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Papers of Joe Douglas

Call Number: RH MS 596


The papers of Joe Douglas, an African American Kansan, document his career with the Topeka, Kansas Fire Department and his active civic involvement. It ranges from correspondence to newspaper clippings to certificates that Mr. Douglas has received. Also included are Douglas's many photographs of the Fire Department and of other Topeka organizations and events, as well as photographs of other Douglas family members and the damage from the 1966 tornado in Topeka.


  • Creation: 1891, 1908-1988, 2002-2005


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions

Biography of Joe J. Douglas, Jr.

Joseph J. Douglas, Jr. was born June 9, 1928 in Topeka, Kansas to Joseph J. and Imogene (Taylor) Douglas. A life-long Topeka resident, he graduated from Topeka public schools and attended Washburn University. He married Nathalia Jean Washington on January 29, 1950, with whom he had a daughter, Shelley Jolana Douglas Wilder. A career firefighter, Douglas joined the Topeka Fire Department in 1950, serving as Chief from 1983 to 1989. In addition to firefighting, Douglas was active in civic, educational, and church affairs. He served on the boards of the Topeka Boys' Club and the Boy Scouts of America, chaired the United Methodist Church Kansas East Conference on Religion and Race, and was a leader in the United Methodist Youth Fellowship Institute. After heading a Community Advisory Committee on Education during the 1970s busing controversy, in which schools were requested to integrate by busing students from one district to another, he was elected to the board of the Topeka Unified School District #501 in 1977 and served for eight years, including two terms as president. Douglas ardently advocated African American equality, writing articles, delivering lectures, and consulting on racism, desegregation, and other minority issues. He was honored for his community service with several awards, including a Presidential citation for extraordinary service with the Boys' Club of America in 1973 and the Kansas Friends of Education award in 1986. An avid amateur photographer, Douglas took many photographs recording the history and social life of the African American community in Topeka during the 1950s and 1960s. These images depict the fire department as well as other organizations and events and the Douglas family.


2.5 Linear Feet (6 document cases + 1 oversize folder, 2 audio cassette tapes)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The Joe Douglas Collection dates from circa 1910 to 1988 and is divided into two series: Papers and Photographs. The Papers pertain to Douglas' career with the Topeka Fire Department and to his volunteer community service. They include handwritten notes, letters, drafts of speeches and articles, formal correspondence, and printed material. The folders are arranged alphabetically by subject, and items within the folders are arranged chronologically. Over half of the collection consists of photographs Douglas took in Topeka during the 1950s and 1960s. The photographs are prints copied from his originals, unless otherwise indicated. They are divided into five sub-series: Topeka Fire Department; Topeka Places; Topeka Citizens; Topeka Churches and Weddings; and Douglas family. The folders in each sub-series are arranged chronologically. Photographs from the Joe Douglas collection are located at RH PH 90. One oversize folder is located at RH MS Q113. Two copies of an oral history interview conducted with Douglas in 2005 are located at RH Cassette Tape 49, the transcripts of which are with the papers at RH MS 596.


The Joe Douglas collection dates from circa 1910 to 1988 and is arranged in two series: Papers and Photographs. The photographs series is further arranged into five sub-series: Topeka Fire Department, Topeka Places, Topeka Citizens, Topeka Churches and Weddings; and Douglas family.

Physical Location

RH MS 596

Physical Location

RH PH 90

Physical Location

RH MS Q113

Physical Location

RH Cassette Tape 49

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts, Joe Douglas, 1987, 1988, 2010.

Guide to the Joe Douglas Collection
Papers of Joe Douglas
Finding aid prepared by hhh, 2005; revised by cl, 2010. Finding aid encoded by hhh, 2005; revised by cl, 2010; revised by mwh, 2017; eh, 2018; adc, 2018.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in<language encodinganalog="language">English</language>
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
Joe Douglas papers, Kansas Collection, RH MS 596, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

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

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States