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Memorandum for Colonel Wilson, G-41
June 4, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
Subject: Tuskegee Institute and WPA Appropriations.
I have forgotten just what you told me as result of your last effort to obtain certain things for Tuskegee. However, this morning in a conversation with Dr. Patterson, the President of the Institute, I find that the fact that WPA decided some time back (an Alabamian made the decision) that this was a private institution, has denied them many advantages from Government activities. According to Dr. Patterson, the facts are these:2
The income from endowments for the institution have dwindled, as have all others, and the gifts have similarly dwindled. If the institution, which is now a non-profit organization, should be reorganized, it would make it income taxable, which would wreck them in their present work. Treat this as confidential for you alone.
He states that the decision that it was a private institution was on the hair-line order; was based solely on the fact that the continuing Board of Directors might possibly at some time in the future make such use as they saw fit of the plant. He states that some Alabama Supreme Court decisions have given the institution a public status.
Please check up unobtrusively on this matter, and then advise me. I have in mind a procedure to bring influence on the WPA to get a new decision. Such a decision would open up a number of channels for governmental assistance. They need very badly an engineering laboratory, and this is right along with their Air development for the Army Air Corps. They need more facilities—shelter and tools for vocational training, and this would assist us in the development of the negro units that we are now attempting.
Look into this, please, preliminary to my taking a more definite step.3
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. Lieutenant Colonel Arthur R. Wilson.
2. In an earlier conversation, Marshall had discussed W.P.A. funds for Tuskegee Institute with Patterson. The chief of staff recommended that the institute apply to W. G. Henderson, the W.P.A.’s state administrator in Alabama for financial support. (Marshall to Patterson, March 3, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
3. In a letter drafted by the G-4 division of the General Staff, Marshall informed Patterson that neither the W. P.A. nor the National Youth Administration could support civil aviation at Tuskegee Institute because it was a private institution. (Marshall to Patterson, September 2, 1941, ibid.) Patterson had also requested that a black officer serve as professor of military science and tactics at Tuskegee Institute. Lieutenant Colonel Walter B. Smith, in a letter signed by the chief of staff, noted that such duty had to be done by a Regular Army officer and no black officer was available. However, Smith wrote, the War Department could designate the officer on duty at the University of Alabama as nominal professor and assign a black Reserve officer to Tuskegee. (Marshall to Patterson, June 14, 1941, ibid.)
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 526-527.