Inventory of the Jasper A. (Jack) Atkins Papers, 1932 - 1949, 1959

Winston-Salem State University

Winston-salem State University Logo

Contact Information:

Winston-Salem State University Archives
C.G. O'Kelly Library
Winston-Salem, N.C. 27110

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Winston-Salem State University. Archives
Creator: Atkins, Jasper Alston (Jack), 1898-1982
Title: Jasper A. (Jack) Atkins Papers, 1932-1949, 1959
Language of Material: Material in English
Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult Winston-Salem State University Archives.

Jasper Alston (Jack) Atkins (1898-1982) was a noted civil rights lawyer and Executive Secretary of Winston-Salem Teachers College (now Winston-Salem State University) from 1936-1960. 
 The Atkins Collection contains 2 bound photocopies of Atkins' 1932 work The Texas Negro and His Political Rights: A History of the Fight of Negroes to Enter the Democratic Primaries of Texas and an audiocassette tape of his arguments in the 1959 civil rights case regarding golf course segregation, Wolfe v. State of North Carolina. It also contains 12 letters documenting Atkins' activities at WSTC, primarily from N.C. Newbold, Director of the Division of Negro Education in N.C. 



.4 linear feet, 1 archival box

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research

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Copyright Notice

Copyright for official university records is held by Winston-Salem State University. Copyright for other material is retained by the creators, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

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Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Jasper A. (Jack) Atkins Papers (MS 7), Winston-Salem State University Archives, Winston-Salem, NC, USA

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Acquisitions Information

Publication and tapes were donation of Jasper Atkins' daughters Anna Atkins Simkins and Simona Atkins Allen in 1991 and 1995. Most correspondence are photocopies of materials held in the state of N.C. Archives, made in 1989.

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Processing Information

Processed and encoded by Cat S. McDowell, May 2005

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Biographical Note

Jasper Alston (Jack) Atkins was born on August 8, 1898 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to Simon and Oleona Pegram Atkins, the founders of Slater Industrial Academy (now Winston-Salem State University). He graduated from Slater Industrial and State Normal School in 1915 and later attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he graduated as valedictorian in 1919. Atkins then enrolled in Yale University Law School, where he served as editor of the Yale Law Journal and was elected to the Order of the Coif, a prestigious national law honor society. He graduated with honors in 1922 with the LL.B. degree. Atkins then moved to Muskogee, Oklahoma, where he practiced law with Carter Wesley in the law firm of Wesley & Atkins. On July 8, 1925 Atkins married Fisk University classmate Maude Smith, a native of Charleston, South Carolina. In 1927, Atkins left Oklahoma and moved to Houston, Texas, where he became a partner in the law firm of Nabrit, Atkins & Wesley. While in Texas, Atkins served as secretary of the Safety Construction Company, secretary of the black-owned newspaper The Houston Informer, and grand attorney for the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in Texas, New Mexicon, and Arizona.

In 1936, Atkins left Texas and returned to his hometown of Winston-Salem to assist his ailing brother Francis in managing Winston-Salem Teachers College (WSTC). Jack Atkins remained at the school even after his brother's recovery, serving as Executive Secretary from 1936 to 1960. During the 1945-46 school year, Atkins also assumed the position of Alumni Association Secretary when regular secretary Rachel Diggs Wilkinson took a one-year leave of absence.

Atkins was a vociferous and staunch advocate for the civil rights of African-Americans. He argued several landmark cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, especially Grovey v. Townsend (1935), regarding a Texas state law which outlawed African-Americans from voting in municipal primaries, and Wolfe v. State of N.C. (1959), a case which centered around the segregation of golf courses. To bring the case of black voter disenfranchisement in Texas to a wider citizenry in 1932, Atkins published The Texas Negro and His Political Rights: A History of the Fight of Negroes to Enter The Demographic Primaries of Texas. In 1968, he filed a suit, Atkins, Pro Se Ve v. State Board of Education of North Carolina, to abolish the separate but equal policies of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System regarding school facilities. This case was later continued in 1970 as Allen v. State Board of Education of North Carolina. Although he eventually lost the case in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the suit prevented Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools from spending $25 million for a period of four years.

In addition to service as an attorney and an educational administrator, Atkins was very active in several civic and social organizations, especially the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. He also served on the local military draft board and from 1941 to 1958 and was a member of the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem. In 1960, Atkins retired from Winston-Salem Teachers College and resumed his legal and journalism careers in Houston as the editor of the Houston Informer. He died in Winston-Salem at the age of 81 in 1982.

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Collection Overview

The Atkins Papers consists of two bound photocopies of Atkins' 1932 work The Texas Negro and His Political Rights: A History of the Fight of Negroes to Enter the Democratic Primaries of Texas and an audio cassette tape of Wolfe v. State of North Carolina, which document Atkins' activities as a civil rights attorney and his aptitude as a legal scholar. His service as Executive Secretary at WSTC is documented through correspondence dating 1936 to 1937, 1940 to 1943, and 1949. Many of these 12 letters, photocopied from originals at the State of N.C. Archives, are from N.C. Newbold, Director of the Division of Negro Education in N.C. The collection also contains a few letters dealing with business issues at the college, as well as the T.C. Alumni Bulletin issue dedicated to Atkins upon his retirement in May 1960.

Online Catalog Headings

Atkins, Jasper Alston (Jack), 1898-1982. 

Newbold, N.C. (Nathan Carter). 

Winston-Salem Teachers College. 

Race discrimination--Law and legislation--North Carolina. 

African Americans--Legal status, laws, etc.--Texas. 

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Container List

Jack Atkins Papers        

Box 1
Correspondence, 1936-1937, 1940-1943, 1949

T.C. Alumni Bulletin, May 1960

The Texas Negro and His Political Rights: A History of the Fight of Negroes to Enter the Democratic Primaries of Texas. Houston: Webster Publishing Company, July 1932. (2 copies)

Cassette Tape: Wolfe v. State of North Carolina proceedings, Oct. 21, 1959