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Inventory of the Benjamin C. Willis papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Accruals
  • Related Materials
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Title: Benjamin C. Willis papers
    Date (inclusive): 1921-1982
    Collection Number: 82064
    Contributing Institution: Hoover Institution Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 362 manuscript boxes, 6 oversize boxes, 4 motion picture film reels (146.8 linear feet)
    Abstract: Minutes and verbatim transcripts of meetings, statistics, reports, correspondence, speeches, sound recordings, and motion picture film relating to public education in Chicago. Digital use copies of selected items also available.
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Archives
    Creator: Willis, Benjamin C.


    Collection is open for research.
    Use copies of some sound recordings in this collection are available for immediate access. To listen to other sound recordings or to view videos, films, or digital files during your visit, please contact the Archives at least two working days before your arrival. We will then advise you of the accessibility of the material you wish to see or hear. Please note that not all material is immediately accessible.

    Publication Rights

    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Benjamin C. Willis papers, [Box no.], Hoover Institution Archives.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired by the Hoover Institution Archives in 1982.


    Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. To determine if this has occurred, find the collection in Stanford University's online catalog at http://searchworks.stanford.edu/ . Materials have been added to the collection if the number of boxes listed in the online catalog is larger than the number of boxes listed in this finding aid.

    Related Materials

    Samuel Miller Brownell papers, Hoover Institution Archives
    Lawrence G. Derthick papers, Hoover Institution Archives
    Samuel Halperin papers, Hoover Institution Archives
    Edward Wynne papers, Hoover Institution Archives

    Biographical Note

    1901 December 23 Born, Baltimore, Maryland
    1920s Bachelor of Arts, George Washington University
      Masters, University of Maryland
    1930-1934 Principal, Catonsville High School, Maryland
    1947-1953 Superintendent of public schools in Yonkers and Buffalo, New York
    1953-1966 Superintendent of public schools in Chicago, Illinois
    1961 Proposal to purchase aluminum portable classroom units approved by Chicago Board of Education
    1962-1963 Protested by Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders for using portable classrooms, or "Willis Wagons" as they were called by protesters, to relieve overcrowding at schools in Chicago's South Side
    1963 Helped develop the federal Vocational Education Act
    1965 Helped develop the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act
    1968-1972 Worked as an independent educational consultant
    1970-1972 Superintendent of schools in Broward County, Florida
    1972 Retired from education
    1988 August 27 Died, Plantation, Florida

    Scope and Content of Collection

    This collection is comprised of the office and personal files of Benjamin Coppage Willis, documenting his activities as superintendent of Chicago schools and as a major figure in public education from 1953 to 1969, represented in the form of minutes and verbatim transcripts of meetings, reports, correspondence, speeches, printed matter, photographs, sound recordings, motion picture film, and memorabilia.
    The majority of Willis' papers focus on his meetings, interactions, and engagements with the Chicago Board of Education, its members, and critics. Minutes and verbatim transcripts from meetings, correspondence, reports, and conference materials are included in this portion of the collection and focus mainly on the topics of curriculum development; enrollment figures; grants; school budget and finances; mobile classrooms; teacher education; and collective bargaining.
    The sound recordings of Board of Education meetings in the collection were originally aired on Chicago public radio from 1962 to 1966. Some of the programs include a segment featuring Willis called "Dr. Willis Reports." Materials relating to Willis' symbolic (and temporary) resignation from the Board of Education in 1963, spurred by the Board's decision to alter the student transfer policy, are included in the collection in the form of correspondence, public statements, superintendent contract files, photographs, and printed matter.
    Accompanying these materials are Willis' research findings, reports, ledgers, correspondence, speeches, and photographs from conferences on the advancement of vocational education programs in urban cities. As a major proponent of vocational education, Willis helped found the Great Cities School Improvement project, which later changed its name to the Research Council of the Great Cities for School Improvement Program. The group held conferences across the United States, collaborated with administrators and Board of Education members from major U.S. cities, and participated in congressional hearings to advance education policies, standards, and sources of funding. Conference materials include reports and presentations on topics relating to teacher education, grants and funding, and the special needs of children in urban schools.
    Other materials in the collection include correspondence, daily planners, yearbooks, and printed matter from Willis' early career in education, as well as reports, speeches, conference materials, and correspondence from Willis' time in the AASA and as superintendent of schools in Broward County, Florida.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Motion pictures.
    Sound recordings.