Claude C. Albritton family correspondence, 1888/1945:
A Guide to the Collection
A long-time SMU professor and administrator, Claude Carroll Albritton, Jr. was born on April 7, 1913, in Corsicana, Texas. He was the son of Claude Cleveland Albritton, Sr. (1884-1971), a Corsicana grade school principal, who became a real estate and oil entrepreneur in Dallas, and Iris I. Stapleton (1889-1944). Albritton, Jr. grew up in Corsicana and moved to Dallas, TX in 1929. He married Jane Christman on August 5, 1944, in Washington D.C., and the couple had three children. Claude C. Albritton died on November 1, 1988, in Dallas.
Albritton attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas from 1929 to 1933, and graduated with a B.S. in geology and a B.A. in geography. It was during the undergraduate years that he established long-term close relationships with SMU Professors Ellis Shuler and Edwin Foscue. Albritton went to graduate school at Harvard University between 1933 and 1936, earning the M.S. in geology in 1934 and the Ph.D. in geology in 1936. During his studies at Harvard, Albritton was a Harvard University fellow (1934-35) and a J.B. Woodworth fellow (1935-36). He worked under the mentorship of Dr. Marland Billings, who advised his doctoral dissertation on the geology of Trans-Pecos, Texas, and also did intensive field work in Massachusetts, Texas, and New Mexico, under the direction of Dr. Kirk Bryan.
Upon graduation in 1936, Dr. Albritton began teaching geology at Southern Methodist University and became assistant professor in 1938. In 1942, in the midst of World War II and aspiring to contribute his skills and experience to the government’s war efforts and quest for new mineral resources, Dr. Albritton took a temporary leave from SMU and worked for the U.S. Geological Survey in the branches of military geology and strategic minerals.
He returned to teaching at SMU in 1946. As an educator and administrator at SMU for more than half a century, Dr. Albritton was intensely involved in many aspects of the University’s development. His leadership was essential in the founding and strengthening of SMU’s science programs, especially geology and archaeology. He was one of the founders of the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man, which reunites the departments of Geology, Anthropology and Statistics, and supported the construction of the N.L. Heroy Science Hall and the Science Information Center. Dr. Albritton’s academic achievements were equally outstanding and peers and students alike highly admired his teaching style. He assisted in the expansion of SMU’s library system by playing a key role in the acquisition of the DeGolyer Western Library and in the launching of the science library with a strong geological sciences collection.
In addition to being a Professor of Geology (1947-55) and Hamilton Professor of Geology (1955-78), Dr. Albritton held various administrative positions: chairman of the Geology Department (1947-1951), Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (1952-57), Dean of the Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences (1957-71), Vice-president of the Institute of Earth and Man (1968-88), Vice Provost for Library Development (1971-73), Dean of Libraries (1973-78). He retired from teaching in 1979 and was named Professor Emeritus. He was also a trustee of SMU’s center in New Mexico, Fort Burgwin Research Center (now called SMU IN TAOS).
Dr. Albritton received numerous professional awards, including the SMU Faculty Achievement Award in 1963 and the Albritton Professorship in Geology at SMU in 1981 – an endowment of one million dollars by Dr. Roy M. Huffington. He was a member of several organizations, such as the Geological Society of America and the Council of the Paleontological Society, as well as of the Kappa Alpha fraternity and a charter member of Phi Beta Kappa at its establishment at SMU in 1949.
As a geologist, Dr. Albritton accomplished seminal research in the history and philosophy of geology, as well as in the areas of structural geology, paleontology and the geology of archeological sites. He did extensive field work in the American Southwest, as well as in Egypt and Ethiopia. As an active member of the Geological Society of America, he co-founded the society’s archaeological division. At the society’s centennial meeting in 1988, Dr. Albritton received the Archaeological Geology Award (Dr. James E. Brooks represented Dr. Albritton, on the day of his death, at the reception of the award).
Dr. Albritton authored, co-authored and edited numerous geological books and studies, among which, Philosophy of Geology; a Selected Bibliography and Index (1963, followed by several subsequent editions), The Abyss of Time; Changing Conceptions of the Earth’s Antiquity after the Sixteenth Century (1980), Catastrophic Episodes in Earth History (published in 1989), The Midland Discovery (1955, with Fred Wendorf), The Washita Group in the Valley of the Trinity River, Texas: a Field Guide (1955, with B. F. Perkins), The Geology of the Sierra Blanca Area; Hudspeth County, Texas (1965, with Fred Smith, Jr.), The Fabric of Geology (editor, 1963, at the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Geological Society of America), Uniformity and Simplicity; a Symposium on the Principle of the Uniformity of Nature (editor, 1967), Philosophy of Geohistory, 1785-1970 (1975, editor). He also contributed articles to scientific journals, such as Geological Society of America Bulletin, The Journal of Paleontology, and the American Journal of Science.
- Claude Carroll Albritton Jr. obituaries in Dallas Morning News (Nov. 2, 1988), Dallas Times Herald (Nov. 2, 1988), Daily Campus (Nov. 2, 1988)
- Brooks, James E. "Memorial to Claude C. Albritton, Jr., 1913-1988," in Geological Society of America Memorials 24 (1994): 129-131.
- SMU 94-234: Albritton Claude C., Jr. File 1: News and Information
The collection contains 3 boxes (43 folders in total) of correspondence to and from Claude C. Albritton. The materials cover Albritton’s years as a graduate student at Harvard and, later, as a geologist with the United States Geological Surveys. It includes mostly letters to and from the parents written on an almost daily basis. In addition to letters, the collection also includes a few telegrams, illustrated postcards, photographs, newspaper clippings, brochures and other miscellaneous items.
The first series, "Letters received from parents, 1935-1944" documents the life of the Albritton family in Dallas, and also makes reference to Claude C. Albritton Sr.’s frequent business trips to Corsicana, TX. All letters express the parents’ appreciation and encouragement for their son’s academic progress. One folder contains material sent by the Albritton family on their way to visiting their son at Harvard. A few of these letters are written on hotel stationery and contain a restaurant menu from New Orleans, as well as several brochures and fliers. Claude C. Albritton authored the letters in the last folder of this series after the unexpected death of Iris Albritton in November 1944.
The materials in the second series are the letters that Albritton Jr. wrote during his graduate studies in geology at Harvard and his field trips, as well as his attendance of the Harvard Geology Club meetings and several social events (balls, concerts, friend gatherings etc.). Some of the letters sent during the summer field trips to Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado (1930) and New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona (1931) include illustrated postcards. Later on, the letters reflect Dr. Albritton’s summer field work in Sierra Blanca, Texas (1936), and then his first period of employment with the USGS, when he was stationed at Battle Field, Nevada (1942). The letters in the last folder of the second series correspond to Dr. Albritton’s years in Washington, D.C., when he was still working for the United States Geological Surveys (1943-1944). Of special interest is the letter from March 17, 1944, containing Albritton’s opinions on SMU’s academic potential and a scrutiny of his own life. A great number of the letters in this series are typed.
The third series includes correspondence with SMU and Harvard professors, as well as friends. Of particular importance are the letters covering the period 1942-1944, when Dr. Albritton was on a leave of absence from SMU and was receiving regular updates about the functioning of the Geology Department from Prof. Ellis Shuler. Also interesting is the correspondence with Harvard professor Marland Billings during the doctoral studies period. One folder includes an undated interview transcript and newspaper clippings regarding Dr. Albritton’s teaching years at SMU.
The parents’ correspondence with others includes a letter received by Mrs. C.C. Albritton accompanied by photographs of the Albritton house taken in the summer of 1939.
The fourth series contains miscellaneous material related to the Albritton family: various documents and memorabilia of the Albritton family before moving to Dallas in 1929 (including C.C. Albritton and Iris Stapleton’s marriage license dated May 14, 1910), and various brochures, invitations, and cards.
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Claude C. Albritton correspondence, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.
Gift, Jane Albritton, 2005.
Processed by Terre Heydari and Ada Negraru, 2005-2006. Finding aid prepared by Ada Negraru, 2006.
Lara Corazalla, 2006
Detailed Description of the Collection