Clarke Historical Library
Central Michigan University

Finding aid for
Rufus T. Gillam Papers

Finding aid created by
Marian Matyn

Summary Information
Title: Rufus T. Gillam Papers,
Creator: Gillam, Rufus T.
Inclusive dates: 1922, 2007
Extent: 3 cubic feet (in 3 boxes, 2 Oversized folder, 1 Oversized volume)
The collection includes biographical information, correspondence, notably of the Boys' Republic, photographs and photograph albums, subject files, plaques, etc.

Call number: MSS.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University
250 East Preston Street
Mount Pleasant, MI 48859
Phone: 989-774-3352
Fax: 989-774-2160

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:


Access Restrictions:

Rufus T. Gillam Papers


Copyright is unknown. Because some of the materials in the Boys' Republic correspondence and notebook contain sensitive, personal information about the students, researchers are asked to not name the individual students who created or are discussed in these materials.

Preferred Citation:

Rufus T. Gillam Papers, Folder # , Box #, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University


Arrangement is alphabetical and then chronological.



Rufus Thomas Gillam, a very special human being, was born on May 7, 1920 in Montrose, Michigan, the son of Orie and Pearl (McCombs) Gillam. His parents married on July 20, 1910. Together, they had seven children: Amber, William, Mabel, Bertha, Rufus, Ruth, and Carl. Orie took over his father’s farm on North Nichols Road in Montrose. He sold it in 1928. The Gillams then moved to a farm on Farrand Road, near Clio, Michigan, in 1929. In 1932 they moved to Pearl’s father’s farm on Sheridan Road.

Because his family moved around, Rufus attended various schools. He attended Munsell Schools in Clio, 1929-1932, and graduated from 8th grade at Naismith Schools. In 1933, Rufus began attending high school at Montrose High School, but he graduated from Flushing High School in 1939 because his family had moved to Potter Road. While in high school, Rufus was a member of Future Farmers of America.

Following high school, Rufus was inducted into the U.S. Army on October 11, 1941. After training at Camp Davis, N.C., he served for four years in Battery A, 305th Coast Artillery, Barrage Balloon, 1ST Platoon, Squad 1, which served in Hawaii, the Philippines, and participated in the invasion of Okinawa. He was honorably discharged from Fort Sheridan, Illinois, on October 31, 1945.

After the war, Rufus attended Flint Junior College. He later graduated from Central Michigan University (CMU) with a B.S. degree (1949) and from the University of Michigan with a M.A. degree (1953).

During 1948, Rufus also worked as a counselor at the Boys’ Republic, a self governing school for delinquent boys near Farmington, Michigan. There he became a trusted friend and mentor of students, some of whom continued corresponding with him after he left the school.

Rufus then began a career in education in Michigan. He taught as a biology and science teacher at Oxford High School, 1949-1952. From 1952 to 1956, Rufus taught 5th-6th grades at Manchester Elementary School and served as the Intermediate Supervisor of Manchester Public Schools. Rufus worked as the Principal for kindergarten through 6th grades at Tecumseh Public Schools, 1956-1968. He also taught Special Education, 1968-1985, for Livingston County Special Education in Howell.

Over the years, Rufus received a number of awards for outstanding teaching and volunteering efforts. He was active with the Fresh Air Boys Camp and the HOSTS/Mentor Program.

On December 29, 1956, Rufus married Wilma Speigelberg, the daughter of Ervin and Edith (Feldkamp) Speigelberg of Manchester, Michigan. Wilma was born on September 24, 1925. She graduated from Manchester High School and earned a registered degree in Nursing. She worked for 35 years as a R.N. at St. Joseph Hospital in Ann Arbor.

The couple did not have any children.

When Wilma and Rufus retired, they lived near Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the summer and in Florida in the winter. In DeSoto County, Florida, Rufus volunteered at West Elementary School. The Gillams were active members of the Montrose Historical Association.

On November 4, 2005, Wilma died. She had suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for 20 years and had experienced a completely debilitating stroke in 2003. Rufus Thomas Gillam, 88, passed away October 30, 2008 at Chelsea Retirement Community. (This information is from the collection.)

Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection includes: Biographical Information, consisting of diplomas, family history materials, photographs, newspaper clippings (copies), and related materials, 1930s-2002, undated; Correspondence, General (from students), to parents related to World War II, from two girl friends, Rebecca Reynolds and Verna May, and Dale Williams, a boy in the Boys’ Vocational School in Lansing, 1939-1955, undated, and the Boys’ Republic and student there, Bob Downes, 1948-1951; Photographs, 1922, 2000; Subject Files, including materials related to CMU, Flushing High School, Greeting Cards, Historical Michigan Calendars, Flint Junior College, the University of Michigan, the Boys’ Republic, juvenile delinquency, and other materials, 1935, 2000, undated; Photograph Albums related to his family and CMU, military service, and HOSTS/Mentor Program, 1941, 2000; Photographs of the Flushing High School Senior Class, 1939; and Plaques, for his outstanding work as a school and senior volunteer at West Elementary School, Florida, 1997-1998. The Oversized folders include Historical Landmarks of Brighton, a collection of illustrations of and text about Brighton, Michigan’s landmark buildings and history, undated, and a CMU war years class reunion photograph, 2000.

Because some of the materials in the Boys’ Republic correspondence and notebook contain sensitive, personal information about the students, researchers are asked to not name the individual students who created or are discussed in these materials.

The following materials were removed from the collection and cataloged: Memory Lane Gazette, 1982-2002, the Montrose Historical Association Newsletter, and Fieldbook of Natural History, c. 1949, by E. Laurence Palmer, which includes autographs and souvenir materials from Rufus’ favorite teacher, CMU Biology Dept. Professor Irene Jarae.

Subject Terms

    • Gillam, Rufus T.
    • United States. Army. 305th Coast Artillery, Battery A.
    • Central Michigan University--Alumni and Alumnae.
    • Central Michigan University--Students.
    • University of Michigan--Alumni and alumnae.
    • Flushing High School (Mich.)
    • Flint Junior College (Mich.)
    • Industrial School for Boys (Lansing, Mich.)
    • West Elementary School (DeSoto County, Fla.)
    • Montrose Area Historical Association.
    • Fresh-air charity--Michigan.
    • World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives, American.
    • Teachers--Michigan--Livingston County.
    • Teachers--Michigan--Tecumseh.
    • Teachers--Michigan--Manchester.
    • Teachers--Michigan--Oxford.
    • Teachers--Florida--DeSoto County.
    • Older volunteers in education--United States.
    • Juvenile delinquents--Michigan.
    • Junior republics.
    • Juvenile detention homes--Michigan.
    • Juvenile delinquents--Rehabilitation--Michigan.
    • Mentoring in education--United States.
    • Camp Davis (N. C.)
    • Montrose (Mich.)--History.
    • Flushing (Mich.)--History.
    • Brighton (Mich.)--History.
    • Mount Pleasant (Mich.)--History.
    • Genesee County (Mich.)--History.
    • Genesee County (Mich.)--Genealogy.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Rufus T. Gillam Papers [series]:
    Box   1 F   1
    Biographical Information, Certificates and Awards, 1949-1999
    Box   1 F   2
    Biographical Information, Diploma, Central Michigan University (CMU), 1949
    Box   1 F   3
    Biographical Information, Diploma, Flushing High School, and Related Materials, 1939
    Box   1 F   4
    Biographical Information, Diploma, University of Michigan, 1953
    Box   1 F   5
    Biographical Information, General (includes Photographs), 1930-1990s
    Box   1 F   6
    Biographical Information, General (includes Photographs), undated
    Box   1 F   7
    Biographical Information, Gillam Family History, undated
    Box   1 F   8
    Biographical Information, Military Related Materials (includes Newspaper Clippings (copies), Photographs, and Papers), 1941-1945, and undated
    Box   1 F   9
    Biographical Information, Newspaper Clippings (copies), Rufus Gillam, Obituary (died October 30, 2008), 1999, 2004, 2007-2008, and undated
    Box   1 F   10
    Biographical Information, Wilma Gillam, Obituary, Funeral Card (died November 4, 2005), 2005
    Box   1 F   11
    Correspondence, Boys' Republic and Bob Downes, 1948-1951
    Box   1 F   12
    Correspondence, General (mostly from students) 1942, 1951-1955
    Box   1 F   13
    Correspondence, Kirkland, Dale L. and Photograph, 2002
    Box   1 F   14
    Correspondence, May, Verna, 1939-1941, and undated
    Box   1 F   15
    Correspondence, Raynolds, Rebecca, 1940
    Box   1 F   16
    Correspondence, Williams, Dale, 1947-1948
    Box   1 F   17
    Correspondence, With Parents, Military Related, 1941-1942
    Box   1 F   18
    Photographs, Addison, Cordell, and Family (Gillam's WWII buddy), 2003
    Box   1 F   19
    Photographs, CMU Reunion, 1994, 1999, and undated
    Box   1 F   20
    Photographs, Christmas Museum, 1991
    Box   1 F   21
    Photographs, Family and School Pictures, 1922-1981 (Scattered)
    Box   1 F   22
    Photographs, West Elementary School Students, 1995, 1998
    Box   1 F   23
    Subject Files, Boys' Republic, Notebook (with notes on the students, their activities and test results, and bird watching), 1948
    Box   1 F   23
    Subject Files, Boys' Republic, Paper by Gillam (includes copy of Republic Headline, June 1948, the school newspaper), 1948
    Box   1 F   24
    Subject Files, CMU Alumni Materials, 1949, and undated
    Box   1 F   25
    Subject Files, CMU Guidebook for Educational Development, 1946
    Box   1 F   26
    Subject Files, Flushing High School, Dance Cards, 1940, and undated
    Box   1 F   27
    Subject Files, Flushing High School, Yearbook, 1939
    Box   1 F   28
    Subject Files, Flushing High School, Fifty Year Reunion (1939), 1989
    Box   1 F   29
    Subject Files, Fresh Air Boys Camp, Photographs and Related Material, 1949, 1952
    Box   1 F   30
    Subject Files, Greeting Cards, General, undated
    Box   1 F   31
    Subject Files, Greeting Cards, Valentines, undated
    Box   1 F   32
    Subject Files, Historical Calendars (Michigan), 1976, 1979-1980
    Box   1 F   33
    Subject Files, Juvenile Delinquency, Paper by Gillam, 1948
    Box   1 F   34
    Subject Files, Military Discharge Service Record, undated
    Box   1 F   35
    Subject Files, Montrose Area Historical Association, Material, 1984-1992
    Box   1 F   36
    Subject Files, Mount Pleasant High School Biology Class Grade Book (with class photograph), 1948
    Box   1 F   37
    Subject Files, Newspaper Clippings (copies), Michigan Related, 1935, 1939, undated
    Box   1 F   38
    Subject Files, Spire, Flint Junior College Yearbook, 1946
    Box   1 F   39
    Subject Files, State of Michigan Retirement Systems, Retirement Paper, 1986
    Box   1 F   40
    Subject Files, University of Michigan, Entrance Application (copy), 1962
    Box   1 F   41
    Subject Files, West Elementary School (DeSoto, Florida), Photographs, Thank yous, 2000
    Box   1 F   42
    Photograph Albums, Hawaii Military, 1942
    Box   1 F   43
    Photograph Albums, HOSTS Program, Mentor Program (with children), 2000
    Box   1 F   44
    Photograph Albums, Service Album, Camp Davis, 1941
    Box   2 F   1
    Photograph Albums, Volunteer and Family Miscellaneous, 1950-1984 (Scattered)
    Box   2 F   2
    Photograph Albums, Our Wedding Anniversary Photograph Album and Scrapbook (25th Anniversary), 1981
    Box   2 F   3
    Photograph Albums, Wedding Memories, Photograph Album and Scrapbook, 1956-2005
    Box   2 F   4
    Plaques, Outstanding School Volunteer, West Elementary, 1998
    Box   2 F   5
    Plaques, Senior Volunteer of the Year, West Elementary, 1997-1998
    Box   3 F   1
    Legal-Size, Photograph Albums, 1941, 1969
    Box   3 F   2
    Legal-Size, Photograph Albums, CMU, 1948-1951 (Scattered)
    F   1  
    Legal-Size, Photographs, Flushing High School, Senior Class, 1939
    F   2  
    Oversized Folders, Historical Landmarks of Brighton, undated
    F   3  
    Oversized Folders, Photographs, CMU War Years Reunion, 2000
    V   1  
    Oversized Volume, Guillaume, Gillam, Hammond, Barross, and Weeks Families Genealogies, 2002