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James Watson papers

Identifier: MSS 589 large

Scope and Contents

The James Watson papers consist of a wide range of materials with assorted handwritten notes, loose articles, project binders, corporate-related papers, advertisements, commercial items, business correspondence, and personal papers. The collection also has many folder that has various material sorted by different turf concepts.


  • Creation: 1950 - 1990


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Access

The material is stored off site. Please request 3 working days in advance if you wish to use it.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the authors of the items in this collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law. For photocopy and duplication requests, please contact the Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong Special Collections, Michigan State University Libraries.

Biographical / Historical

Dr. James Watson (1920-2013) was known for a variety of turfgrass-related accomplishments, both nationally and internationally. He received his bachelor’s degree in agronomy in 1947 from Texas A&M University and in 1950 earned his doctorate from Penn State University. After graduating, he became an assistant professor at Texas A&M before joining the Toro Company in 1952 as the Director of Agronomy. Dr. Watson was responsible during that time for leading a team of 25 researchers, and establishing test plots. The area where these tests were conducted is now known as the Dr. James R. Watson Research & Development Proving Grounds. By the end of his illustrious career at the Toro Company, Dr. Watson retired not only with the title of Vice President of Agronomy, but also having led the way in turfgrass research for adaptability of species and cultivars, fertilization practices, equipment development, snow mold prevention, and water management research, to name a few focal interests. Following retirement, Dr. Watson acted as a consultant to both the Toro Company and the turfgrass industry as a whole. He was the recipient of numerous industry awards, including the United States Golf Association’s Green Section Award in 1976, the first recipient of the Crop Society of America’s Fred V. Grau Turfgrass Science Award in 1987, the Old Tom Morris Award from GCSAA in 1995, the USGA Green Section’s Piper and Oakley Award in 1998, and the USGA’s Ike Grainger Award in 2009. Those throughout the industry agree that he was a man with vision and knowledge, revered as a pioneer in turfgrass science, and that turfgrass science has been made considerably better thanks to his extensive efforts over the years. A dedicated turfgrass researcher, Dr. Watson passed away on October 1st, 2013 at the age of 92.


42.4 Linear Feet (42 boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged into 12 series: Series 1: Turf concepts Series 2: Day files Series 3: Workshops, symposiums, and conferences Series 4: People and projects Series 5: Toro Series 6: Workshops and conferences Series 7: Speeches Series 8: Organizations Series 9: Educational Series 10: Manuscripts Series 11: Historical, images and miscellaneous Series 12: Miscellaneous

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated by the family of Dr. James R. Watson in 2015.

Separated Materials

Series of approximately 19,000 slides on turfgrass topics such as: grasses, weeds, diseases, pests, etc. Slides are housed in the Turfgrass Information Center at Michigan State University

Processing Information

Nick DeVolder processed this collection in 2017.

Finding Aid for the James Watson papers
4 Published And Cataloged
Finding aid by Nick DeVolder.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong Special Collections Repository

MSU Libraries
366 W. Circle Drive
East Lansing MI 48823 USA