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John Turner Miles collection

Call Number: RH MS 588


John Turner Miles owned and operated the Miles Funeral Home in Atchison, Kansas from 1927 until his death in 1971. His papers consist chiefly of diaries, dating from 1922 to 1958, which document Miles' personal life and business affairs as a mortician.


  • Creation: 1922 - 1976


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biography of John Turner Miles

John Turner Miles was born May 6, 1891 in Birmingham, Alabama, to Augustus G. Miles and Eliza Jane Fletcher. From 1927 until his death on December 15, 1971, he owned and operated the Miles Funeral Home (also known as the J.T. Miles Funeral Home and the J. T. Miles Mortuary) in Atchison, Kansas. Miles used his position as businessman, religious leader, and civic servant to champion the cause of minority enterprise.

J.T. Miles and his first wife, Katie Mae, resided in St. Louis, Missouri, before moving to Atchison, Kansas. On June 30, 1927, they purchased for $250.00 a building at 707 North 9th Street in Atchison and therein opened the Miles Funeral Home on July 17, 1927. Mrs. Miles was one of the few African American females with Kansas and Missouri embalmer's licenses. On May 14, 1930, the Miles opened a second funeral home at 814 Vermont Street in Lawrence, Kansas, which they operated until Mrs. Miles' death on January 15, 1943. Later that same year, Miles married Geneva Ramsey of St. Joseph, Missouri, who became a licensed lady attendant at the Atchison funeral home. The business was licensed in Missouri and Kansas.

Upon Miles' death, his children, Etta Mae Hunter, R.N. and George Miles, continued to run the family business until it closed in 1990.


2 Linear Feet (5 boxes + 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The papers of John Turner Miles date from 1922 to 1976, and are arranged in three series: Diaries, Business Papers and Personal Papers. There are 29 diaries, dating from 1922 to 1959. They are grouped by decade and arranged chronologically by year. All but one of the diaries document J.T. Miles' personal life and business affairs as a mortician. The exception is a 1948 diary of an unidentified woman, most likely Geneva Miles. J.T. Miles' daily diary entries, which usually begin with a brief note about the weather, chronicle his activities in Atchison, the surrounding Kansas communities of Lawrence, Troy, Hiawatha, and also St. Joseph, Missouri. In addition to recording the struggles of an African American small businessman in the mid-1900s, the diaries reveal the names of the deceased whom he embalmed and buried. Three printing blocks are housed with the diaries.

The collection's Business Papers date from 1927 to 1976 and include funeral home documents, promotional material, and newspaper clippings. Personal papers consist of Miles family birth and death records. Subject contents of these series are alphabetical, with chronological subarrangement of items within folders.

The photographs in the John Turner Miles Collection depict J.T. Miles and his daughter Etta Mae Hunter in family, business and civic settings. They are located at RH MS-P 588.

One oversized item, a 1983 wall calendar picturing Etta Mae as a young girl, is located at RH MS Q107.


The John Turner Miles Papers are arranged in three series: Diaries, Business Papers, and Personal Papers.

Physical Location

RH MS 588

Physical Location

RH MS-P 588

Physical Location

RH MS Q107

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Mrs. Etta M. Hunter, 1988.

Processing Information

Previously shelved at: RH MS 499

Guide to the John Turner Miles Collection
John Turner Miles collection
Finding aid prepared by hhh, 2005; revised by, cl 2010; revised by skt, 2010; Finding aid encoded by hhh, 2005; revised by skt, 2010
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
John Turner Miles Collection, Kansas Collection, 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