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MC 397

Sampson, Edith S. (Edith Spurlock), 1901?-1979. Papers of Edith Spurlock Sampson, 1927-1979: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

The collection was processed with funds provided by the Ford Foundation.

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 397
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Edith S. (Edith Spurlock) Sampson, 1901?-1979
Title: Papers of Edith Spurlock Sampson, 1927-1979
Date(s): 1927-1979
Quantity: 10.63 linear feet (25+1/2 file boxes) plus 4 folio folders, 7 folio+ folders, 2 oversize folders, 43 photograph folders, 5 folio photograph folders, 1 folio+ photograph folder)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Papers of Cook County circuit judge Edith Spurlock Sampson.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 87-M153. Accession number 2006-M172 was added in August 2013. Accession number 2015-M141 was added in December 2015.
The papers of Edith Spurlock Sampson were given to the Schlesinger Library in September 1987 and August 2015 by her nephew, Charles Thomas Spurlock.

Processing Information:

Processed: February 1990
By: Susan von Salis
Updated: December 2015
By: Johanna Carll

Access Restrictions:

Access. During the his lifetime, researchers must obtain the written permission of Charles Thomas Spurlock to gain access to his correspondence with Edith S. Sampson (#58-60, 297). The remainder of the collection is unrestricted, but the donor requests that he be notified if and when extensive use is made of the papers by any researcher.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Edith Spurlock Sampson is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. During Charles Thomas Spurlock's lifetime, the Schlesinger Library will not authorize publication of more than 250 words in any one publication without his prior written permission. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Unrestricted papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Edith Spurlock Sampson Papers, 1927-1979; item description, dates. MC 397, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Donors: Charles Thomas Spurlock
Accession number: 2015-M141
Processed by: Johanna Carll
The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library printed material collection:


Edith Spurlock was born on October 13, 1901, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Louis and Elizabeth (McGruder) Spurlock. She received her early education at Lincoln and Larimer Elementary Schools and at Peabody High School. Upon her graduation from high school, she tried unsuccessfully to secure a teaching position, but while employed at the Associated Charities of Pittsburgh she was selected to study at the New York School of Social Work. She later attended the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. While a social worker in Chicago, she enrolled in evening classes at John Marshall Law School, receiving an LL.B. degree in 1925. In 1927 she received an LL.M. from Loyola University, and was admitted to the Illinois bar; in 1935 she was admitted to practice law before the United States Supreme Court. At the age of 20 she had married Rufus Sampson, from whom she was divorced in the early 1930s. She later married attorney Joseph Clayton, and was widowed in 1956. Sampson worked as a lawyer and served as a probation officer and referee in the family court of Cook County, and as assistant corporation counsel of the city of Chicago, before being elected associate judge of the Municipal Court of Chicago in 1962. In 1964 and again in 1970, she was elected associate judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and in 1971 and 1976, judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, a position she held until her retirement in 1978.
In addition to her legal work, Sampson represented the United States internationally. In 1949, Sampson participated in the Town Hall World Seminar. Sponsored by America's Town Hall, the Town Hall World Seminar brought together 28 American leaders representing national organizations in the fields of labor, management, agriculture, education, culture, and civic and women's activities, who participated in town meetings held in twelve world capitals (London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Ankara, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Karachi, New Delhi, Manila, and Tokyo). Meetings featured two Seminar participants and two representatives from host countries discussing world problems and issues of interest to each country under the broad topic of "peace with individual freedom and well-being." Discussions were transcribed and rebroadcast over ABC network in the United States. Seminar members also participated in a series of NBC radio broadcasts called, "Americans the World Over." In 1950, Sampson was appointed Alternate United States Representative to the United Nations; she was reappointed in 1952. In 1951 and 1952, as a representative of the State Department, she toured Europe and lectured about the current status of African Americans. In 1961 and again in 1962, she was appointed to the United States Citizens Commission on NATO.
Sampson was a member of the Cook County Bar Association, the Women's Bar Association of Illinois, the National Association of Women Lawyers, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the National Council of Negro Women, and was a trustee of Roosevelt University.


The collection is arranged in seven series:


The bulk of the collection pertains to Sampson's activities as a judge, especially her election campaigns, and to her other professional and volunteer work, particularly her trips to Europe on behalf of the State Department and her work with the United Nations. There is very little about her personal life or her work as a lawyer. Most folder titles were created by the archivists; folder headings created by Sampson appear in quotation marks. Files were arranged by the archivists.
Series I, Personal and family, 1927, 1940-1979 (#1-7, 9, 12-15, 17-18, 20-53, 55-60, 62, 64-66, 280-300), includes some biographical and autobiographical materials, papers about awards, health, and finances, and materials she collected about African Americans and various organizations that she found of interest. The family papers consist mainly of correspondence and a few photographs.
Series II, General correspondence, 1934, 1947-1978 (#67-106, 301-333), is arranged to reflect what appears to have been Sampson's filing system: most letters are filed chronologically, with a few folders devoted to special events or topics at the end of the series.
Series III, Speeches and writings, 1950-1977 (#109, 111-130, 132-135, 334-335). Besides the texts of speeches and articles, this series includes correspondence arranging speaking engagements and clippings announcing or reviewing speeches or articles. As in Series II, Sampson's filing system was maintained: materials are arranged chronologically, with some folders pertaining to specific speaking engagements.
Series IV, Law, 1936-1978 (#136-163, 166-186) consists of materials documenting Sampson's career as a lawyer and judge, especially the latter: correspondence and printed matter from her election campaigns, drafts of her monthly reports, a few notes about specific cases, and clippings about Sampson or specific cases. There is very little evidence of her work as a lawyer, with briefs and other legal documents, as well as notes and correspondence, mainly about two specific cases: the Lutwak et al. conspiracy case (ca.1936) about violations of immigration and citizenship laws, and the Frederick P. Wall trial (ca.1953-1955) about abuses of political power. It is not clear whether Sampson was involved in these cases as an attorney; Joseph Clayton was an attorney in the Wall case.
Series V, Other professional and volunteer work, 1944-1977 (#188, 190-194, 197-216, 221-241, 249-250, 254, 257-267, 269-270, 272-273, 275, 336-340) consists of correspondence, photographs, and clippings from Sampson's many activities outside her legal work. Her work with the United Nations and as a representative of the State Department are particularly well documented. Sampson kept folders about each country she visited during her trips to Europe in 1951 and 1952; these have been maintained by the processor. Other organizations and agencies with which she was involved include the U.S. Citizens Commission on NATO, Roosevelt University, the National Council of Negro Women, and the American Negro Emancipation Centennial Committee. The organizations are arranged in chronological order (according to the initial dates that appear in the collection) as far as possible.
Series VI, Photographs, 1947-1974 (#8, 10-11f, 16, 19, 54-55, 61, 63, 107-108f+, 110, 131, 164-165, 187, 189, 195-196, 217-220, 242-248f, 252-253, 255-256f, 268, 271, 274, 276-279, 341, 348, 353, 377, 402, 409, 411, 424), contains portraits of Sampson, professional photographs of Sampson at events, and portraits of Sampson's family, friends, and colleagues. In cases in which letters were accompanied by photographs, the photographs were photocopied and the originals were removed to folder #279. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database.
Materials received by the Schlesinger Library in 2006 were added to the collection in July 2013 and are represented in #280-341. When the finding aid was updated, Series VI, Photographs, was added and all photographs were moved to that series. All other files remain in the same order. Cumulative headings were largely removed and the information that had been contained in them was incorporated into folder titles. Folders are listed in intellectual, not sequential order.
Series VII, 2015 Addenda, 1943-1970 (#342-424), contains correspondence, reports, legal documents, biographical information, clippings, photographs, and other materials received from Charles Thomas Spurlock in August 2015. Files document Sampson's legal work, speaking engagements, and participation in diplomacy tours including the Town Hall World Seminar (1949), the American Friends of the Middle East tour of the Middle East (1955), and the Inter-American Seminars (1958). Folders titled "memorandums from Mayor Daley" contain correspondence between Sampson and members of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's office, mostly concerning how the Mayor's Office should respond to requests from African-American organizations. Files documenting Sampson's participation in diplomacy tours include printed materials from countries she visited, reports on meetings, correspondence with tour participants and organizers, and a small number of photographs. Original folder headings were maintained; titles in brackets were created by the archivist. Files were arranged alphabetically by the archivist.

Container list

Index of selected correspondents

This index includes only authors of letters found in folders #1-279. Neither form letters nor invitations to events or private parties are indexed. Little-known persons writing for organizations or as secretaries to individuals are not indexed; such letters are indexed under the name of the organization or individual. Information about individuals or subjects is not indexed. Numbers refer to folders. Some folders listed include more than one letter by the person listed.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

African American judges--Illinois
African American lawyers--Illinois
African American women--Illinois
African Americans--Illinois--Chicago--History--20th century
America's town meeting of the air (Radio program)
Chicago (Ill.)--Officials and employees
Europe--Description and travel
Middle East--Description and travel
Women judges--Illinois
Women lawyers--Illinois
Acheson, Dean, 1893-1971
American Negro Emancipation Centennial Authority
Bethune, Mary McLeod, 1875-1955
Bowles, Chester, 1901-1986
Buford, Ligon
Bunche, Ralph J. (Ralph Johnson), 1904-1971
Chicago Committee of One Hundred
Church, Frank
Collins, Cardiss, 1931-2013
Cooper, John Sherman, 1901-1991
Daley, Richard J., 1902-1976
De Priest, Oscar, 1871-1951
Diggs, Charles C.
Douglas, Helen Gahagan, 1900-1980
Douglas, William O. (William Orville), 1898-1980
Dulles, John Foster, 1888-1959
Edwards, India
Finnegan, Edward R. (Edward Rowan), 1905-1971
Franklin, John Hope, 1915-2009
Hagmayer, Albert
Hefner, Hugh M. (Hugh Marston), 1926-
Height, Dorothy I. (Dorothy Irene), 1912-2010
Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978
Johnson, Lady Bird, 1912-2007
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973
Jordan, Barbara, 1936-1996
Kefauver, Estes, 1903-1963
Kemp, Maida Springer
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968
Kerner, Otto, 1908-1976
Khan, Liaquat Ali, 1895-1951
Lafontant-MANkarious, Jewel, 1922-1997
Lodge, Henry Cabot, 1902-1985
Louchheim, Katie, 1903-1991
MacLeish, Archibald, 1892-1982
Morrison, deLesseps S. (deLesseps Story), 1912-1964
Murphy, Morgan F. (Morgan Francis), 1932-
Murray, Pauli, 1910-1985
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
O'Hara, Barratt, 1882-1969
Onassis, Jacqueline Kennedy, 1929-1994
Powell, Adam Clayton, 1908-1972
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
Roosevelt University
Shriver, Sargent, 1915-2011
Simon, Paul, 1928-2003
Stevenson, Adlai E. (Adlai Ewing), 1900-1965
Strauss, Anna Lord, 1899-1979
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972
United Nations. General Assembly--Proceedings
United Nations--Officials and employees, American
United States. Department of State--Officials and employees
United States Citizens Commission on NATO
Wall, Frederick P.
White, Walter Francis, 1893-1955
Wilcox, Francis O. (Francis Orlando), 1908-1985
Wilkins, Roy, 1901-1981
Williams, Chester S. (Chester Sidney), 1907-1992
Yates, Sidney, 1909-