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Harry Clifton Byrd papers

 Collection 0260-UA

Harry Clifton Byrd (1889-1970) was president of the University of Maryland from 1935 to 1954. After his retirement he became chairman of the Tidewater Fisheries Commission and was involved with the revitalization of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. His papers relate mainly to the University of Maryland, its buildings, lands, governing bodies, and programs. Other subjects documented include the Defense Orientation Conference Association, Far East Command, and state elections. Byrd's papers are comprised of statistics, reports, minutes, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and a scrapbook.


  • 1895-1970
  • Majority of material found within 1909-1969

Use and Access to Collection

Materials of a sensitive nature, such as those containing personally identifiable information, are restricted for 75 years or the life of the individual and may by screened and removed by special collections staff. Please speak with a staff member if you believe that materials have been unnecessarily removed.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


29.75 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Harry Clifton Byrd papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts, speeches, printed matter, certificates, memorabilia, photographs, and clippings, related to his involvement in the University of Maryland, political campaigns, commissions, and civic organizations. Topics cover a broad range, including campus matters, state politics, and international affairs. The papers span the period from 1909 to 1970, although the bulk of the material was created between 1923 and 1969.


Harry Clifton Byrd, one of six children of oysterman and county commissioner William Franklin Byrd and Sallie May Byrd, was born on February 12, 1889, in Crisfield, Maryland. After graduating from Crisfield High School in 1905, he attended Maryland Agricultural College, starring on the football, baseball, and track teams. In 1908, Byrd graduated second in his class with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering.

For three years after graduation, Byrd played football and did graduate work in law and journalism at Georgetown University, George Washington University, and Western Maryland College. He then covered sports for the Washington Star and coached high school football. In 1912, Byrd pitched for the San Francisco Seals, a semi-professional baseball team in the Pacific Coast League, but returned to Maryland that same year.

In 1913, Byrd married Katherine Dunlop Turnbull, although their marriage ended in divorce twenty years later. They had three sons, Harry, Sterling, and William, and one daughter, Evelyn.

After Byrd's return from playing for the San Francisco Seals, Maryland Agricultural College hired him as a football coach and an instructor in English and history. Because of his good sportsmanship and numerous victories, his reputation as a coach grew, and, in 1915, he became director of athletics. After he was appointed assistant to the president in 1918, Byrd became a leading spokesman for the unification of Maryland Agricultural College with the Baltimore schools to form the University of Maryland and helped plan the legislation that became the Consolidation Act of 1920. By 1932, he had risen to become vice president of the university.

Byrd remained an enthusiastic supporter of his alma mater as he moved upward through the administrative ranks. In 1921, he named the student newspaper the Diamondback and, in 1933, was directly involved in the adoption of the diamondback terrapin as the University of Maryland mascot.

Byrd became acting president of the university in July 1935 and was officially appointed president in February 1936. Despite criticisms that he was an authoritarian president, Byrd proved to be a popular and charismatic leader who facilitated the significant growth of the University of Maryland in the mid-twentieth century. During his tenure, the annual budget, the number of facilities, the faculty, and student enrollment expanded dramatically. Under Byrd's leadership, the University of Maryland also gained national attention as new educational programs such as American Studies were introduced. Byrd's successful efforts to secure funding for the university from the state and federal governments as well as from private sources supported this growth in size and reputation.

In January 1954, Byrd resigned from the presidency to run an unsuccessful campaign against Theodore McKeldin for governor of Maryland. In 1964, he lost his bid for the Democratic nomination for U. S. Senate and, in 1966, made an unsuccessful run for U. S. Congress. However, from 1958 into the 1960s, Byrd did hold several gubernatorial appointments: Chairman of the Maryland Tidewater Fisheries Commission, Maryland Commissioner to the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, and Chairman of the Commission on Chesapeake Bay Affairs.

In addition, Byrd was active in the business world as well as fraternal, civic, and international organizations. He was one of three men involved in the merger that resulted in the formation of the Suburban Trust Company, where he later served as vice president. He was also involved in real estate and construction businesses. A member of several fraternal organizations, Byrd served as Supreme Governor of the Loyal Order of the Moose in 1962. Additionally, he organized the College Park Rotary Club and became its first president. Lastly, Byrd was a member of the Defense Orientation Conference Association (D. O. C. A.), a national defense organization which facilitated his travels to other countries.

On October 2, 1970, Byrd died of a heart condition at University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.


These materials have been divided into eight series.

Series 1
University of Maryland
Series 2
Series 3
Private Life
Series 4
Series 5
Series 6
Series 7
Series 8

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Harry Clifton Byrd papers were donated to the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries by Byrd's son, Sterling J. Byrd, in March 1972. A scrapbook was discovered during processing of Byrd's presidential records in June 2013 and was transferred to the collection; it appears in series 8.

Related Material

Byrd's official files comprise a significant portion of the University of Maryland System President's Office record group. Since Byrd also frequently interacted with the Board of Regents, records relating to him exist in the Regents' official files as well.

Additional photographs of Byrd are located in the Biographical Print Files.

Processing Information

Materials have been placed into acid-free folders and boxes and metal clips replaced with chemically inert clips. Newspaper clippings (except scrapbooks) have been photocopied onto acid-free paper, and oversize items have been placed in flat boxes or folders. Memorabilia and photographs were separated from the papers and placed in the Memorabilia and Photograph Collections, respectively. In June 2011 and September 2011, photographs from the Print Files were reintegrated into the collection.

Guide to the Harry Clifton Byrd papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742