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Joseph Riggs Papers

Identifier: RG-010-1-C-1-2

Scope and Contents

This collection contains manuscripts, correspondence, newspaper clippings, digital photographs, publications, audio recordings, transcripts and indexes related to Joe Riggs’s teaching career, oral history projects, and personal life. A small portion of the original material has been digitized or photocopied and returned to the donor.

Included in the collection are interviews and transcripts conducted by Riggs on a variety of subjects including aviation, entertainment, government, war and agricultural engineering. The field of optometry is particularly well-represented, with audio recordings of interviews and research about people who were influential in the political and technical aspects of the field. Correspondence related to the publication of the Riggs and Osborn book "Mr. Mac”: William P. MacCracken, Jr. on Aviation, Law, Optometry is included in this collection (see also Related Materials).

Riggs’s research for "Mr. Mac” laid the foundation for subsequent oral history projects on vision care. Interviews conducted in the 1970s with Irvin Max Borish, Glenn Fry, Arthur Bennett, Fergus Campbell, Michel Millidot, A.M. Skeffington and Michael Heiberger are included in this collection along with the corresponding transcripts (see Historical Note).

Another project conducted by Riggs in the 1970s, with the assistance of his wife Virginia, Lois Monahan and Slippery Rock University library staff members, focused on drama critic Kaspar “Kap” Monahan (see Related Materials). The research team conducted interviews with Monahan, his wife Lois, and many of Monahan’s friends and colleagues. This collection includes Riggs’s oral history interviews and transcripts with “Kap” and Lois, as well as photographs of Monahan with numerous Hollywood actors and actresses of the mid-20th century. While the majority of the material related to this project is held by the University of Pittsburgh, selected items are included in this collection (see Related Material).

Riggs was also a consultant and interviewer for the TV documentary The Once and Always Mr. Crump. (See Historical Note). Transcripts of interviews for the documentary with governors, congressmen, judges, political leaders, civil rights leaders and others affected by Crump’s political influence, are included in this collection (see Related Material: Everett R. Cook Oral History Collection, Memphis Public Library).

Also included in this collection are “oral memoirs” with three influential veterans who served in both World Wars: Tennessee Governor Gordon Browning, Admiral Harold M. Martin, and Brigadier General Everett R. Cook.

A transcript of Riggs and Jean Myers interviewing Shelby Foote, the historian and novelist, is included in this collection as well.

For additional information about Riggs’s oral history projects, see: Series 3, Box 6, folder 1.


  • 1927-2011
  • Majority of material found within 1955-1989


Conditions Governing Access

Some files are restricted and shall remain closed until 2083 (Box 5, Series 2, Sub-series B,folders 31a and 31b).

Conditions Governing Use

The items in this collection are protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use these items in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. In addition, no permission is required from the rights-holder(s) for educational uses. For other uses, you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

See In Copyright-Educational Use Permitted on for more infomation.

The Slippery Rock University Archives assumes no responsibility for copyright infringement by users. Contact the Archives at for more information.

Biographical Note

Dr. Joseph (Joe) Riggs, professor emeritus, Communication Department, Slippery Rock University, was born in Middlebourne, West Virginia in 1928. He is the son of the late Ora C. and Ida E. Riggs. Riggs graduated from Alderson Broaddus College in 1952 with a BA in Speech, English and Social Studies. In 1953 he earned a master’s degree in speech from West Virginia University and in 1962 a PhD in speech communication and American history from the University of Illinois. Riggs taught at Slippery Rock University from 1971 to 1989. Before coming to Slippery Rock he taught at Lehigh University (1953-1954), Glenville State College (1954-1955), Memphis State University (1955-1970) and Indiana State University, Terre Haute (1970).

During his career, Riggs received numerous honors. In 1970 he was presented with a Distinguished Professor Award at Memphis State University. He was appointed to the Pennsylvania Public Television Network Higher Education Advisory Council, serving from 1975 to 1978. He worked as curator for the Memphis Public Library, the Kasper Monahan Collection at Slippery Rock University and the Manuscript and Oral History Collections for the Southern College of Optometry. Riggs also served on the board of directors of WQED-TV, Pittsburgh from 1972 to 1978.

In addition to his teaching career, Riggs has been involved in a variety of intellectual pursuits and worked in a number of occupations including forest fire fighter (Montana), Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, consultant and interviewer for radio and television productions, athletic coach, debate coach, playwright, civil rights activist (Memphis, Tennessee), author and editor. (See folder 1, Joseph H. Riggs Chronology)

Since his retirement from Slippery Rock University Riggs has been active in the Slippery Rock Heritage Association, conducting oral history interviews. The publication The Way We Were: Oral Histories from Northwestern Butler County, collected by Joe Riggs and edited by Kenneth Harris & Jerilyn McDowell, includes some of those interviews. Riggs and his wife Virginia (Donegia) Riggs have four sons: Martin, Jeffrey, Douglas, and Phillip.

Historical Notes

William P. MacCracken, about whom Riggs and Michael Osborn wrote "Mr. Mac”: William P. MacCracken, Jr. on Aviation, Law, Optometry, served as Washington Counsel for the American Optometric Association and was appointed the first Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics by President Herbert Hoover in 1926.

Other key figures on vision care include the hugely influential Irvin Max Borish (Indiana University), Harold Kohn (former General Counsel, American Optometric Association), E.H. Kiekenapp (former Secretary, American Optometric Association), Glenn Fry (Ohio State University), Arthur Bennett (senior lecturer, School of Optometry, London City University), Fergus Campbell (Cambridge University), Michel Millidot (School of Optometry at the University of Wales in Cardiff), A.M. Skeffington (former Director of the Optometric Extension Program) and Michael Heiberger (Director of International Programs, SUNY College of Optometry).

Edward Hull Crump, the focus of The Once and Always Mr.Crump, dominated politics in Tennessee during the first half of the 20th century. Riggs served as a consultant and interviewer for this TV documentary.


8.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Joseph Howard Riggs (1928- ) taught at Slippery Rock University from 1971 to 1989. He retired from the Communication Department, having taught previously in the Speech Department. Before coming to Slippery Rock, Riggs taught at Memphis State University from 1955 to 1970. He has been an author, scholar, archivist, radio and television interviewer, union member, oral historian, human rights activist and leader of several organizations.


Series 1: Person and Biographical

Inclusive dates: 1937-2011

Bulk Dates: 1960-1985

Quantity: 3 linear feet

This series contains autobiographical material, news clippings, and Riggs’s academic papers. It is arranged chronologically.

Series 2: Teaching Career

Inclusive dates: 1953-1989

Bulk dates: 1958-1989

Qauntity: 2 linear feet

This series consists of memos, syllabi, meeting minutes, lecture notes, class assignments, and other papers related to his teaching career. There is one file each for Lehigh University, and Glenville State College, and three files for Indiana State University. The bulk of the material is from Memphis State University and Slippery Rock University. The series is arranged chronologically.

Subseries A: Memphis State University (1955-1970)

Subseries B: Slippery Rock University (1971-1989)

Series 3: Interviews and oral history projects

Inclusive dates: 1965-1990

Bulk dates: 1967-1980

Quantity: 2 linear feet

This series contains interviews and materials related to Riggs’s oral history projects including transcripts and indexes. It is arranged alphabetically.

Subseries A: Indexes and transcripts related to Riggs’s oral history projects and interviews on optometry and other topics. Includes interviews conducted as research for the “Everett R. Cook a Memoir” and the TV documentary “The Once and Only Mr. Crump”

Subseries B: Transcripts related to Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, Slippery Rock State College and Slippery Rock University

Series 4: Correspondence

Inclusive dates: 1956-2010

Bulk dates: 1963-1990

Quantity: .5 linear feet

This series contains general correspondence separated from the subject-specific series above. It is arranged by subject.

Series 5: Publicationcs

Inclusive dates: 1956-2012

Bulk dates: 1956-1980

Quantity: .5 linear feet

Series 6: Audiovisual materials

Inclusive dates: 1918-2010

Bulk dates: 1940-1980

Quantity: .5 linear feet

This series contains recordings of oral history interviews, documentaries and instructional videos, and scanned images of photographs and documents. Formats included are audiocassettes, CDs, DVDs and VHS tapes. The material is arranged alphabetically.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Digital images of the scanned photographic collection may be viewed in the Archives.

Audiocassette tapes must be reformatted prior to use.

Acquisition and Custodial History

This collection was received in its entirety directly from Joseph Riggs.

Existence and Location of Originals

The photographs and some documents were reproduced and returned to donor.

Related Materials

Joseph Riggs and Michael Osborn Research for Mr. Mac Collection (10-1-C-1-1), Slippery Rock University Archives

"Mr. Mac”: William P. MacCracken, Jr. on Aviation, Law, Optometry, by Michael Osborn and Joseph Riggs, Southern College of Optometry, 1970.

Interview with Joe Riggs, Rock Voices: the Oral History Project of SRU, Slippery Rock University Archives

Riggs-Brown SRU Oral History Project, Slippery Rock University Archives

Everett R. Cook Oral History Collection, Memphis Public Library, Memphis, TN

American Optometric Association Washington Office Records, 1945-1969 (microfilm), The Archives & Museum of Optometry, American Optometric Association, St. Louis, MO

New York Times Oral History Project, Tennessee Regional Oral History: Memphis

Joseph Riggs Collection relating to Kaspar Monahan; Curtis Theatre Collection; University of Pittsburgh

Reminisces of Gordon Browning: oral history, 1965, Columbia Center for Oral History

William P. MacCracken, Jr. Papers, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library

Document Types

Academic tests

Journal articles

Letters of correspondence


Newspaper clippings





Media Types

35mm slides


Cassette tapes


Digital images


Bethlehem, PA

Biggleswade, England

Boston, MA

Cambridge, England

Cardiff, Wales

Hollywood, CA

London, England

Middlebourne, WV

Memphis, TN

Pittsburgh, PA

San Antonio, TX

Shelby County, TN

Slippery Rock, PA

Terre Haute, IN

Tyler County, WV


Alderson-Broaddus College

American Association of University Professors (AAUP)

American Optometric Association (AOA)

Committee Selected to Investigate Police Brutality and Discrimination in Administration of Justice

Glenville State College

Indiana State University

Lehigh University

Memphis and Shelby County Task Force on Malnutrition

Memphis Health Welfare Planning Council

Memphis Poverty Study Committee

Memphis Public Library

Memphis State University

Operation Even Break

Slippery Rock State College

Slippery Rock University

Southern College of Optometry

Tyler County High School, WV

United States Air Force Reserve

United States Naval Reserves

University of Illinois



West Liberty State College

West Virginia University


Claude Armour

Bert Bates

Lois Bejack

Arthur Bennett

Irvin Borish

Beverly Bouche

Governor Gordon Browning

Lucius Burch Jr.

Fergus Campbell

Herbert Alexander Collings

Everett R. Cook

Governor Prentice Cooper

Edward Hull “Boss” Crump

Robert “Buddy” Dwyer

Bob Fiddler

Shelby Foote

Glenn Fry

Congressman E.C. “Took” Gathing

Congressman George Grider “Shifty” Logan Hipp

John J. Hooker Sr.

Cecil C. Humphreys

Evelyn Humphreys

Reverend Blair Hunt

Monsignor M.F. Kearney

Keith Kennedy

Harold Kohn

Ted Kneupper

Craig Leake

George W. Lee

Robert A. Macoskey

Admiral Harold Martin

Governor Jim McCord

William P. MacCracken, Jr.

Reverend J.A. McDaniel

Senator Kenneth D. McKellar

William Miller

Michele Millidot

Kasper “Kap” Monahan

Lois Monahan

Clara Muller

Mike Osborn

Clark Porteous

Douglas Riggs

Jeffrey Riggs

Martin Riggs

Phillip Riggs

Virginia (Donegia) Riggs

Paul Stynman

Russell Sugarman

Robert Tillman Don Van Orman

Abe Waldauer

Lamar Wallis

Tim Walters

Theodore Walwik

Index Terms

Kevin McLatchy
July 2012 ; revised Dec. 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Slippery Rock University Archives and Special Collections Repository

315 Bailey Library
Slippery Rock University
Slippery Rock PA 16057