois Teacher Certificate, 1955
11Notice of Certification to Teach in the Chicago Public Schools, 1952 & 1955
12William Murray Simmons Ephemeral Items, 1941 & 1958
13Thomas Murray Simmons Ephemeral Items, 1941-1949
14Correspondence from Roscoe Conkling Simmons, Jr., 1934-1951
 

Series 2: Letters/Correspondence, 1914-1965

This series has 645 (plus/minus) letters, cards & telegrams that date between 1914 and 1965. They are mainly from William and Thomas to their mother Althea with the bulk of the letters from 1952 - 1962. This is the time when they were both going to college and while William was in the Air Force. There are also letters to Althea from friends/family/business acquaintances that date from 1914 - 1980 with most in the 1951 - 1953 time periods.



Subseries A: Telegrams, Sympathy Cards, and Notes on the occasion of the Death in April 1951 of Roscoe Conkling Simmons

Box

Fldr

11Telegrams, April 28, 1951, 12 items
2Telegrams, April 29, 1951, 15 items
3Telegrams, April 30, 1951, 44 items
4Telegrams, May 1-2, 1951, 12 items
5Cards from plants, No Date
6Cards & Letters, April 1951
7Cards & Letters, April 1951
8Cards & Letters, May 1951
9Cards & Letters, No Date
10Covers / Envelopes



Subseries B: Letters from William Murray Simmons to Althea Simmons

Box

Fldr

111941-1948
21949
31950
41952
51953
61954
71955

Box

Fldr

211957
21958
31959
41960
51961
61962
71963
81964
91965



Subseries C: Letters from Thomas Murray Simmons to Althea Simmons

Box

Fldr

111951 & 1953
21954
31955
41956
51957
61958-1959
71960-1961



Subseries D: Letters to Althea Simmons from miscellaneous people

Box

Fldr

11Letters to and from various member of the family, 1940-1957
21914-1939
31950-1959
41960-1980
 

Series 3: Photographs

This series has approximately 600 (plus/minus) photos that dates from the early 1860s through 1950s. There are cabinet card photos, real photo postcards, portrait studio photos from the 1915 - 1920s, Althea's college day's photos and family photos. There over 100 photos of Althea and her friends from college at the University of Illinois. There is also a photo of Roscoe Simmons and Margaret Murray Washington (Booker T. Washington's wife) that was taken at the Tuskegee Institute (it has an embossed Tuskegee stamp in the corner). It dates between 1915 and 1925.

Box

Fldr

Oversized 11Roscoe Conkling Simmons, 6 Photographs
2Roscoe Conkling Simmons with Ruth McCormick Miller, No Date
3Roscoe Conkling Simmons with others, No Date, 6 photographs
4Althea Simmons, No Date, 3 photographs
5Althea Simmons (gold plated frame), No Date
6William Murray Simmons, No Date, 4 photographs
7Thomas Murray Simmons, 4 photographs
8William & Thomas Simmons
9Unidentified Woman (Merchant side of the family)
10Unidentified pages from scrapbook
11Unidentified Military portraits
12Althea's College Friends and Sorority Members, 7 photos
13Professor Kelly Miller, Howard University
14B. East
15Unidentified Portrait

Box

Fldr

21Roscoe Simmons, No Date
2Roscoe Simmons, No Date
3Roscoe Simmons speaking, No Date
4Roscoe Simmons, No Date
5Roscoe Simmons, No Date
6Roscoe Simmons, No Date
7Roscoe Simmons, No Date
8Roscoe Simmons, No Date
9Althea Merchant, 1915
10Althea Merchant, No Date
11Roscoe Simmons & Althea Merchant, No Date
12Roscoe Simmons & Althea Merchant
13Roscoe, Althea; William & Thomas Simmons, No Date
14Roscoe, Althea; William & Thomas Simmons, No Date
15Roscoe, William & Thomas Simmons, No Date
16Roscoe, William & Thomas Simmons, No Date
17Roscoe, & Thomas Simmons & unidentified women at piano, No Date
18Roscoe & Thomas Simmons, No Date
19-030William Murray Simmons, No Date
40Thomas Murray Simmons & Richard Shay, No Date
41Thomas Murray Simmons & unidentified, No Date
42Thomas Murray Simmons & unidentified, No Date
43Thomas Murray Simmons & unidentified Women, 1948
44Thomas Murray Simmons & unidentified Group, No Date
45William M. & Thomas M. Simmons, No Date
46William M. & Thomas M. Simmons / Lincoln Park Zoo, No Date
47William M. & Thomas M. Simmons, No Date
48William M. & Thomas M. Simmons, 1940
49William M. & Thomas M. Simmons, No Date
50William M. & Thomas M. Simmons, No Date
51William M. & Thomas M. Simmons, 1941
52William M. & Thomas M. Simmons, No Date
53William M. & Thomas M. Simmons / St. Louis, 1936
54William M. & Thomas M. Simmons / St. Louis, 1936
55William M. & Thomas M. Simmons / St. Louis, 1936
56William M. & Thomas M. Simmons / St. Louis, 1936
57William M. & Thomas M. Simmons, No Date
58William M. & Thomas M. Simmons, No Date
59William M. & Thomas M. Simmons, No Date
60William M. & Thomas M. Simmons, No Date
61William M. & Thomas M. Simmons / Photo of each, No Date
62Roscoe Simmons and Roscoe Simmons Jones, No Date
63Roscoe Simmons and Roscoe Simmons Jones, No Date
64-69Roscoe Conkling Simmons Jones (?), No Date
70Roscoe Conkling Simmons, James & Hughes, No Date
71Roscoe Conkling Simmons with others, No Date
72Roscoe Conkling Simmons, & J. Hughes, No Date
73Roscoe Conkling Simmons with other unidentified men, 1937
74Roscoe Conkling Simmons & unidentified, No Date
75Roscoe Conkling Simmons & Mr., Merchant (Althea's father), No Date
76Roscoe Conkling Simmons & unidentified woman, No Date
77Roscoe Conkling Simmons & Margaret James Murray, No Date
78Roscoe Conkling Simmons & unidentified man, No Date
79Roscoe Conkling Simmons @ unidentified event, No Date
80Roscoe Conkling Simmons with members of the Merchant family, No Date
81Roscoe Conkling Simmons speaking @ unidentified event, No Date
82William & Thomas Murray Simmons with members of the Merchant family, No Date
83Roscoe Conkling Simmons speaking @ unidentified event, No Date
84William & Thomas Murray Simmons with members of the Merchant family, No Date
85Roscoe Conkling Simmons speaking @ unidentified event, No Date
86William & Thomas Murray Simmons with members of the Merchant family, No Date
87Roscoe Conkling Simmons speaking @ unidentified event, No Date
88William & Thomas Murray Simmons with members of the Merchant family, No Date
89Roscoe Conkling Simmons speaking @ unidentified event, No Date
90William & Thomas Murray Simmons with members of the Merchant family, No Date
91William & Thomas Murray Simmons with members of the Merchant family, No Date
92William Murray Simmons with unidentified member of the Merchant family, No Date
93-109Unidentified members of Merchant Family, No Date
110-118Millie & Tim M. S., No Date
119Identified as Uncle Jim, Mary & Edna, No Date
120Identified as Uncle Tim & Mary, No Date
121-127Unidentified Merchant family members including children, No Date
128-133Unidentified Groups with William Simmons, No Date
134-135Unidentified Groups with Thomas Simmons, No Date
136Unidentified Girl, No Date
137-139Unidentified Man & male youth, No Date
140-159Unidentified Women, No Date
160-164Unidentified Couple - Possibly Mr. Merchant and unidentified woman, No Date
165-167Unidentified Men (family), No Date
168-171Althea's father (Mr. Merchant), No Date
172-174Unidentified Women (Merchant), No Date
175-178Unidentified group of children, No Date
179-180Woman & Baby, No Date
181-183Althea Merchant (?), No Date
184-205Unidentified Group of Women - Althea Merchant in group, No Date
206-232Unidentified Woman, No Date
233-249Unidentified Group of Women, No Date
250-264Unidentified Group, No Date
265-274Unidentified Men, No Date
275-281Unidentified Couples, No Date
282-291Unidentified Events / Gatherings, No Date
292Altha Leonise Ford, No Date
293President Goody - University of Illinois, No Date
294Lions & King, No Date
295Dedication, No Date
296Ann, Garnes, Joe & Carnes Terry, No Date
297Unidentified man and child, No Date
298Althea Simmons & her Mistress, No Date
299-303Buildings @ Harvard College/ University, No Date
304-305Unidentified Houses, No Date
306Unidentified Ship & Building, No Date
307-309Unidentified Cabinet Cards
310Cat in Chair
 

Series 4: Books

Box

Fldr

11 American politics (non-partisan) from the beginning to date. Embodying a history of all the political parties, with their views and records on all important questions. Great speeches on all great issues, the text of all existing political laws. Thomas V Cooper, Hector Tyndale, 1883
2 The speeches of Abraham Lincoln: including inaugurals and proclamations - By Abraham Lincoln, 1906
3 The Supreme Court In United States History Volume One - By Charles Warren, 1928
4 Forty Years of Opera in Chicago - Edward Colman, 1877-1935, 1930
5 Platforms of the Two Great Political Parties, 1856-1932, Inclusive by George D. Ellis under the direction of South Trimble, Clerk U.S. House of Representatives, 1932
6 Negro Politicians - The Rise of Negro Politics in Chicago by Harold Foote Gosnell, 1935
7Republican National Convention. The official program of the 24th Republican National Convention: the fifth Republican National Convention held in Philadelphia, June 21, 1948, 1948
8Dedmon, Emmett. Fabulous Chicago. New York: Atheneum,, 1953
9Now. Growing Time!- The Story of Service, Progress & Health Provident Hospital and Training School
10 A report of two cases of Cesarean section under positive indications, with terminations in recovery. New York, W. Wood and Co., 1901. 8p. Reprinted from American Journal of Obstetrics, New York, 1901., 1901