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Monday - Friday:
9 am - 4:30 pm

Other times by appointment


The Special Collections is located on the east side of the Library at the front of the 3rd floor.

Contact Information

Patricia W. & J. Douglas Perry Library
Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0256
telephone (757) 683-5350
fax (757) 683-5954


The Papers of Benjamin Banks  


Benjamin A. Banks (original family name Bonk) was born, according to his own testimony, on May 18, 1884, in Baltimore, Maryland. Soon after his father's death his family moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where they had relatives living. Banks received his only formal education in Norfolk's public schools. He then studied law on his own and was admitted to the Virginia Bar in November 1909. He continued to practice law until his death on April 27, 1974.

From 1908 through 1913, Banks served as editor and publisher of The Galaxy, a literary magazine which he hoped would enjoy critical and financial success not only in Norfolk but throughout the South. His colleague in this unsuccessful effort was local poet George Viett, who remained Banks' close friend until his death in 1943. Banks' first forays into the political arena in Norfolk were quite successful. He served on the Norfolk Board of Alderman from 1908 to 1911 at which point he resigned to take up the seat he had recently won in the Virginia House of Delegates. Banks did not run for reelection however, and all his subsequent attempts to return to public office: Virginia State Senate (1923); Commonwealth's Attorney for Norfolk (1925); House of Delegates (1933, 1937) ended in defeat.

Nonetheless, he played an active role in Norfolk's Democratic politics from the 1900's through the 1940's. He participated in most local election campaigns and was frequently called on to make radio speeches on behalf of the candidates. For example, he successfully supported Norman Hamilton against Colgate Darden for Congress in 1936 and then aided Darden to defeat Hamilton in 1938. Banks was elected Norfolk chairman of the Virginia Liberal League in 1918 and, in 1937, he helped found the Citizen's Democratic League, a group that supported candidates against the dominant local Democratic organization, with only limited success, until its demise in the early 1940's. Banks was also an active campaigner for Democratic presidential candidates from Woodrow Wilson to George McGovern. He was particularly active in the Roosevelt clubs that developed in the 1930's.

Banks was a prominent member of the Norfolk Jewish community and was especially interested in promoting better understanding among Christians and Jews. He worked toward this goal in many letters written to local newspapers, especially in his annual Christmas " epistles. " His numerous letters to the editors of the leading Norfolk and Richmond newspapers dealt with many topics, more often with political issues - local, state, and national. Their range-from Prohibition and the Ku Klux Klan to Vietnam and Watergate - symbolize the length of his concerns with political issues. Bank's letters also won him plaudits from many members of the Tidewater community and from political figures throughout the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.


Personal Papers (9 Boxes): Includes personal correspondence; " Letters to the Editor" (1910-1972); miscellaneous material re. Judaism, Christianity, and their relationship; speeches and material for speeches; Literary materials for and copies of The Galaxy; papers relating to George Viett, Norfolk poet-author. Oversized memorabilia are stored in the dropfront box.

Political Papers (4 Boxes): Includes material regarding Banks' own short political career (1908-1913), his involvement in Norfolk politics from the 1900's through the 1940's, and his participation in presidential campaigns in Virginia (especially in Norfolk) throughout this same period. Also contains correspondence relating to his largely unsuccessful efforts to obtain patronage jobs from both the Wilson and Roosevelt Administrations.

Scrapbooks (3 Boxes): Contain newspaper clippings and some correspondence regarding his political activities; clippings of letters to the editors; some items relating to Judaism.

Pictorial Records (1 Box): Includes a small number of miscellaneous photographs; oversized photographs are kept in the dropfront box. A large framed photograph of the "Bench and Bar of Norfolk, Va. 1922" is stored separately.

Books (1 Box): Three Books from Banks' personal library; Manuals of the Senate and House of Delegates of Virginia for the years 1908, 1912, 19269 1934.


Gift of Helen G. Banks, May 18, 1976


Open to researchers without restrictions. Questions on literary property rights should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian.


18 Hollinger document cases; 1 Hollinger dropfront print box


MG - 6


Boxes 1 - 9 Personal Papers

Box 1 Correspondence

Folder 1 General, 1910-1973
Folder 2 Polan Banks, 1943-1974
Folder 3 Annie, 1914
Folder 4 Caroline, 1912
Folder 5 Ernestine, 1921
Folder 6 Hortense, 1919
Folder 7 Hortense, 1919-1921
Folder 8 Correspondence re. Education League Scholarship, 1906

Box 2 Letters to the Editor

Folder 1 Letters re. Press
Folder 2 Correspondence with Editors of Virginian-Pilot, 1924-1972
Folder 3 Correspondence with Editors of Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1944-1971
Folder 4 Virginian-Pilot, 1924-1963
Folder 5 Virginian-Pilot, 1964-1972
Folder 6 Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch, 1916-1959
Folder 7 Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch, 1960-1972
Folder 8 Richmond News-Leader; Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1942-1973
Folder 9 Miscellaneous Papers, 1940-1968
Folder 10 Unknown Papers, 1907-1956
Folder 11 Tributes to Others, 1943-1973
Folder 12 "Fan Letters": General, 1948-1973
Folder 13 "Fan Letters": Irving Kline, 1958-1974
Folder 14 "Fan Letters"': Misc. Political Figures, 1940-1974
Folder 15 "Fan Letters": Colgate Darden; Floyd Kellam; Richard Kellam; Sydney Kellam, 1953-1973

Box 3 Miscellaneous

Folders 1-7 Letters to the Editor: Clippings
Folder 1 1920-1929
Folder 2 1930-1939
Folder 3 1940-1949
Folder 4 1950-1959
Folder 5 1960-1969
Folder 6 1970-1974
Folder 7 Dates Unknown
Folder 8 Material re. Press Handling of Letters to the Editor
Folder 9 Newspaper Clippings re. Banks

Folders 10-13 Knights of Pythias

Folder 10 Banks' Speeches before Group, 1940-1970
Folder 11 Material re. Banks' Involvement, 1944-1946, 1948
Folder 12 Material re. Lodge #10 (Norfolk), 1943-1967
Folder 13 Material re. National Organization
Folder 14 Sons of Italy: Correspondence; Misc. material re. relationship with Banks, 1912-1972
Folder 15 Legal Practice: Documents; Newspaper Clippings, 1920-1974
Folder 16 Miscellaneous Items

Box 4 Literary Material: The Galaxy

Folder 1 Index to Scrapbooks; The Galaxy; Letters
Folder 2 Misc. Material re. The Galaxy, 1907-1913
Folder 3 The Galaxy: Woodrow Wilson Inauguration Issue, March, 1913
Bound Volumes The Galaxy: Vols. I & II, September 1907- August, 1909; Vols. III & IV, September, 1909 - October, 1913

Box 5 Literary Material; Speeches; Tributes

Folders 1-4 Literary Material
Folder 1 Aphorisms; Quotations
Folder 2 Bibliographies
Folder 3 Clippings; Articles; Poems
Folder 4 Miscellaneous

Folders 5-7 Speeches

Folder 5 Speeches on Miscellaneous Topics
Folder 6 Material for Speeches
Folder 7 Speeches Given by Others (Perhaps Written By Banks)
Folder 8 Speeches to Others; Speeches; Written Pieces

Box 6 George Viett Material

Folder 1 Published Works; Memorabilia, 1910-1930
Folder 2 Misc. Unpublished Writings, 1900-1943
Folder 3 Letters to the Editor, 1903-1941
Folder 4 Misc. Correspondence, 1918-1941

Folders 5-9 Clippings of Letters to the Editor

Folder 5 1910-1919
Folder 6 1920-1929
Folder 7 1930-1939
Folder 8 1940-1943
Folder 9 Dates Unknown
Folder 10 Letters, Columns Written under Gifo G. Everett Pen Name, 1920's
Folder 11 Correspondence re. Viett-Banks Dispute, May, 1919
Folder 12 Viett's Death, 1943
Folder l3 Misc. Items about Viett, 1900-1943
Folder 14 Disposition of Viett's Personal Papers, 1943

Boxes 7-9 Religion

Box 7 General; Christianity

Folder 1 General Material on Religion
Folder 2 General: Versions of Speech on "Law and Religion"
Folder 3 General: Liberty, A Magazine of Religious Freedom, 1946, 1963 (Misc. Copies)

Folders 4-9 Christianity

Folder 4 Misc. Material
Folder 5 Misc. Articles, 1820-1966
Folder 6 Misc. Newsclippings, 1900-1970
Folder 7 Publications of the American Board of Missions to the Jews, 1950-1960
Folder 8 Christmas Letters to Editors (Largely to Norfolk Press), 1947-1968
Folder 9 Misc. Correspondence

Box 8 Judaism

Folder 1 Misc. Speeches and Written Pieces (Banks)
Folder 2 Misc. Material (Banks)
Folder 3 Letters to the Editor (Largely Norfolk Press), 1915-1972
Folder 4 Jefferson Society of Norfolk (Jewish Discussion Group), 1906-1911
Folder 5 Norfolk Jewish Community: Misc. Material, 1948-1955
Folder 6 Correspondence with American Jewish Archives, 1970-1973
Folder 7 List of Items Sent to American Jewish Archives, 1970
Folder 8 Correspondence with Rabbi Harold D. Hahn, 1964-1973
Folder 9 Correspondence with Rabbi Alan Steinbach; Misc. material re. Steinbach, 1923-1972
Folder 10 Misc. Correspondence, 1948-1972

Box 9 Judaism

Folder 1 Misc. Articles, 1889-1965
Folder 2 Misc. Newsclippings, 1900-1967
Folder 3 Misc. Publications re. Judaism, 1946-1960
Folder 4 American Judaism, 1957-1965
Folder 5 Misc. Writings on Zionism (Banks), 1915-1969
Folder 6 Misc. Newsclippings re. Zionism, 1915-1970
Folder 7 Misc. Non-Jewish Publications re. Zionism, 1948, 1969
Folder 8 The New Palestine; Congress Weekly, 1948-1950
Folder 9 B'nai B'rith Publications, 1910-1913, 1960
Folder 10 Misc. B'nai B'rith Material (Banks)

Boxes 10-13 Political Papers

Box 10 Norfolk Politics

Folder 1 Self-Summary of Banks' Political Career, 1910-1960
Folder 2 Service on Norfolk Board of Aldermen, 1908-1911
Folder 3 "Norfolk, Virginia": Booklet Prepared by Banks for Industrial Commission, 1909
Folder 4 Controversy over Banks' Origins: General, 1911-1912
Folder 5 Controversy over Banks' Origins: Dispute within Blnai Blrith Lodge, 1912-1913

Folders 6-8 Virginia House of Delegates Career

Folder 6 Misc. Material, 1911-1913
Folder 7 Speeches in House, 1912
Folder 8 Bills Introduced, 1912
Folder 9 Campaign for State Senate, 1923
Folder 10 Campaign for Commonwealth's Attorney, 1925
Folder 11 Campaign for House of Delegates, 1933
Folder 12 Hamilton-Darden Congressional Campaign, 1936

Folders 13-15 Citizens' Democratic League

Folder 13 Misc. Material re. Goals of Group, 1937-1940
Folder 14 Misc. Campaign Material, 1937-1940
Folder 15 Newspaper Clippings, 1937
Folder 16 Hamilton-Darden Congressional Campaign: Banks' Speeches, 1938
Folder 17 Hamilton-Darden Campaign: Campaign Materials, 1938

Box 11 Norfolk Politics; State Politics; Presidential Campaigns

Folders 1-6 Norfolk Politics

Folder 1 1940 City Council Election
Folder 2 Special Election, 2nd Congressional District, 1941
Folder 3 Citizens' Democratic League: Misc. Material, 1940's
Folder 4 Misc. Material, 1960's
Folder 5 E. Vincent Wyatt Campaign for City Treasurer, 1965-1966
Folder 6 Misc. Banks' Speeches

Folders 7-9 State Politics

Folder 7 A. Willis Robertson's U.S. Senate Campaign, 1966
Folder 8 Henry Howell's Gubernatorial Campaign, 1969
Folder 9 Misc. Banks' Speeches re. Statewide Elections, 1910-1950

Folders 10-18 Presidential Campaigns

Folder 10 Wilson Campaign and Administration, 1912-1918
Folder 11 Al Smith Campaign: Banks' Speech, 1928
Folder 12 Roosevelt Campaigns: Correspondence, 1932-1944
Folder 13 Roosevelt Campaigns: Misc. Material, 1932-1936
Folder 14 Roosevelt Campaigns: Bank's Speeches, 1932-1944
Folder 15 Roosevelt Administrations: Misc. Material, 1933-1939
Folder 16 1952 Campaign: Misc. Material
Folder 17 1960 Campaign: Misc. Material
Folder 18 1968 Campaign: Letters to the Editor, Sept.-Oct., 1968

Box 12 Political Correspondence

Folder 1 Miscellaneous, 1907-1971
Folder 2 Norman Hamilton, 1934-1936
Folder 3 Norman Hamilton (After election to Congress), 1936-1937
Folder 4 Colgate Darden: General, 1935-1969
Folder 5 Correspondence with Wilson Administration re. Government Job, 1912-1918
Folder 6 Correspondence with Virginia Politicians re. Support for Job in Wilson Administration, 1913-1920
Folder 7 Correspondence with Simon Wolf re. Efforts to Obtain Government Job, 1914
Folder 8 Applications for Collectorship of Port of Norfolk, 1914
Folder 9 Correspondence with Dept. of Justice re. Government Job, 1933-1934
Folder 10 Correspondence with Dept. of Justice re. Job Obtained in War Risk Insurance Office, 1934-1936
Folder 11 Misc. Correspondence re. Dept. of Justice Jobs, 1933-1934, 1936
Folder 12 Correspondence with Harry Byrd, Sr. re. Dept. of Justice Job, 1933-1934
Folder 13 Correspondence with Colgate Darden re. Dept. of Justice Job, 1933-1934
Folder 14 Correspondence with Bernard Baruch re. Dept. of Justice Job, 1934

Box 13 Miscellaneous

Folder 1 Correspondence with Treasury Dept. re. Government Job, 1934-1939
Folder 2 Misc. Correspondence re. Government Jobs (Largely with Colgate Darden), 1939-1942
Folder 3 Correspondence with Congressman Winder Harris re. Government Job, 1942
Folder 4 Material re. "Negro Problem" - Including Supreme Court's Role, 1903-1958
Folder 5 "Legal Articles" (Considerable Material re. Supreme Court), 1920-1970
Folder 6 The Growler: Norfolk Political Weekly, 1905
Folder 7 The Free-Lance: Norfolk Political Weekly, 1905
Folder 8 The Free-Lance, 1906

Boxes 14-16 Scrapbooks

Box 14 Scrapbooks #1, #3, #4 (Loose Pages)

Folder 1 Index to Scrapbooks
Folder 2 Book #1: pp. 1-36 (Largely Political), 1906-1912
Folder 3 Book #1: pp. 37-71 (Largely Political), 1906-1912
Folder 4 Book #3: pp. 1-38 (Largely Political), 1924 1958
Folder 5 Book #3: pp. 38-78 (Largely Political), 1924-1958
Folder 6 Book #4 (Largely Political), 1912-1924

Box 15 Scrapbook #2

Bound Volume Letters to Editors; Misc. Newclippings, 1906-1972

Box 16 Scrapbooks (Loose Pages)

Folder 1 "Political and Campaign Scrapbook" (Presidential Campaigns, 1912, 1932-1944
Folder 2 Untitled Scrapbook: Jewish Topics; Items from The Galaxy, 1906-1913

Box 17 Pictorial Records

Folder 1 Governor Woodrow Wilson's Trip to Richmond, 1912
Folder 2 B.A. Banks in Law Office, 1910's or 1920'
Folder 3 Banks' State Senate Campaign, 1923
Folder 4 Misc. Photographs

Additional Pictorial Records Contained in Dropfront Print Box:

Photograph of Norfolk Industrial Commission, C. 1909
Photograph of 7th Annual Harbors and Rivers Congress, Washington, D.C, December 18, 1910
Group Portrait of 1912 Virginia House of Delegates
Large framed photograph of the Norfolk Bar Association (1922) is stored separately.

Box 18 Books

Flanders, Henry. The Lives and Times of the Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Vol. I: John Jay- John Rutledge. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., l855.
Harris, Joel Chandler. Life of Henry W. Grady. New York: Cassell, 1890.
U.S. House of Representatives. Henry D. Flood. Memorial Addresses Delivered in Congress. Washington, D.C.: Gov't. Printing Office, 1922.
Manual of the Senate and House of Delegates, Virginia. 1908, 1912, 1926, 1934.

Dropfront Print Box (Oversized Items)


License to Practice Law in Virginia, November 12, 1909
Certificate of Election to the House of Delegates, November 27, 1911
Commendation from Italian Societies of Norfolk, 1912
Authorization to Plead Cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, January 21, 1929


Norfolk Industrial Commission, c. 1909
7th Annual Harbors and Rivers Congress, Washington, D. C., December 18, 1910
House of Delegates, Virginia, 1912

Revised: 7/10/2008