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John L. Whitelaw papers

Identifier: c-00379

Scope and Contents

This collection includes two folders of correspondence (1945) from Brigadier General John L. Whitelaw to relatives in East Lansing, Michigan, when he was stationed in Germany during World War II. In his letters, Whitelaw describes the Ruhr Valley area and Berlin after the German surrender, and comments on the Russian soldiers, trains and the civilian food situation.

The collection also contains two scrapbooks. One (1883-1900) contains nineteenth-century pictorial advertisements, newspaper clippings, and early "Mutt and Jeff" comic strips. The second scrapbook is cloth and was compiled by Whitelaw as a child.


  • Creation: 1883 - 1945
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1883 - 1900

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.


John Leonard "Jack" Whitelaw was born in Savannah, Georgia, on September 18, 1899, but grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. From 1915 to 1917, he attended The Citadel in Charleston. Upon graduation, he chose the Coast Artillery Corps, but transferred to the Infantry. He served with the 29th Infantry and was an Instructor in the English Department at West Point. In 1939, he graduated from the Command and General Staff School. In 1943, he was promoted to Brigadier General and was the Deputy Commanding General of the 17th Airborne Division. After World War II, he was assigned to Germany where he was Deputy Commander in Berlin. Following this he was assigned as Professor of Military Science and Tactics at Michigan State University and then he went to Trieste. In 1948, he was Chief of Staff of TRUST, where he later became Deputy Commanding General. Then there were two years as Assistant Commanding General of the 10th Division, with headquarters at Fort Riley and then he was Inspector General of Army Forces Far East (AFFE). His awards included the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, and the Army Commendation Ribbon. He retired in 1955 and then entered the University of Michigan where in 1956 he earned a Master of Arts Degree in Library Science. He then became Librarian at Michigan State University where he established the Highway Safety Department Library. He later became Head Librarian for the Special Collections Department at Michigan State University until his retirement. In 1957, he became National Vice Chairman for Fund Raising, American Red Cross Michigan and in 1959 he became a member of the Highway Research Board. In 1961, he published the book, A Selected Bibliography of Highway Traffic Safety. He was also Executive Secretary of Friends of the Library for Michigan State University. Early in his military career, he married Mary Emily Ranney of Greenville, Michigan. They were the parents of three children. On April 26, 1970, he died in Edward Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan, after a short illness. He was survived by his wife Mary Emily; his son; two daughters and nine grandchildren; his brother Bob and his sister Mary Whitelaw. (Source: United States Military Academy Association of Graduates memorial. Retrieved from on May 14, 2015)


0.1 Cubic Feet (, 2 folders, 2 scrapbooks)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Gift of John W. Whitelaw, 1966-11-07. Transferred by Michigan State University Museum.

Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

John L. Whitelaw Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US