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Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews

Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Extent:
13 audiotapes (Reference copies).
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Audiotapes
Transcripts
Place:
Wilmington (Del.)
Cape May (N.J.)
Tuskegee Army Air Field (Ala.)
Date:
1993-1994
Introduction:
The Smithsonian Institution Archives began its Oral History Program in 1973. The purpose of the program is to supplement the written documentation of the Archives' record and manuscript collections with an Oral History Collection, focusing on the history of the Institution, research by its scholars, and contributions of its staff. Program staff conduct interviews with current and retired Smithsonian staff and others who have made significant contributions to the Institution. There are also interviews conducted by researchers or students on topics related to the history of the Smithsonian or the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Louis R. Purnell was interviewed for the Oral History Collection because of his long career at the Institution, including fifteen years as Curator of Astronautics at the National Air and Space Museum, and his pioneering work as an African American professional.
Descriptive Entry:
Purnell was interviewed in seven sessions between December 1993 and February 1994 by Terrica M. Gibson, an Intern with the Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives. The interviews cover his childhood in Wilmington, Delaware, and Cape May, New Jersey; his education, love of flying, service during World War II; reminiscences of prominent Army Air Corps personnel, including General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.; careers with the Office of the Quartermaster General, U.S. Book Exchange, NMNH and NASM; the circumstances surrounding the first lunar landing; the move of NASM from the Arts & Industries (A&I) Building; relationship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); and reminiscences of colleagues including G. Arthur Cooper, S. Paul Johnston, and Michael Collins.

This collection is comprised of approximately 12 hours of recordings and 291 pages of transcript.
Historical Note:
Louis R. Purnell (1920-2001), was born on April 5, 1920 in Snow Hill, Maryland. He spent his youth in Wilmington, Delaware and Cape May, New Jersey. While beginning his undergraduate degree at Lincoln University, in Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, he was able to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot when the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) was instituted on campus. In 1942, he enlisted and was accepted into the seventh class of African American Army Air Force aviation cadets stationed at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama (the Tuskegee Airmen). He joined the all-Black 99th Fighter Squadron in 1943. During World War II, he completed two tours of duty in North Africa and southern Italy with the 99th, and later the 332nd Fighter Group. He was presented the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with Eight Oak Leaf Clusters.

After his return to the United States, Purnell returned to Lincoln University and completed a B.A. in Psychology. He took a position as a Speech Therapist at the Lena J. Sklar School in Germantown, Pennsylvania. He eventually moved to Washington, D.C., and held positions at the Office of the Quartermaster General and the United States Book Exchange at the Library of Congress. Purnell worked in a variety of jobs at the Smithsonian, eventually joining the Division of Invertebrate Paleontology and Paleobotany in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in 1961. In 1968, he moved to the Department of Astronautics of the National Air and Space Museum (NASM). During his career in the Astronautics Department (renamed the Department of Space Science and Exploration in 1980), he progressed through the ranks from Museum Specialist to Curator, a position he held until his retirement in January 1985.
Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Topic:
World War, 1939-1945  Search this
Science -- History  Search this
Technology -- History  Search this
African Americans -- History  Search this
Paleontology  Search this
Aeronautics  Search this
Military history  Search this
Museum curators -- United States -- Interviews  Search this
Oral history  Search this
Interviews  Search this
African American air pilots  Search this
Genre/Form:
Audiotapes
Transcripts
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Identifier:
Record Unit 9578
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-sia-faru9578

Company 1152. E.L. Moore, Chief Specialist, Company Commander. September 10, 1943. U.S. Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, IIIinois

Artist:
Unidentified  Search this
Medium:
gelatin silver print
Dimensions:
image: 7 1/4 x 20 1/4 in. (18.3 x 51.4 cm)
Type:
Photography-Photoprint
Date:
1943
Topic:
Figure group\male  Search this
Ethnic\African-American  Search this
History\United States\World War II  Search this
Occupation\military\sailor  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Charles Isaacs
Object number:
1996.15.1
Restrictions & Rights:
CC0
See more items in:
Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Department:
Graphic Arts
Data Source:
Smithsonian American Art Museum
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/vk796dda8fb-714c-48a9-9f80-f458ab1a06ec
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:saam_1996.15.1

War Voyage

Artist:
William H. Johnson, born Florence, SC 1901-died Central Islip, NY 1970  Search this
Medium:
tempera and pen and ink with pencil on paper
Dimensions:
sheet: 16 1/2 x 18 1/2 in. (41.8 x 47.0 cm)
Type:
Painting
Date:
ca. 1942
Topic:
Figure group  Search this
Ethnic\African-American  Search this
Occupation\medicine\nurse  Search this
Architecture\vehicle\train  Search this
History\United States\World War II  Search this
Occupation\military\soldier  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation
Object number:
1967.59.1067R
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Department:
Graphic Arts
Data Source:
Smithsonian American Art Museum
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/vk73c88eb2f-d3c8-4647-892f-5c3777ceb172
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:saam_1967.59.1067R

Ten Miles to J. Camp

Artist:
William H. Johnson, born Florence, SC 1901-died Central Islip, NY 1970  Search this
Medium:
tempera and pen and ink with pencil on paper
Dimensions:
sheet: 13 3/4 x 17 7/8 in. (34.9 x 45.4 cm)
Type:
Painting
Date:
ca. 1942
Topic:
Figure group\male  Search this
Travel\land  Search this
Ethnic\African-American  Search this
History\United States\World War II  Search this
Occupation\military\soldier  Search this
Object\weapon\sword  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation
Object number:
1967.59.1071
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Department:
Graphic Arts
Data Source:
Smithsonian American Art Museum
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/vk7aeab85cf-f63a-4a15-a173-0f3af118e6c1
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:saam_1967.59.1071

Under Fire

Artist:
William H. Johnson, born Florence, SC 1901-died Central Islip, NY 1970  Search this
Medium:
gouache and pen and ink on paper mounted on paperboard
Dimensions:
sheet recto: 15 x 18 1/2 in. (38.1 x 47.0 cm) sheet verso: 18 1/2 x 15 in. (47.0 x 38.1 cm)
Type:
Painting
Date:
ca. 1941-1942
Topic:
Architecture\vehicle\airplane  Search this
Figure group\male  Search this
Ethnic\African-American  Search this
History\United States\World War II  Search this
Occupation\military\soldier  Search this
Object\weapon\sword  Search this
Architecture Exterior\military\battlefield  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation
Object number:
1967.59.157R-V
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Department:
Graphic Arts
Data Source:
Smithsonian American Art Museum
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/vk7df7d7e50-6d18-405f-b94e-b377b3a9dbca
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:saam_1967.59.157R-V

Soldiers Training

Artist:
William H. Johnson, born Florence, SC 1901-died Central Islip, NY 1970  Search this
Medium:
oil on plywood
Dimensions:
37 3/4 x 49 1/4 in. (95.9 x 125.1 cm.)
Type:
Painting
Date:
ca. 1942
Topic:
Figure group\male  Search this
Ethnic\African-American  Search this
History\United States\World War II  Search this
Occupation\military\soldier  Search this
Object\other\flag  Search this
Object\weapon\gun  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation
Object number:
1967.59.582
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Department:
Painting and Sculpture
On View:
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 32A
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor
Data Source:
Smithsonian American Art Museum
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/vk7c066b948-bd11-4a71-8a30-f77116c324f9
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:saam_1967.59.582

Under Fire

Artist:
William H. Johnson, born Florence, SC 1901-died Central Islip, NY 1970  Search this
Medium:
oil on paperboard
Dimensions:
21 7/8 x 27 in. (55.5 x 68.5 cm)
Type:
Painting
Date:
ca. 1942-1943
Topic:
Figure group\male  Search this
Ethnic\African-American  Search this
History\United States\World War II  Search this
Occupation\military\soldier  Search this
Object\weapon\gun  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation
Object number:
1967.59.634
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Department:
Painting and Sculpture
Data Source:
Smithsonian American Art Museum
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/vk7125b4ceb-ee2b-4155-b9a3-8d2c37762b31
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:saam_1967.59.634

Off to War

Artist:
William H. Johnson, born Florence, SC 1901-died Central Islip, NY 1970  Search this
Medium:
screenprint on paper
Dimensions:
sheet: 13 3/4 x 17 7/8 in. (34.9 x 45.4 cm)
Type:
Graphic Arts-Print
Date:
ca. 1942
Topic:
Figure group  Search this
Ethnic\African-American  Search this
History\United States\World War II  Search this
Dress\uniform\military uniform  Search this
Object\other\flag  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Douglas E. Younger
Object number:
1971.144
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Department:
Graphic Arts
Data Source:
Smithsonian American Art Museum
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/vk7067249d1-0bdf-40b6-850b-880406768dcb
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:saam_1971.144

Penn Station at War Time

Artist:
Joseph Delaney, born Knoxville, TN 1904-died Knoxville, TN 1991  Search this
Medium:
oil on canvas
Dimensions:
34 x 48 1/8 in. (86.4 x 122.2 cm.)
Type:
Painting
Date:
1943
Topic:
Figure group  Search this
Cityscape\New York\New York  Search this
Travel  Search this
History\United States\World War II  Search this
Object\other\flag  Search this
Architecture Interior\civic\railroad station  Search this
Architecture Interior\civic\Pennsylvania Station  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Joseph Delaney
Object number:
1970.176
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Department:
Painting and Sculpture
Data Source:
Smithsonian American Art Museum
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/vk724e18df6-42d9-4e09-99c8-4dbb90b2193e
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:saam_1970.176

Letter of retirement for John T. Jackson

Writer:
James A. Farley, American, 1888 - 1976  Search this
Recipient:
John T. Jackson, American, 1891 - 1940  Search this
Medium:
paper; ink
Dimensions:
Overall: 25.7 x 20.6cm (10 1/8 x 8 1/8in.)
Type:
Covers & Associated Letters
Place:
Virginia
Date:
February 6, 1940
Topic:
World War II (1939-1945)  Search this
Covers & Letters  Search this
Postal Administration  Search this
Object number:
1989.0450.3
See more items in:
National Postal Museum Collection
Data Source:
National Postal Museum
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/hm812c5c2cf-95bb-47f7-b6c4-99aa4d7786e9
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:npm_1989.0450.3
Online Media:

10c dark brown Booker T. Washington single

Title:
Scott Catalogue USA 873
Depicts:
Booker T. Washington, American, 1856 - 1915  Search this
Printer:
Bureau of Engraving and Printing  Search this
Medium:
paper; ink (dark brown); adhesive / engraving
Type:
Postage Stamps
Place:
United States of America
Date:
April 7, 1940
Topic:
Education & Teaching  Search this
Humanitarian Causes  Search this
Black Heritage  Search this
World War II (1939-1945)  Search this
U.S. Stamps  Search this
Object number:
1980.2493.2855
See more items in:
National Postal Museum Collection
Data Source:
National Postal Museum
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/hm8391a76a6-65a9-4d34-b447-786fb80a37fd
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:npm_1980.2493.2855

3c Emancipation Monument single

Title:
Scott Catalogue USA 902
Depicts:
Abraham Lincoln, American, 1809 - 1865  Search this
Printer:
Bureau of Engraving and Printing  Search this
Medium:
paper; ink (deep violet); adhesive / engraving
Type:
Postage Stamps
Place:
District of Columbia
United States of America
Date:
October 20, 1940
Topic:
Humanitarian Causes  Search this
World War II (1939-1945)  Search this
Black Heritage  Search this
U.S. Stamps  Search this
Object number:
1980.2493.2915
See more items in:
National Postal Museum Collection
Data Source:
National Postal Museum
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/hm828f8fe20-e72f-4d3d-b0d5-be1b74e97428
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:npm_1980.2493.2915

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Artist:
Thomas Edgar Stephens, 18 Jan 1886 - 4 Jan 1966  Search this
Sitter:
Dwight David Eisenhower, 14 Oct 1890 - 28 Mar 1969  Search this
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Sight: 170.4 x 120.2cm (67 1/16 x 47 5/16")
Stretcher: 188 × 157.5cm (74 × 62")
Frame: 218.4 × 188cm (86 × 74")
Type:
Painting
Date:
1955
Topic:
Dwight David Eisenhower: Male  Search this
Dwight David Eisenhower: Literature\Writer  Search this
Dwight David Eisenhower: Military\Army\Officer\General  Search this
Dwight David Eisenhower: Education\Administrator\University\President  Search this
Dwight David Eisenhower: Politics and Government\President of US  Search this
Dwight David Eisenhower: Politics and Government\Chief of Staff  Search this
Dwight David Eisenhower: Military\Army\Officer\World War II  Search this
Portrait  Search this
Credit Line:
Owner: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library-Museum
Object number:
L/NPG.11.2013
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Catalog of American Portraits
Exhibition:
America's Presidents (Reinstallation September 2017)
On View:
NPG, West Gallery 210
Data Source:
Catalog of American Portraits
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/sm4887264d2-68a2-4631-b068-d3f9669a7b83
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:npg_L_NPG.11.2013

Army Nurse Corps Cap

Physical Description:
wool (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 4 in x 9 in x 8 in; 10.16 cm x 22.86 cm x 20.32 cm
Object Name:
cap
Other Terms:
cap; Woman; Army; Nurse; Service
Associated Place:
United States
Date made:
ca 1942
Associated date:
1941 - 1945
Related event:
World War II  Search this
The Great Depression and World War II  Search this
ID Number:
AF.43934 [dup1]
Catalog number:
43934
Designer number:
PQD 326
73-C-33025
Accession number:
167648
See more items in:
Political and Military History: Armed Forces History, Military
Military
ThinkFinity
Exhibition:
Price of Freedom
Exhibition Location:
National Museum of American History
Data Source:
National Museum of American History
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746a2-db1a-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:nmah_433587

Two African American WWII Nurses' Aides

Physical Description:
paper (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 10 in x 8 in; 25.4 cm x 20.32 cm
Object Name:
gelatin silver print
Place made:
United States: District of Columbia, Washington
Date made:
1940-1945
Subject:
Women  Search this
African American  Search this
World War II  Search this
Nursing  Search this
Medical supplies  Search this
Medicine  Search this
Uniforms  Search this
Related event:
World War II  Search this
ID Number:
2019.0220.0001
Accession number:
2019.0220
Catalog number:
2019.0220.0001
See more items in:
Work and Industry: Photographic History
Work
Photography
Data Source:
National Museum of American History
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746ac-6cd1-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:nmah_1954707
Online Media:

African American Man in Military Uniform

Physical Description:
paper (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 5 1/2 in x 3 1/2 in; 13.97 cm x 8.89 cm
Object Name:
real photo postcard
photographic postcard
Date made:
ca 1940s
Subject:
African American  Search this
Men  Search this
Smoking  Search this
Portraits  Search this
Uniforms, Military  Search this
World War II  Search this
ID Number:
2018.0166.0085
Catalog number:
2018.0166.0085
Accession number:
2018.0166
See more items in:
Work and Industry: Photographic History
Military
Photography
Data Source:
National Museum of American History
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746b3-a312-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:nmah_1893825
Online Media:

Enlisted dress blue jumper

Physical Description:
wool (overall material)
metal (part material)
Measurements:
overall: 23 in x 17 in; 58.42 cm x 43.18 cm
Object Name:
jumper
Subject:
African American  Search this
Related event:
World War II  Search this
ID Number:
2017.0228.01
Accession number:
2017.0228
Catalog number:
2017.0228.01
See more items in:
Political and Military History: Armed Forces History, Naval
Military
Data Source:
National Museum of American History
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746b3-5218-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:nmah_1846408

Enlisted dress blue trousers

Physical Description:
wool (overall material)
plastic (part material)
Measurements:
overall: 42 3/4 in x 14 1/2 in; 108.585 cm x 36.83 cm
Object Name:
trousers
Subject:
African American  Search this
Related event:
World War II  Search this
ID Number:
2017.0228.02
Accession number:
2017.0228
Catalog number:
2017.0228.02
See more items in:
Political and Military History: Armed Forces History, Naval
Military
Data Source:
National Museum of American History
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746b3-5219-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:nmah_1846409

Proof Sheet, 56-960, CWRCI Hearing, July 16, 1981

Physical Description:
paper (overall material)
silver gel (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 8 1/2 in x 11 in; 21.59 cm x 27.94 cm
Object Name:
contact sheet
Place made:
United States: District of Columbia
Associated Place:
United States: District of Columbia, Washington
Date made:
ca. 1980s
Subject:
Congress  Search this
Japanese-American  Search this
World War II  Search this
Related event:
Japanese American Internment  Search this
World War II  Search this
Credit Line:
Gift of Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga
ID Number:
2016.3020.11
Catalog number:
2016.3020.11
Nonaccession number:
2016.3020
See more items in:
Political and Military History: Armed Forces History, Japanese American
Executive Order 9066
Data Source:
National Museum of American History
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746b2-a7e0-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:nmah_1805603

CWRCI Hearing, July 16, 1981

Physical Description:
paper (overall material)
silver gel (overall material)
Measurements:
overall: 8 1/2 in x 11 in; 21.59 cm x 27.94 cm
Object Name:
contact sheet
Associated Place:
United States: District of Columbia, Washington
Date made:
ca. 1980s
Subject:
Japanese-American  Search this
World War II  Search this
Congress  Search this
Related event:
Japanese American Internment  Search this
World War II  Search this
Credit Line:
Gift of Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga
ID Number:
2016.3020.19
Catalog number:
2016.3020.19
Nonaccession number:
2016.3020
See more items in:
Political and Military History: Armed Forces History, Japanese American
Executive Order 9066
Data Source:
National Museum of American History
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746b2-515f-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:nmah_1805787

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