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Thomas Woodson Poor papers

Call Number:  RH MS 1568


Thomas Woodson Poor was an Olympic high jumper who competed at the University of Kansas (KU) from 1921 to 1925. He also served as the President of the Chamber of Commerce for Olathe, Kansas and Seneca, Missouri, and was elected Mayor of Olathe in 1949. His papers comprise newspapers, photographs, certificates, diplomas, artifacts, and correspondence that relates to milestones in Poor's life, including his courtship of Naomi Ruth Sparlin.


  • Creation: 1904 - July 10, 2021


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 Thomas Woodson Poor (1903 - 1965)

Thomas Woodson Poor was born on December 15, 1903 in Bismarck, Missouri. Poor graduated from McAlester High School in McAlester, Oklahoma in 1921 before going on to join the track and field team at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.

In high school and at KU, Poor was a high jumper and earned the nickname "The Kansas Grasshopper." Completing a personal best jump of 6'5.5" while at KU, Poor competed at the Boston Olympic Trials in 1924 and won first place, earning him a spot on the 1924 U.S. Olympic Team. Poor placed 4th in high jump at the Paris Olympics. Notably, Poor also competed in the the first Kansas Relays at KU, placing first in the Relays' inaugural high jump event.

Poor married Naomi Ruth Sparlin in Seneca, Missouri on June 18, 1929. They had six children together, who included Sidney Poor, Melinda Sue Poor, and Melanie (Poor) Cottam.

After graduating from KU in 1925, Poor began working as a car salesman in Olathe, Kansas. He became the president of the Olathe Chamber of Commerce, served on the Olathe School Board, and eventually was elected mayor of Olathe, a position he held from 1949-1951. Poor notably improved the sewer system of Olathe, kept contact with the Naval Air Base in Olathe open, and also promoted a fly-killing campaign to help stop the spread of polio after his daughter Melinda Sue died from the disease in 1946.

Poor sold his car dealership in 1953 and moved back to Seneca. Poor served as the Secretary for the Grand Lake o' the Cherokees in Oklahoma for several years.

Thomas Woodson Poor died on December 20, 1965.

[Information taken from collection materials.]


2.25 Linear Feet (4 boxes + 2 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder, 1 volume)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

Thomas Woodson Poor's papers comprise materials significant to milestones in his life. Materials have been arranged into five series: Papers, Love letters and other correspondence, KU Class of 1925 Reunion, Grand Lake o' The Cherokees, and Oversize materials.

The Papers series contains materials related to Poor's personal life, providing information regarding Poor's time as an Olympic athlete and a politician and to his family life. The Love letters and other correspondence series contains a collection of letters from Poor to his future Naomi from 1927-1930, as well as correspondence relevant to Poor's work or interests. The KU Class of 1925 Reunion series contains information about the 35th reunion at KU and contains lists of Class of 1925 members. The Grand Lake o' the Cherokees series contains information about Poor's time as the Secretary for the Grand Lake o' the Cherokees and information about Grand Lake o' the Cherokees, Oklahoma.

There are several oversize newspapers and newspaper clippings that comprise the Oversize series, which have been physically separated from the rest of the collection and are available at RH MS Q495, RH MS R508, and RH MS R509.

Physical Location

RH MS 1568

Physical Location

RH MS Q495

Physical Location

RH MS R508, RH MS R509

Physical Location

RH MS D306

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Sidney Poor and Melanie (Poor) Cottam, 2021.

Related Materials

Consult library staff regarding the availability of related photographs, biographical files, and scrapbooks.

Separated Materials

University of Kansas-related artifacts, including Poor's freshman beanie, track trophy, 1924 Olympic running shoes, and possible track shorts, remain in object storage in the University Archives.

Lee, James C. Mayors of Olathe Kansas: 1870-2007. Olathe, KS: James C. Lee, [2006?]. Available at Spencer Research Library at RH C12622.

Guide to the Thomas Woodson Poor Collection
Thomas Woodson Poor papers
Finding aid prepared by mmj, 2022. Finding aid encoded by mmj, 2022. Finding aid revised by mmj, mwh, 2022.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Thomas Woodson Poor papers, RH MS 1568, 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