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|Size||7500 items (6.0 linear feet)|
|Abstract||Robert Burton House was executive secretary, 1926-1934, dean ofadministration, 1934-1945, and chancellor, 1945-1957, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill campus; lecturer in the UNC English Department, 1957-1962; author; and public speaker. The collection includes correspondence, writings, and other materials chiefly relating to House's administrative career at UNC. Much of the correspondence centers around administrative problems, especially budgetary issues. There are also letters in which House expressed his views on race relations, Communism in the 1950s, and other topics. Among the correspondents are Josephus Daniels, HarryChase, William Umstead, singer Kate Smith, Francis O. Clarkson, R. D. W. Connor, Frank Porter Graham, Gordon Gray, Jonathan Daniels, Carl T. Durham, O. Max Gardner, Terry Sanford, Hardin Craig, and Louis R. Wilson. Also included are some family correspondence with House's Thelma, Halifax County, N.C., relatives, and letters and other materials relating to House's activities with the University United Methodist Church and to his harmonica playing at speeches and on television. Writings include numerous speeches, reviews, and radio addresses relating to UNC, to North Carolina history, and to House's historical sketch of Sallie Drake Twitty. Pictures are chiefly photographs of House at official UNC functions.|
|Creator||House, R. B. (Robert Burton), 1892- .|
The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.
Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.
Robert Burton House was born 19 March 1892 in Thelma, Halifax County, N.C. He grew up in a 14-room house along with ten brothers and sisters, five cousins, his aunt and uncle, and his parents. His father, Joseph A. House, was a farmer, sawmill owner, and sheriff of Halifax County for many years. House credited his mother, Susan Drake House, with having taught him to read although she was deaf.
House received his early education in Halifax County. He majored in Greek, Latin, and English at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and graduated with honors in 1916. The following year, he obtained a master of arts degree from Harvard. During World War I, House served on the front lines in France as a first lieutenant with the American Expeditionary Forces, 1917-1918. On 4 May 1918, he married his high school sweetheart Harriet "Hattie" Drake Palmer of Warrenton, N.C. They had two children: Robert Burton (b. ca. 1920) and Carolyn Twitty (b. ca. 1925).
After teaching for a year at Greensboro High School in 1919, House was asked by R. D. W. Connor, M. C. S. Noble, and J. G. deRoulhac Hamilton to compile World War I records for the North Carolina Historical Commission. House became archivist of the Commission in 1920 and secretary in 1924 and was responsible for the acquisition of more than 100,000 official and personal documents from the war. He was managing editor of the North Carolina Historical Review from 1924 until 1926, when he was appointed executive secretary of the University of North Carolina. House served as right-hand man to University presidents Harry Chase and Frank Porter Graham before being selected in July 1934 as dean of administration at Chapel Hill as the University underwent three-campus consolidation. In 1945, House's title was changed to chancellor.
House helped guide the University through the depression and World War II. During his chancellorship, the general college was organized in 1935, and the physical education and athletic programs were enlarged. Also during House's administration, the University began or rebuilt 14 departments or schools, including medicine, dentistry, public health, nursing, art, and journalism.
After retiring from his post in 1957, House taught undergraduate courses in the English Department until 1962. Not long after his retirement from teaching, the University's new undergraduate library was named for him. Among other honorary degrees, House received an honorary doctorate from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1970.
House was a leader in organizing the Citizens Library Movement and in creating the North Carolina State Art Society. He was the author of several books, including Miss Sue and the Sheriff (1941), which was based on the lives of his parents and his childhood in Halifax County, and The Light That Shines (1964), a memoir of his student days in Chapel Hill.
House made hundreds of speeches before church groups, dinner meetings, commencements, and parent-teacher associations in all 100 counties of North Carolina. As a public speaker, he was known for quick bursts of spontaneous wit or "Houseisms." Another House trademark was his harmonica playing, which he claimed was used during speeches in order to make his audience "sit up and take notice." House taught a men's Bible class at University United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill for 46 years and was the first North Carolina Sunday school teacher to have a regular class on public television. WUNC-TV in Chapel Hill broadcast his class for 25 years.
House served the University of North Carolina for over 35 years. He claimed that the University was his "hero" and once stated, "I have enlisted for life. And if everyone else departs, I expect to come up to the old South Building every morning, ring the college bell, knock the ashes out of my pipe and lecture to the birds, the squirrels, and the trees on the state of the universe and the university."
House's wife died in 1977, and his children also predeceased him. He died at his home in Chapel Hill in August 1987 and was buried in the local cemetery.Back to Top
The bulk of the collection consists of personal correspondence of Robert B. House, chiefly during his years as an administrator of the University of North Carolina, 1926-1957. House's official correspondence as a University administrator may be found in his chancellor's papers in the University Archives.
The collection also contains speeches, articles, radio addresses, and book reviews written by House on topics such as education, North Carolina, religion, and the University of North Carolina.
There is one folder of writings by those other than House, a folder of clippings and press releases collected from 1947 to 1962, and miscellaneous items such as receipts and vouchers.
Most of the photographs included in the collection were taken by the University News Bureau and the Communication Center at the University of North Carolina Photo Lab and are chiefly of House at various university and professional functions.Back to Top
The bulk of the correspondence dates from 1927 to 1957, during which time House served as the University's executive secretary, 1926-1934; dean of administration, 1934-1945; and chancellor, 1945-1957. The series has been divided into subseries that reflect Houses's professional position within the University.
Correspondence is chiefly between House and his family and friends and concerns his speaking engagements and publications. Much of the correspondence was marked, probably by House or his secretary, according to subject: Personal, Family Correspondence, War Letters, Invitations, Engagements, Deaths, Church, etc.
The earliest letter was written by the head of the University of North Carolina English department in 1916 to recommend House to the scholarship committee of the Harvard Club of North Carolina. The rest of the correspondence dates from House's term as executive secretary of University of North Carolina, 1927-1934.
Family correspondence is chiefly between House and his relatives in Halifax County, N.C., and clearly defines his role as adviser to them on business and family matters. Much of it consists of House's attempts to assist relatives seeking jobs, entrance to schools, or places to stay in Chapel Hill. There are many letters written by House to assure his siblings and aunts concerning the academic pursuits and decisions of their children. There is no correspondence between House and his wife or children.
Other topics include House's speaking engagements, the search for the new University of North Carolina president in 1930, House's appointment as dean in July 1934, and the death of House's mother in November 1934. In his letters to former University of North Carolina president Harry Chase, House expressed his concern over the effect of the depression on the University's budget. There is also correspondence between House and fellow World War I veterans.
Also documented are House's complaints to the Carolina Coach Company, North Carolina Corporation Commission, and the police chief of Durham, N.C., in May 1932 after he and his wife were offended by the presence of "a drunken Negro" while taking a bus trip from Durham to Chapel Hill.
Correspondence of this period concerns House's speaking engagements and family matters. There are also many letters to House following the publication of his book Miss Sue and the Sheriff in 1942.
Topics included in the 1930s correspondence include the activities of University United Methodist Church and how the polio threat prevented House and his family from vacationing or travelling together. Throughout the subseries, there is correspondence with Josephus Daniels, whom House called "Mr. Joe," while Daniels was serving as the ambassador to Mexico in 1934 and after he returned home to Raleigh. Much of this correspondence centers around the University; in a letter dated 15 December 1942, House explained to Daniels how losing students and faculty to active duty in the armed forces affected the University of North Carolina.
Other materials relating to the coming war include letters of November and December 1937 in which House and Congressman William Umstead expressed their thoughts on "the war situation" and House's address to the University of North Carolina student body after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 in which House explained the role of students and the University in winning the war.
Also of interest are House's repeated efforts in January 1943 to get singer Kate Smith to introduce on her radio program the song "Our Subs Are on the Way," which was written by the wife of a submarine officer, and a letter, dated 1 June 1944, from House to Francis O. Clarkson after the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees suggested that Frank Porter Graham quit his work at the War Labor Board and devote all his time to University affairs.
Other correspondents during this period include: Harry Brockman, Parkhill Jarvis, J. Spencer Love, Olin T. Binkley, Governor J. M. Broughton, R. D. W. Connor, John A. Park, and Samuel Selden. Note that the bulk of the correspondence between House and students serving in the armed forces during World War II is in the chancellor's records in the University Archives.
Correspondence concerning the state of affairs at the University of North Carolina, including the decreased enrollment after World War II; the construction begun on campus in 1949; the resignation of President Frank Porter Graham in 1949; the inauguration of Gordon Gray as University president in 1950; and House's retirement in 1957. House commented on Graham's appointment as U.S. senator in a letter to John Robert Moore, dated 26 April 1949. In a letter to R. L. Harris, dated 6 February 1956, House explained why he should retire as chancellor and teach in the English Department rather than compete with William Friday for the newly created position of University president. House wrote, "I can help the president better than I can be the president." Also of interest is a letter, dated 12 March 1955, from House to Daily Tar Heel editor Charles Kuralt in which House described his life as a University of North Carolina student in 1916 and recalled his first impressions of Chapel Hill.
Family events during this time included the marriage of House's daughter Caroline in 1949; the birth of House's granddaughter Ann Stewart in 1952; and the death of House's son Robert in October 1953.
Other correspondence concerns House's activities and interests outside of the University, including his membership in the Watauga Club; church activities; awards and honorary degrees received; speaking engagements; and radio broadcasts and television appearances, including an invitation to play the harmonica on the television program Two For the Money with Herb Shriner in April 1956.
Topics covered in correspondence also includes world events and their effects upon the University of North Carolina, including the Korean War, segregation, and the Red Scare of the McCarthy era. The effect of the Korean War on the University budget is a topic of correspondence in 1951. Also in 1951, House wrote a letter on behalf of a University of North Carolina alumnus who had been accused of "unamericanism" by Senator McCarthy. In a letter to Katherine Carmichael, dated 31 October 1951, House wrote, "There is no immediate answer to the negro situation. If the newspapers didn't have to get up a story, there would be nothing sensational in the whole thing."
Correspondents include: Olin T. Binkley, Victor S. Bryant, Katherine Carmichael, Lenoir Chambers, Harry W. Chase, R. Gregg Cherry, Albert Coates, Harry Comer, W. T. Couch, Hardin Craig, Christopher Crittenden, Josephus Daniels, Jonathan Daniels, J. C. B. Ehringhaus, A. J. Fletcher, Congressman Carl T. Durham, Frank Porter Graham, Louis Graves, Bowman Gray, O. Max Gardner, Parkhill Jarvis, Fred Koch, Jr., Charles L. Raper, Terry Sanford, Samuel Selden, Charles Sisson, K. S. Tanner, Charles Tillett, and William Umstead.
Correspondence chiefly concerns House's speaking engagements and televised Sunday school class. Several letters provide or request genealogical information.
Correspondence with House's friend and colleague Hardin Craig concerns House's popularity as a teacher in the University of North Carolina English Department, 1957-1962, and his having, in effect, embarked upon a new career late in life. In a letter to House, dated 16 April 1959, Craig wrote, "One's younger colleagues rarely understand that a man who continues his professional activities has no interest in university politics, no desire for promotion in salary or rank, but has a simple pleasure in doing his stuff."
Of interest is the enclosure in February 1958 of a letter written to House in 1917 by his former professor Edwin Greenlaw. House apparently loaned the letter for use in a biography about Edwin Greenlaw by his brother Lowell. In the 1917 letter, Greenlaw encouraged House, who was at Harvard, to become "a useful servant of your generation" and stated, "Get your degree--a good one--and come back to me and I'll show you a field of work that won't lead to fortune but to a service of a richness that you cannot apprehend now."
Correspondents include Hardin Craig, Gordon Gray, and Louis R. Wilson.
Arrangement: Alphabetical by topic or type.
Chiefly typed versions of speeches, articles, radio addresses, and book reviews by House.
Dedication addresses: Includes remarks at the dedications of the Duke University Indoor Stadium, January 1940; the William R. Davie School in Halifax County, N.C., April 1941; and Harrelson Hall at North Carolina State University, March 1962 #03581, Series: "2. Writings, 1922-1973 and undated." Folder 109
Introductions and welcome addresses: Includes introductions of Harold Willis Dodds, president of Princeton University, and of Robert MacDonald Lester, secretary of the Carnegie Corporation. The addresses of welcome were made at Catawba College and to the Thirteenth Annual Press Institute in Chapel Hill on 14 January 1937 #03581, Series: "2. Writings, 1922-1973 and undated." Folder 114
Twitty, Sallie Drake: Biographical sketch and correspondence, including letters House received in February-November 1973 while preparing a biographical sketch of Twitty (1835-1923) for the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, edited by William S. Powell #03581, Series: "2. Writings, 1922-1973 and undated." Folder 123-124
Arrangement: By type.
Chiefly typed versions of speeches, articles, radio addresses, and book reviews by House.
Writings by others, including four lectures by Hardin Craig on Milton and Shakespeare; a 1950 address by Albert Coates in recognition of 25 years of service by House; an undated sermon by Parson Moss entitled "A Review of the Word Spirit"; and "Academic Freedom" by Victor S. Bryant #03581, Series: "2. Other Papers, 1934-1962 and undated." Folder 129
Items separated include pictures (P-3581/1-35).Back to Top