The Robert R. Hudelson Papers

Robert in his football uniform as an undergraduate student.

Robert in his football uniform as an undergraduate student.

The Student Life and Culture (SLC) Archives recently received the papers and photographs of Robert R. Hudelson (RS 41/20/255), a University of Illinois student and former Dean of the College of Agriculture. Robert Hudelson was born in 1886 in Chambersburg, Illinois to Henry and Katherine Brook Hudelson. He first attended Illinois State University at Normal, Illinois where he received  a bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1908. From 1909 to 1912, he attended the University of Illinois where he received a bachelor’s degree in agronomy. He then went on to earn a master’s degree  in chemistry  and soils from the University of Missouri in 1915.

After this time, Robert became a soldier during World War I, where he kept a diary documenting the daily life of a soldier. The SLC Archives has been lucky enough to have received this diary. In addition, SLC has also acquired a few other journals of Robert’s and several scrapbooks of his family and from his time as a student.

Robert Hudelson's war diary.

Robert Hudelson’s war diary.

Robert’s diary details his time as a soldier during the year 1918, but he was involved in the military from 1917 to 1919. He reported to Fort Sheridan, near Chicago, and trained there to become an officer from September 1917 to December 1917. After his training, Robert received the rank of First Lieutenant Officer and was ordered to Camp Lee in Virginia. At this point in time, he begins to document his time at Camp Lee in his diary. Upon arrival, Hudelson was appointed Battery Commander of Battery B Field Artillery 80th Division of the United States Army.

Robert describes an event that occurred during his time at Camp Lee that involves horses that his men had to train: “Our horses came from a remount station and some were not gentle. I recall one horse with good conformation of a type we called German Coach, but very spirited. He threw the stable sergeant and anyone else who had the courage to try to ride him. But one day, when we took the battalion to Dutch Gap, Va., for target practice, …nearly all the men seemed to be out of camp. I took advantage of the lull to see if I could ride the spirited horse. But the horse had decided not to be ridden and he squealed and fussed until every man in camp gathered round. My first attempt to mount the horse was too quick, but the second attempt was successful and the horse gave up. He was not difficult to ride and after a few more rides, we had no further trouble with him.”


Robert Hudelson in uniform.

After a wet Spring at Camp Lee, Hudelson and his men were ordered overseas on May 4, 1918. He describes the journey across the Atlantic aboard a ship in detail in his journal. Robert’s battalion was to be stationed in Redon, France. He spent only two months in Europe, when he got word that he had been made a captain and was summoned back to the United States to begin training a new battery at Camp Funston, Kansas. During his time at Camp Funston, Hudelson experienced a nasty flu epidemic. He reported that “half of my men were hospitalized at one time and five men died.” His diary ends here, but he continues his story in his autobiography.

After the flu epidemic, Robert’s battalion at Camp Funston was ordered overseas as well. He was on board the ship when they got word that the war had ended. He writes that this “left me with a temporary feeling of disappointment for having spent almost a year and a half getting ready  to do something I would never do.” Robert was discharged on January 20th, 1919 as Captain of Field Artillery USA.

Upon returning from war, Robert decided to go pioneering in Canada with a friend until 1923. It didn’t turn out like they thought that it would and they returned to Missouri. He joined the Doane Agricultural Service of St. Louis where he managed large farm holdings and farm appraisals. In 1924, Robert asked his long time friend, Willie Lightner, to marry him and they were married on September 28, 1924.  Less than a year later, he was asked to return to the University of Illinois to become an Associate Professor of Farm Management. From 1925 to 1954, Robert was a faculty member at the University. During this time, he had a daughter, Virginia, in 1927 and earned a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Illinois in 1939. Around the same time, he was appointed Assistant Dean of the College of Agriculture. In 1949, Robert went to Germany as a visiting expert for the Regional Military Government Food Team, Civilian Personnel Division, Overseas Affairs Branch of the U.S. Army.

Robert R. Hudelson during his time as a professor.

Robert R. Hudelson during his time as a professor.

In 1950, Robert was asked to become Dean of the College of Commerce, but was met with conflicts in his new position. After only a year, he returned to the College of Agriculture and was promoted to Dean. He was Dean from 1952 to 1954, when he reached the age of retirement. Not wanting to discontinue working, Robert began at the Champaign County Bank and Trust, where he started a Farm Department for them. He worked for them for 12 more years, until he was 80 years old. Robert passed away peacefully on February 20, 1977 at the age of 91 in Columbus, Indiana. His daughter went on to become a Dean herself, at Indiana University.

The Hudelson papers contain a multitude of other items, including Robert Hudelson’s photographs as a student at Illinois State and the University of Illinois, journals from his many trips, a written autobiography, and other family photos. The Hudelson papers are an invaluable treasure, documenting student life, his time as Dean, and the life of a World War I soldier. There is so much more to learn about Robert Hudelson beyond this post!

This is a new record series here at SLC and is available now for your research needs or personal interest! The record series number is 41/20/255 and the items can be viewed at the Archives Research Center.


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