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Joseph T. McDonnell Papers

Identifier: 85-11
The collection is divided into three series: the papers of Joseph T. McDonnell; the papers of Gladys Morris McDonnell, his wife; and those of Gladys' parents, Richard L. and Jesse Williams Morris. Each series is further arranged into subseries.

The papers of Joseph T. McDonnell (1912-1979) reflect his military life and his careers as attorney and senatorial legislative assistant. Included are correspondence, reports, an index of clients, sample wills and trust agreements; files on his Army and Reserve Services, official documents such as birth and marriage certificates, miscellaneous materials such as inaugural invitations and first day stamp covers, and photographs of both his family and professional contacts. Of particular note are the letters written by McDonnell to his wife while in Army training camp (1943) and in occupied Korea (1945-6). This subseries of daily letters describes in detail Army life and bureaucracy, and presents vivid descriptions of Korean geography and culture.

The papers of Gladys M. McDonnell consist primarily of diaries and engagement calendars (1958-1982); diplomas and educational certificates; a report to Senator McCarran on U.S. Information Libraries in Europe (1952); and yearbooks and Bibles. The diaries chronicle events, appointments, trips, and visitors of both Mr. and Mrs. McDonnell.

The Richard L. Morris and Jessie Williams Morris papers form the third series of the McDonnell collection. The largest subseries consists of legal records: birth, marriage, and death certificates; wills; deeds and title abstracts; and legal correspondence. There are genealogical materials present (correspondence, family lineage report); miscellaneous items of poetry, programs, and a Welsh folk songbook; and books (Bibles, some in Welsh).


  • 1885-1982



Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.


3 Cubic Feet (4 boxes)


Papers of Mr. & Mrs. McDonnell and her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Richard L. Morris. Included are diaries, papers related to Joseph's careers as lawyer and legislative assistant, correspondence, legal documents, family records, books, photos, and memorabilia. Of particular note are letters written by Joseph to Gladys while he was stationed in Korea, 1945-1946.

Biographical Note

Joseph T. McDonnell was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on Sept. 23, 1908. He attended Reno High School and the University of Nevada-Reno, where he received his B.A. in 1933, and subsequently did graduate work in accounting and economics. In 1938, he married Gladys C. Morris of Reno. During World War II he was stationed with the U.S. Army in the Pacific Theater and attained the rank of Captain. Between Sept. 30, 1945 and Aug. 1946, he was assigned to occupied Korea and after his return to the United States, served in the Army Reserves until 1956.

McDonnell joined the staff of Nevada Senator Pat McCarran in 1948, serving as McCarran's administrative assistant until 1952. He also worked for Senator Alan Bible in the same capacity for two years, and on the staff of the Senate Committee on Appropriations from 1965 until his retirement in 1974.

While on McCarran's staff, McDonnell attended Georgetown Law School at night, graduating in 1953. That same year he was admitted to the Nevada State Bar; The U.S. District Court, Washington, D.C.; and the U.S. Court of Appeals. He was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1958, and maintained a private law practice in Washington, D.C.

In 1974, McDonnell retired and returned with his wife to Reno, where he died in 1985.


Organized into three series and several subseries:

Series I. Joseph T. McDonnell Papers Subseries 1.1 Career: Legislative Assistant Subseries 1.2. Career: Attorney Subseries 1.3. Legal Papers (non-career) Subseries 1.4. Correspondence Subseries 1.5. Published materials Subseries 1.6. Drawings Subseries 1.7. Photographs

Series 2. Gladys M. McDonnell Papers Subseries 2.1. Diaries and Engagement Calendars Subseries 2.2 Education Subseries 2.3. Report-U.S. Information Centers Subseries 2.4. Books

Series 3. Richard L. and Jessie Williams Morris Papers Subseries 3.1. Legal Documents Subseries 3.2. Correspondence Subseries 3.3. Miscellaneous Subseries 3.4. Books

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Joseph T. McDonnell Collection was donated to the Special Collections Department by his estate in 1985.


A Guide to the Papers of Joseph T. McDonnell
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)