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Samuel Proctor Collection

Identifier: MS Coll. 135

Scope and Content

The collection consists primarily of Proctor's professional correspondence. Most notable in this regard are the extensive files on the Florida Historical Society and the Florida Historical Quarterly. The latter, however, appear to end in 1980, well before he stepped down as editor in 1993. The Quarterly files also contain correspondence from the last two years of Herbert Doherty's tenure as editor. Also of note are the files related to the Florida-Spain Alliance, which brought together scholars from Florida and Spain to discuss topics of mutual interest in the 1970s and 1980s. Conspicuous in the collection are the many folders related to Jewish life, culture and history, including his early involvement with the Anti-Defamation League and a project he headed to conduct oral histories among Jewish communities in the Caribbean and Latin America. Proctor also served as an expert witness for the state in the Tampa Bay Case which helped determine Florida's marine boundaries and a copy of his testimony appears in the collection.

Among the university files are records related to the development of the University Archives, the Center for Jewish Studies, and the Price Library of Judaica. There are extensive files from the Committee on Honorary Degrees which he chaired for many years and early records of the Preservation of Historic Buildings and Sites Committee.Finally, there are records related to his duties as University Historian, particularly in regards to his research leading up to the University's centennial in 1953. Of particular interest are his extensive research card files on the origins and early development of the University.

His writings and speeches often contain correspondence related to his scholarship as well as the works themselves. Among his articles are many he authored as the Historian for the Florida Civil War Centennial Commission from 1960 to 1965.

The collection also contains an incomplete reading file of his outgoing correspondence. Many of the letters in the reading file are not duplicated elsewhere.


  • Creation: 1947-1995


Conditions Governing Access

University Archives collections are available for research. Portions of the collections may be restricted due to the requirements of applicable state and federal laws, including but not limited to FERPA and HIPAA, and in accordance with best practices as defined by the Society of American Archivists.

Biographical/Historical Note

Samuel Proctor was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1919. He attended Robert E. Lee Senior High School and entered the University of Florida in 1937. He received his bachelor's in history in 1941 and a master's in 1942. His thesis was a biography of Florida Governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, a version of which was published by the University of Florida Press as Florida's Fighting Democrat. During World War II, he served as an instructor to Army recruits at Camp Blanding.

After the war he turned down scholarships to attend law school at Yale and Ohio State. Instead, Proctor returned to the University of Florida where he taught social sciences in University College. He later taught in the Department of History and joined the faculty of the Florida State Museum, now the Florida Museum of Natural History, as Curator of History. In the early 1950s, Proctor was heavily involved in the university's preparations for its centennial ceremony in 1953 and was appointed University Historian and Archivist by President J. Hillis Miller in 1951. He served as University Historian until his death in 2005. As University Historian, he was asked to write a history of the university from the founding of the East Florida Seminary in 1853 to the opening of the Gainesville campus in 1906. The history became his doctoral dissertation and Proctor was awarded his Ph. D. in 1958.

In 1968, Proctor established the University of Florida Oral History Program, now the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program. He had already established a name for himself as an oral historian and as a prolific writer of Florida history. He served on the board of the Florida Historical Society and was editor of the Florida Historical Quarterly from 1964 to 1993. He was director of the Florida Studies Center at the University of Florida and was named the Julien C. Yonge Professor of Florida History. He was also awarded the rank of Distinguished Service Professor.

Proctor was also an advocate for Jewish culture and history. He was active in the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. He was a member of Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity at the University of Florida and served as its faculty advisor for many years. He played a prominent part in the creation of the university's Hillel House, served as a historical consultant to several Florida Jewish groups, was influential in the creation of the Center for Jewish Studies and the Price Library of Judaica, and was active in the Southern Jewish Historical Society.

After retiring in 1993, Proctor continued to serve as the University Historian and was active in the Florida Alumni Association and the University of Florida Foundation. He was named in the Lakeland Ledger's list of the "Fifty Most Important Floridians of the 20th Century" published in 1998. In 2004, the University of Florida awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service.


22 Linear feet (52 Boxes)

Language of Materials



Samuel Proctor was an American historian, a pioneer in the field of oral history, and the founder and first director of the University of Florida's oral history program.


The collection is divided into five parts. Series I. Professional correspondence, Series II. University committees, groups and people, Series III. Speeches and writings, Series IV. Reading files, and Series V. Records of the University Historian.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

Gift of Samuel Proctor. The collection was acquired over a period of twenty years beginning in the early 1990s.

Processing Notes

Finding aid updated in February 2018 to include two additional boxes comprising Series V. "Records of the University Historian."

A Guide to the Samuel Proctor Collection
Finding aid created by Carl Van Ness
December 2016
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America