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William Hoke Sumner Papers

Identifier: MS0138

Scope and Contents

Photographic prints and negatives documenting the work of a photographer active in the Charlotte area. The processed portion of the collection includes almost 20,000 negatives illustrating businesses, news and sports events, visiting celebrities, weddings, social gatherings, and individuals. The unprocessed portion contains prints and negatives of similar scenes and of the Penland School of Handicrafts (ca. 1948-1952).


  • Creation: 1939 - 1968


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

William Hoke Sumner Jr. was born in Charlotte in 1912 and attended Woodberry Forest School (a boarding school community for boys in grades nine through twelve) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was a member of Chi Phi fraternity. His interest in photography began around 1936. In 1940 he went to work for Tom Franklin, a commercial photographer and did contract work for The Charlotte News. During World War II, he served as a photographer’s mate with a U.S. Navy Construction battalion. He began his own business in the late 1940s but continued his association with The Charlotte News through Franklin. He retired in the mid-1970s. During his career, Sumner photographed news events, weddings, buildings, business meetings, sports events, store openings, ribbon cuttings, social gatherings, and numerous other activities that interested him or that he was commissioned to photograph. Among the celebrities he photographed were Eleanor Roosevelt, President Dwight D. Eisenhower at Freedom Park, and Marian Anderson singing at the Armory Auditorium before one of Charlotte's first integrated audiences. He was a member of the Queen City Optimist Club and attended St. Martin's Episcopal Church. His first wife, Julia Gibson Sumner (b. 1913), died on February 20, 1990. Later that year, he married his second wife, Mary Elizabeth Carter Rodgers. When Sumner died on November 16, 1993 in Charlotte, he was survived by his second wife, Mary.


4.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Part I of this collection contains approximately 19,757 negatives taken by William Hoke Sumner Jr., a professional photographer. The earliest photograph is dated 1939, but the bulk of the collection covers the period from 1945 to 1965. The collection consists primarily of black and white negatives in one of three sizes: large (3 1/2" x 4 1/2"), medium (2 1/4" x 2 1/4"), or 35 mm. There are a few color negatives and positives and a few proofs. Based on Sumner's original order, the negatives have been organized into 13 volumes filed in 20 loose leaf ring notebooks. The majority of negatives in each volume were taken within 2 or 3 years of each other, but the earliest and latest dates may span a much longer period [inclusive dates for each volume are listed below]. NOTE: the "compiler's report" on the following pages explains the arrangement system in more detail. In spite of the reference to an "index," there is no true index that locates a particular subject or event within the collection; rather, a catalog identifies each negative or series of negatives in the order in which they are filed. This catalog is shelved with the negatives


The collection is arranged into the following series and subseries:

I. Correspondence and personal materials II. Photographic materials i. Photographs a. Sumner personal photographs ii. Negatives a. 1954-1965 b. Negatives organized by donor, date and subject written on envelopes 1. Negative box 2 2. Negative box 3 3. Negative box 3 iii. Slides 1. Cities and regional locales 2. Specific locations (buildings, etc.) 3. Churches 4. Outside of NC 5. People 6. Chronological 7. Assorted and unidentified III. Memorabilia

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of William H. Sumner, 1988; gift of Curtis F. Shepard, 2002.

Available online

A portion of the William H. Sumner photographs has been digitized and can be found online:

Processing Information

Processed by David Inman and Robin Brabham, 1988; encoded by Robert A. McInnes, September 2010

William H. Sumner papers
Robin Brabham
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 Manuscript Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Charlotte Repository

Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte NC 28223 United States

About this Site

Finding aids are guides to archival collections, including manuscripts, university records, and oral history collections. These guides help you find physical collections which can be viewed in the Dalton Reading Room on the 10th floor of Atkins Library. A small number of finding aids link to digital content online. Please contact us to learn more or to schedule an appointment:

Special Collections and University Archives
J. Murrey Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
(704) 687-1170
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