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Rawls Family papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 18.0005

Scope and Contents

The bulk of this collection consists of letters written by John Rawls during his time in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II in Brazil. He achieved the rank of Major. These letters, primarily to his mother, give details on his time in training and daily life while stationed in Brazil. He tells stories of friends, the tedium of his work, and mentions the various girls he sees throughout the war. Also included is a photograph album consisting of photographs taken by Rawls while in the service.

John Rawls' brother David Rawls also served with the U.S. Army Air Corps as a B-17 pilot, stationed in the Pacific Theater. David Rawls was present during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. His letters discuss his wife, Marie, and various aspects of his life abroad. Articles detail the receipt of two awards for the successful completion of reconnaissance missions and later letters discuss the shoulder injury that caused him to return to the States.


  • Created: 1937-1946
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1942-1945
  • Other: Date acquired: 2018-03-15


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to all researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Florida State University Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Biographical or Historical Information

John and David Rawls were born and raised in Marianna, Florida. Their father died during their youth, and their mother Ruth remarried twice. Both men served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, with John working transport in Brazil, and David serving in the Pacific Theater. The brothers had a very close relationship with their mother and wrote several letters to her throughout the war.

David married a woman named Marie by the time he entered the Army, and he talks about her in his letters to his mother. He was part of the B-17 group that arrived over Hawaii during the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941. In 1943, a shoulder injury caused him to return home on leave.

The younger brother, John, spent the majority of the war stationed in Brazil. Primarily in Natal, he often spent time in Rio de Janiero and Sao Luis. While there, he moved up the ranks until he was one of the senior officers on base. His day to day work seems to have consisted of directing air traffic at the base and managing transports from Brazil to Africa. While he often found this life tedious and the country very foreign, he made many friends and formed relationships with several girls, even adopting a dog. It appears he had an active social life, despite a grueling workload, and he discusses various parties he attended and day trips with friends and girlfriends around Brazil in his letters. After the war, Rawls earned a law degree from the University of Florida and served in the Florida State Senate from 1955-1961, as the Democratic representative of the 4th district. He also served as a judge on the District Court of Appeals, 1st District in the state of Florida.


1 Linear Feet (2 half boxes)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Transferred from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience to FSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives in July 2022.

Source of Acquisition

JoLen Rawls Wolf

Method of Acquisition

Donated by the daughter of John S. Rawls and niece of David Rawls.

Rawls Family papers
Kristina Hopf
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository

116 Honors Way
PO Box 3062047
Tallahassee FL 32306-2047 US