John L. Whitelaw Papers

Summary Information

Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections
Whitelaw, John L.
John L. Whitelaw papers
Date [bulk]
Bulk, 1883-1900
Date [inclusive]
0.1 Cubic feet , 2 folders, 2 scrapbooks

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: "Item title, Collection title, Collection Identifier, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan."

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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)

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Scope and Contents note

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.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections

Conrad Hall
888 Wilson Road, Room 101
East Lansing , MI, 48824

Revision Description

  July 2000

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Legal Status

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

Conditions Governing Use

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

Custodial History

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

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Controlled Access Headings


  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Scrapbooks

Geographic Name(s)

  • East Lansing (Mich.)
  • Germany
  • Russia


  • World War, 1939-1945 -- United States

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Collection Inventory


Scope and Contents note


Correspondence 1945 


Correspondence 1945 


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#325: Postcards, advertisements, comics, clippings 

SB 325

#326: Magazine and newspaper clippings 

SB 326

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