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Cratis D. Williams papers

Identifier: AC-102

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of material from the professional and private life of Cratis D. Williams. The collection includes academic research, genealogical research, correspondence, university documents, photographs, audio recordings, one video recording, and family memorabilia. The bulk of the collection consists of materials that are related to his work at Appalachian State University as a faculty member and administrator. Some of the materials include Williams' memoirs of his experiences at the Appalachian Demonstration High School and the Appalachian State Teachers College, newspaper clippings regarding college faculty and events, correspondence with Appalachian scholars and organizations, class materials, speeches, academic papers, and a collection of ballads and folklore. Also included are papers from his term as the dean of the Graduate School from 1958 to 1975. These records include correspondence, annual reports, faculty biographies, and other materials. This collection also includes materials formerly housed in the Appalachian State University Archives, concerning University committees, Academic Affairs, memorandums, Appalachian Journal correspondence, Center for Instructional Development, Faculty Senate, and materials from the individual colleges.

Personal papers include Williams' educational papers from his undergraduate and graduate studies, family research, family correspondence, letters and papers from his first wife Sylvia Graham, and research into the Appalachian region and Watauga County, NC.


  • 1783-1986
  • Majority of material found within 1943 - 1983



The materials are in English and German.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials from Appalachian State University Libraries' Special Collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The nature of these collections means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. As a result, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Access Restriction

Student papers, materials containing personal information, and correspondence between Cratis Williams and Sylvia Graham Williams are restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Appalachian State University assumes no responsibility.

Duplication Restriction

Permission must be obtained from the Williams family for duplication of unpublished materials.

Publication of material from the Memoirs Subseries is prohibited without permission from the Williams' Family.

Biographical note

Cratis Dearl Williams (April 5, 1911 - May 11, 1985), considered the Father of Appalachian Studies, was a native of Caines Creek in Lawrence County, Kentucky. Williams graduated from Louisa High School in 1928, attended Cumberland College from 1928-1929, and taught in one-room schools on Caines Creek from 1929-1933 while working towards his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Kentucky (completed in 1933). In 1937 Williams earned his Master of Arts in English from the University of Kentucky, writing a thesis entitled "Ballads and Songs" which focused on traditional music from eastern Kentucky. Williams earned his Ph. D. at New York University in 1961, writing a dissertation "The Southern Mountaineer in Fact and Fiction," which remains an authoritative examination of Appalachian literature.

In 1942 Williams was hired as critic teacher at the Appalachian Demonstration High School, Appalachian State Teachers College in Boone, North Carolina. During the first year in Boone, Williams's first wife, Sylvia Graham, died of Tuberculosis. In 1946, Williams was named assistant professor of English and speech at Appalachian State Teachers College, and continued to serve the high school until 1949 as critic teacher, assistant principal, director of drama, and director of the first school wide counseling program in North Carolina. Williams married Elizabeth Lingerfelt in 1949, with whom he had two children, Sophie (b. 1953) and David Cratis (b. 1955). He was named professor of English in 1950 at Appalachian State University, and then served as dean of the Graduate School from 1958-1975. He also served as acting vice chancellor for academic affairs (1974) and acting chancellor (1975), before his retirement in 1976.

Following his retirement, Williams began to write memoirs of his life. There are three published memoirs, two of which were posthumous publications: William H. Vaughan: A Better Man Than I Ever wanted to Be (1983), I Become a Teacher (1995), and The Cratis Williams Chronicles: I Come to Boone (1999).

Cratis Williams earned many awards and achievements including: the Founders Day Certificate of Excellence, New York University (1962), North Carolina Historical Society's Achievement Award (1972), O. Max Gardner Award, University of North Carolina (1973), Brown-Hudson Award, North Carolina Folklore Society (1975), Laurel Leaves Award, Appalachian Consortium (1976), and W. D. Weatherford Award, Berea College (1979). Williams also earned honorary degrees from Berea College (1977), Cumberland College, Morehead State University, College of Idaho (1984), and from Marshall University and Appalachian State University (1985).


83 Linear Feet (108 boxes, 12 half-sized manuscript boxes, 1 records carton, 8 small shoeboxes, 5 short manuscript boxes, 2 CD boxes, 3 oversize boxes, 2 oversize drawers, 3 album boxes in cold storage, 2 oversize boxes in cold storage)


Materials in the Cratis D. Williams Papers cover the professional and private life of scholar and professor Cratis Williams, his studies in Appalachian literature, folklore and ballads, and the Appalachian Consoritum. The collection consists of materials related to Williams' work at Appalachian State University, academic and genealogical research, correspondence, photographs, audio recordings of folksongs and lectures, one VHS tape, two reels of microfilm, slides, and family memorabilia.


The collection is arranged into eight series. Series I: Appalachian State University Administrative Papers consists of four subseries: Subseries A: Early History; Subseries B: General; Subseries C: Higher Education; and Subseries D: Graduate School. Series II: Appalachian State University Professional Papers consists of seven subseries: Subseries A: Classroom Materials; Subseries B: Committees/Councils/ Memberships/ Organizations; Subseries C: Conferences; Subseries D: Honors and Awards; Subseries E: Off-Campus Engagements; Subseries F: Papers/ Articles/ Speeches; and Subseries G: Research. Series III: Correspondence is organized alphabetically and by the last names of those who frequently corresponded with Dr. Williams. Series IV: Education Papers consists of five subseries: Subseries A: Undergraduate Papers; Subseries B: Master’s Papers; Subseries C: Doctorate Papers; Subseries D: Ephemera; and Subseries E: Not Cards. Series V: Personal Papers consists of eight subseries: Subseries A: Biographical Papers; Subseries B: Ephemera; Subseries C: Family Correspondence; Subseries D: Family History Research; Subseries E: General Research; Subseries F: Memoirs; Subseries G: Sylvia Graham Papers; and Subseries H: Watauga County Research. Series VI: Supplemental Papers consists of two subseries: Subseries A: University Archives Materials and Subseries B: Teaching and Learning Materials. Series VII: Audiovisual Materials consists of seven subseries: Subseries A: Sound Disc Recordings [LPs]; Subseries B: Reel-to-Reel Recordings; Subseries C: Audiocassette Recordings; Subseries D: Mixed Media; Subseries E: Color Photographs; Subseries F: Black and White Photographs; and Subseries G: Artifacts. Series VIII: Separated Materials consists of two subseries: Subseries A: Oversize Materials and Subseries B: Restricted Materials. Individual subseries are arranged alphabetically unless otherwise noted.

Acquisitions Information

The collection was donated in parts by the family of Cratis Williams between 1986-2005.

Processing Information

Processed in 1999. Finding aid revised in 2010. Reprocessed and finding aid updated by Trevor McKenzie, March 2012. This collection was reprocessed as part of a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The grant funded extensive processing of the backlog within the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection between 2012 and 2014.

AC.102: Cratis D. Williams Papers, 1783 - 1986, bulk 1940-1980
Processed by: Kathryn Staley; machine-readable finding aid created by: Kathryn Staley. Series V: Personal papers, Subseries I: Early Correspondence added by Trevor McKenzie, February 2021.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Description is in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository