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Robbins Family Papers and Memorabilia

Call Number: RH MS 1364


The collection documents Ronald Robbins' Navy career as Senior Chief Yeoman (1944-1980), his sister, Janice Robbins' life and service in the US Air Force Reserves (1964-1971), Janice's husband John Tarlton's involvement in the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and a portion of the Robbins Family Collection. The final portion of the collection concerns Ronald and Janice's parents, George and Louise Robbins.


  • Creation: 1910 - 2000


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

History of the Robbins family

Ronald Maxwell Robbins and Janice Marylyn Robbins Tarlton were two of five children born to George F. Robbins and Emily Louise Kennedy Robbins of Worcester, MA.

George F. Robbins was born August 18, 1890 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Africa. He immigrated to the U.S. with the help of Alliance Church Missionaries around 1910. He attended the Boydton Institute in Virginia from about 1911-1914 which was run by the Alliance Church at the time. The Institute provided education and bible training for students of African descent. George married Emily Louise in April 1921 in Worcester, Massachusetts.

George and Louise had five children: Alfred, June 11, 1925; Ronald, February 7, 1926; Margaret Ann, March 31, 1928; George Jr., March 24, 1930; and Janice, October 5, 1934. George Sr. died May 16, 1967. Louise died September 6, 1990.

Three of the Robbins children served in the US Military. Alfred served during WWII. Ronald Robbins was drafted after his 18th birthday in 1944 and served in the US Navy as an enlisted serviceman until 1980 attaining an E-8 rank as Senior Chief Yeoman. He began his naval career at Great Lakes, Illinois in a racially segregated training camp in Company 1391, commanded by J. Dailey in 1944. He was posted at the Advanced Base Reshipment Depot at Pearl Harbor, the Naval Operating Base at Midway Island, and Logistic Support Company 150, Okinawa, Japan before he was discharged in 1946.

Ronald Robbins reenlisted several times during his naval career. He served during the Korean War during his second enlistment. In his naval career he served aboard the USS Robert H. McCard, USS Rochester, USS Yosemite, USS Essex, and USS Wasp. His work as a Yeoman entailed clerical, organizational, and procedural knowledge and ability. He worked as a Flag Writer or personal secretary to Naval Flag Officers later in his career including the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet Command. While aboard the USS Wasp, Robbins was witness to at least two NASA orbital mission recoveries, including Gemini IX and Gemini XII which carried Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell.

In 1980, Robbins ended his naval career at the Naval Submarine School in New Groton, Connecticut where he was Administrative Office Supervisor in the Submarine Surveillance Equipment Program Department. During his naval service, he was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Good Conduct Medal with four bronze stars (five time recipient), China Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal with bronze star, Korean Service Medal and the United Nations Service Medal. Mr. Robbins worked for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts after his release from the Navy. He died March 30, 1993.

Janice Robbins Tarlton, the youngest of the five children, graduated from Framingham Teachers College, Massachusetts in 1956. She worked as a dietician at Freedman's Hospital/Howard University Hospital, Washington, D.C. from September 1956-September 1957 and Janice then became a dietician at Grace New Haven Community Hospital, Connecticut from September of 1957-July 1960. Then she moved to Samaritan's Hospital, Troy, NY. She enlisted in the US Air Force Reserve at the rank of Captain in 1964 and served in medical food services for USAF Hospitals.

During her military service, Captain Robbins was posted at Wilford Hall USAF Hospital at Lackland AFB in Texas, overseas in the UK at RAF Lakenheath and her discharge at Minot, ND AFB USAF Regional Hospital in 1971.

Following her military service, Janice married John Tarlton of Topeka, KS. Mr. Tarlton had earned a BFA with a Psychology minor from Washburn University and used his skills to provide art therapy to patients for 38 years at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas. Tarlton had been a member of the African American Fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, Delta Eta Lambda Chapter since 1957. He served as Chapter Treasurer and Vice President through the years. In 1984, he was asked to design a sculpture which he called "Common Justice" to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1954 Brown vs. Board Supreme Court decision. The sculpture stands today at the Law School of Washburn University.

Janice Robbins Tarlton died March 6, 2006. John Tarlton died August 11, 2014.


8.5 Linear Feet (14 boxes + 5 oversize boxes)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The majority of the collection documents Ronald Robbins' Naval career as Senior Chief Yeoman (1944-1980) and contains military service records, awards, personal and official navy photos (including NASA Gemini IX and XII mission recovery), framed photos, books and yearbooks, newsletters, numerous wooden plaques, military ribbon bars, medals, sewn insignias for uniforms, buttons, cufflinks, and navy dress hat.

A portion of the collection addresses his sister, Janice Robbins' life and service in the US Air Force Reserves (1964-1971) and includes service records, job duties, photos, training information. Her husband, John Tarlton, was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., an African American Fraternity. Tarlton's membership newsletters, memos, periodicals, and convention materials contribute Janice's family portion of the Robbins Family Collection.

The final portion of the collection concerns Ronald and Janice's parents, George and Louise Robbins. George immigrated from Sierra Leone around 1910 through the Alliance Church. The collection includes African artifacts including a grass woven plate, wooden spoon, bush knife, and an English pronunciation dictionary which Robbins used on his arrival in the US. There is documentation of Louise's family history, and a collection of postcards which dates from approximately 1910-1970, and includes postcards sent to and from Robbins family members and friends.

Physical Location

RH MS 1364

Physical Location

RH MS Q399

Physical Location

RH MS R376

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Jennifer Tarlton, 2013.


Guide to the Robbins Family Collection
Robbins Family Papers and Memorabilia
Finding aid prepared by msb, 2016. Finding aid encoded by msb, 2016; revised by eh, 2018.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Support for the processing of this Collection was provided by the Dana and Sue Anderson African American Collecting Program Endowment Fund.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Robbins Family Collection, RH MS 1364, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States