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George A. Towns collection

 Collection — Box: 1-10
Identifier: 0000-0000-0000-0059

Scope and contents

This collection consists of the papers of George Alexander Towns from 1851 to 1963. It includes correspondence, literary works, diaries, photographs, and publications. The bulk of the materials pertain to Towns' association with Atlanta University (AU) both as a student and faculty member. The earliest materials concern Lucy Elizabeth (Merriam) Case, a favorite teacher of Towns at AU, and include her biography which tells of the beginning of the school and a few of its students. Correspondence from Horace Bumstead (AU’s second president) describes Towns' fundraising and public relations work, his support of William Monroe Trotter’s attack on Booker T. Washington, and Towns' subsequent censure by AU’s Board of Trustees. Correspondence from AU classmate James Weldon Johnson traces Johnson’s literary career and their involvement with the struggle of African American men. Correspondence between Towns and Harvard Classmate William N. Seaver discusses national and local politics, World War II, and the Civil Rights Movement. Other major correspondents include Myron W. Adams, Rufus E. Clement, William Henry Crogman, W.E.B. DuBois, and Edward Twichell Ware. The collection also contains materials pertaining to Towns' career at Fort Valley; drafts of poems, prose, and class lecture notes; and his essays and notes from when he was a student.


  • Creation: 1885-1960


Rights Statement

All materials in this collection are either protected by copyright or are the property of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc., and/or the copyright holder as appropriate. For more information, please contact

Biographical note

George Alexander Towns (b. 1870 d. 1960) was an educator, author, and community activist. For most of his life, Towns was affiliated with Atlanta University (AU), first as a student, then professor and finally as an active alumnus. One of his most notable contributions is as founder and editor of the Crimson and Gray, the AU Alumni Association monthly newsletter. He was a member of the class of 1894 which also included his close friend James Weldon Johnson with whom he corresponded until Johnson's death. In 1929 when Atlanta University shifted its curriculum to only graduate level courses, Towns retired. He went to Fort Valley Normal and Industrial School (now Fort Valley State University, Georgia) where he was assistant to the principal and later acting principal until 1938. He was active in the community as a member of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP, the Citizen's League, the Boulé of Atlanta (Sigma Pi Phi), and the Community Chest. A member of the Harvard University Class of 1900, he was also active in the Harvard University Alumni Association and in the 1920's used his class connections to raise funds for Atlanta University. His lifelong passion for writing is evidenced in the many odes he authored on special occasions and his poems, some of which were published.

Biographical timeline

1870 March 5
Born to Luke and Mary (Coates) Towns in Albany, Georgia
Entered Atlanta University Grammar School
Graduated from Atlanta University (A.B.)
Taught at Atlanta University in the Scientific and Mechanical Departments
Graduated from Atlanta University (A.M.)
Graduated from Harvard University (A.B.)
Professor of pedagogy, English and debating team coach at Atlanta University
1902 September 17
Married Nellie McNair (1879-1967) of Fulton County, Georgia. Daughter of Felix and Hattie (Cherry) McNair.
1903 September 11
First son born (died 1903 September 12)
1904 December 6
Daughter Helen Dorothy Towns born (died 1905 July 10)
1907 February 10
Daughter Grace Towns (Hamilton) born (died 1992 June 17)
1909 January 20
Son George A. Towns, Jr. born
1910 October 4
Son Myron Bumstead Towns born (died 1967 May 5)
Charter member of the first Atlanta Chapter of the NAACP
1920 December 2
Daughter Harriet Mary (Jenkins) born
Associate Principal at Fort Valley Normal and Industrial School (now Fort Valley State University, Georgia)
Published "The Sharecropper: A Play in One Act"
Elected one of the "Ten Outstanding Graduates" of Atlanta University
Spearheaded one-man campaign to encourage and assist more than 1,000 African-American Atlantans to register to vote
1960 December 20
Died in Atlanta; buried at South View Cemetery
1963 October 20
George A. Towns Elementary School dedicated in Atlanta


5.5 Linear feet

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged into eleven series: Personal papers; Correspondence; Academic records; Writings by George Towns; Atlanta University; Harvard University; Organizations; Nellie McNair Towns; Lucy E. Merriam Case; Photographs; and Printed and published materials.

George A. Towns collection, 1885-1960
Finding aid prepared by Cathy Lynn Mundale, 2000 December.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc. Repository


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