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James Austin Anderson papers

Identifier: MSS-0078

Scope and Contents

This collection contains information about the history of Tuscaloosa. Anderson transcribed newspapers articles, created scrapbooks, and documented his own knowledge of the early beginnings of Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama. Anderson included short biographies of prominent Tuscaloosa and University persons.


  • 1898-1941


Conditions Governing Access


Biographical / Historical

James Austin Anderson (6 April 1871 - 26 July 1941), a native of Jackson, Tennessee, came to The University of Alabama in 1898 as assistant in the Geological Museum under Dr. Eugene A. Smith, who was at that time State Geologist, as well as Professor of Geology at the university. The office and the museum occupied the lower floor of Garland Hall.

Dr. Smith was the Chairman of the Athletic Association which was desperately in need of some dependable source of income. It had been suggested by some of the alumni that a store was needed on campus where students, faculty and staff could purchase general supplies, since there were none any nearer than downtown Tuscaloosa, a mile from the campus. Anderson volunteered, with Dr. Smith’s approval, to run a small campus store and to give one-half of the profits, if any, to the Athletic Association. If it failed, he would accept the responsibility as a personal loss. Incidentally, he continued his work as Curator of the museum.

The store became a reality in December 1905 when a room on the first floor of Woods Hall was stocked with the simple commodities such as candy, chewing gum, tablets, pencils, and other supplies. Text books were added later. At the end of the year, a substantial sum was turned over to the Athletic Association, and the project was put on a permanent basis. As the store grew, it was moved to larger quarters in the western end of Woods Hall, and a soda fountain was added.

In 1908, when the post office was moved from Gorgas House to Woods Hall, Anderson was appointed postmaster, succeeding Mrs. Amelia Gayle Gorgas. Practically all of the post office equipment was moved by wheelbarrow to suitable quarters adjacent to the Supply Store. Several other moves were made as the store and post office both increased in their respective scopes. With the opening of the Union Building in 1930, these enterprises found their present quarters in that building.

Anderson served 33 years Postmaster and even longer as general manager of the Supply Store. During this time he had two hobbies to which he ardently applied his spare time. One of these was his interest in anthropology and geology, and especially in the acquisition and development of the Mound Park project. The other was his extensive research for the assembling of a vast collection of old books, papers, and documents relating to Alabama history. By diligent search of attics and basements, he procured for the University many valuable collections such as the Jemison Papers, those of Shelby Iron Works, old diaries, and scrapbooks of historical significance.

In recognition of this research and of his writings which resulted from it, in May 1938 the University conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature. He was a member of the Board of Regents of the Mound Park development, a member of the Alabama Anthropological Society, and was a Fellow in the Institute of American Genealogy.

Upon his retirement as Postmaster at the age of 70 in May 1941, he was appointed as the first Archivist of the University, and an office was set up on the third floor of the then new library building where he hoped to work on his long-cherished project of a history of the city of Tuscaloosa and of the University of Alabama. He had already finished a manuscript copy of the military history of the University, which he gave in condensed form as a lecture before the R.O.T.C. group in April 1941. After two months as Archivist, his failing health prevented his completion of his historical research. Anderson died on 26 July 1941.

His valuable collection of books, documents, and papers were donated to the University Library by his widow, Mrs. Willie Leach Anderson, of Tuscaloosa.


2 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



A collection of copies of newspaper clippings and information about Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and its people.


Gift of Mrs. J. A. Anderson, 1942

Processed by

S. Braden, 2008; updated by April Burnett and Martha Bace, 2012
Guide to the James Austin Anderson papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266