Johnny Tolbert letters
Scope and Contents
The Johnny Tolbert letters consists of 151 letters and four Western Union telgrams sent between 1943-1946 from Johnny Tolbert (1924-1989), to Ruth Mae Clennell (1925-2000), who would later become his wife, during his tour of duty as a soldier in the Second World War. The letters are accompanied by their original envelopes bearing stamps and Army examiner markings, along with occassional postcards, newspaper clippings, and print ephemera Tolbert included with his letters.
Tolbert primarily writes of his love for Clennell and his feelings of homesickness, though he also briefly mentions events of the Second World War, observations of local natives, and his attitudes toward the Japanese, which are reflective of the time period.
The letters are organized chronologically and are kept with their original envelopes, as well as any other clippings or print ephemera Tolbert included.
- Tolbert, Johnny (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
COLLECTION STORED OFF SITE. Advance notice required for access.
Conditions Governing Use
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.
Biographical / Historical
Johnny (or Johnnie) Clifton Tolbert was born on March 28, 1924 in Blount County, Alabama to Lawrence C. Tolbert and Flora M. Layton. He was the oldest of six children. On February 23, 1943, he enlisted as a soldier for the United States Army in Fort McClellan, Alabama. He was deployed September 3, 1943 to the South Pacific as part of the 245th Port Company. Throughout the Second World War, he was stationed in Australia, New Guinea, New Britain, and the Philippines, where he participated in a beach invasion. After the Japanese surrendered, Tolbert was sent to Leyte, Okinawa, and Shanghai, where he guarded Japanese prisoners. After Shanghai, Tolbert finally came back home to the United States. He arrived first in Honolulu, and then in Seattle on December 24, 1945. By the time Tolbert married Ruth Clennell on March 30, 1946, Tolbert had been discharged and had moved to Birmingham. They married in Birmingham, where Tolbert worked at the Haverty Furniture Company. Eventually, by 1952, Johnny and Ruth Tolbert moved to San Pedro, California, where Johnny was employed as a ship clerk and salesman while Ruth stayed at home as a homemaker. They remained married until Tolbert's death. Johnny Clifton Tolbert died on June 1, 1989 in Los Angeles, California. He was buried in Green Hills Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California, where Ruth was later buried as well after her death on January 3, 2000.
0.58 Linear Feet (1 box)
Language of Materials
The Johnny Tolbert letters is a collection of 151 letters and four Western Union telgrams sent from United States Army soldier Johnny Tolbert (1924-1989), also known as Johnnie Clifton or J.C., to Ruth Mae Clennell (1925-2000) from San Pedro, California between 1943-1946.
Tolbert met Clennell on September 2, 1943, the night before his deployment to the South Pacific. Tolbert's love and affection for Clennell and his feelings of homesickness are the main themes of the letters, though his letters also touch upon the events of the Second World War, observations of local natives, and attitudes toward the Japanese that are reflective of the time period.
The collection also includes original envelopes with stamps and Army examiner markings, postcards, newspaper clippings, and print ephemera.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Purchased from The Bookshop, September 30, 2014.
- Japanese -- Attitudes -- 20th century -- Archival resources
- Printed ephemera
- Racism -- 20th century -- Archival resources
- Soldiers -- United States -- 20th century -- Archival resources
- Tolbert, Johnny -- Archives
- United States -- Armed Forces -- Military life -- 20th century -- Archival resources
- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Archival resources
- World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Pacific Ocean -- Archival resources
- World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives
- World War, 1939-1945 -- United States -- Archival resources
- Finding aid for the Johnny Tolbert letters
- Joanna Chen
- 2014 November
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
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