Benjamin H. and Anne Grant Purcell PapersBenjamin H. and Anne Grant Purcell Papers

Benjamin H. and Anne Grant Purcell Papers

Descriptive Summary

Title: Benjamin H. and Anne Grant Purcell Papers
Creator: Purcell, Anne
Creator: Purcell, Ben
Dates: 1967-2009
Extent: 6.0 boxes (3.5 linear feet, 1 oversize folder and 1 rolled item)
Collection Number: RBRL/328
Repository: Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies
Abstract: Benjamin H. Purcell (1928-2013) was a lieutenant colonel and POW during the Vietnam War and a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. Anne Grant Purcell is a civic and church leader from Clarksville, Georgia. Their papers document Mrs. Purcell's efforts to earn the release of Col. Purcell following his capture by the Viet Cong, the Purcells' work to share their experiences, Col. Purcell's tenure as a state representative, and his work on behalf of veterans of the Vietnam War. The papers include correspondence, speeches and remarks, book manuscripts and promotional material, campaign and political files, clippings, posters, and photographs.

Collection Description

Biographical Note

Benjamin H. Purcell was born February 14, 1928, in Banks County, Georgia. He attended public schools in Habersham County and graduated from Clarkesville High School in 1945. During 1946, Purcell served ten months in the United States Navy. In 1947, Purcell returned to Georgia and enrolled in North Georgia College (now the University of North Georgia), earning a Bachelor of Science in Physics in 1950 and an Army commission through the college’s ROTC program.

Anne Grant Purcell was born in Habersham County, Georgia, and attended public school in Baldwin, Georgia. Mrs. Purcell entered North Georgia College in 1949 and met Ben shortly after. They were married in 1951. Together the Purcells had five children – David, Debbie, Clifford, Sherria and Joy.

Col. Purcell saw active combat in Korea (1951-1952). After the war, he served at Fort Benning, Georgia, at Fort McClellan, Alabama, in Europe, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and as the Professor of Military Science at Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri. Having achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, he was assigned to the Republic of Vietnam in August 1967.

On February 8, 1968, the helicopter on which Col. Purcell was a passenger was shot down and he was captured by the Viet Cong. He spent 62 months as a POW, most of that time in solitary confinement, escaping and being recaptured twice.

When Mrs. Purcell learned that Col. Purcell was captured, she communicated frequently with the Department of the Army and joined with other families of captured soldiers, notably with the Citizens Assistance Program, to push for their release. With the founding of the National League of Families of Prisoners of War and Men Missing in Action in Southeast Asia in 1970, Mrs. Purcell served as coordinator of the organization in Columbus, Georgia. In 1971, she was selected as the Fort Benning Military Wife of the Year for her service to the cause of POWs and those missing in action.

In March 1973, Col. Purcell was released from the POW camp as the senior Army officer detainee. He spoke frequently about his POW experience to a variety of audiences and was interviewed by journalists, researchers and historians, and appeared on television programs. In 1992, the Purcells published Love and Duty, which chronicles Col. Purcell’s captivity and Mrs. Purcell’s efforts to obtain his release.

After his return to the United States, Col. Purcell remained on active duty until 1980 when he retired from his post as a military science professor in the North Georgia College Army ROTC program. For his service and dedication, Col. Purcell was awarded the Purple Heart, the Silver Star (2), the Bronze Star (2), and the Legion of Merit (2).

Following Col. Purcell’s retirement, the Purcells moved to Clarkesville, Georgia, where they owned and operated a Christmas tree farm. Mrs. Purcell became active in many church, civic and community projects and organizations, including Volunteers of Sharing and Caring, Habersham County Christian Learning Center, and Habit for Humanity in Habersham and White Counties. She also worked as a teacher’s assistant in the Clarkesville Elementary School (1986-1990). Col. Purcell represented State District 9, which incorporated the area around Dahlonega and Dawsonville, in the Georgia House of Representatives (1993-1997). He was active in civic and religious organizations and also served on the Habersham County Democratic Committee and as the chair and member of the Georgia Veterans Service Board.

Col. Purcell died on April 2, 2013, in Clarkesville.

Scope and Content

The Benjamin H. and Anne Grant Purcell Papers chiefly document Mrs. Purcell's efforts to earn the release of Col. Purcell following his capture by the Viet Cong in 1968 and his subsequent detention as a prisoner of war until 1973. The papers also document the Purcells' work to share their experiences through public appearances, the media, and their book, Love and Duty, as well as Col. Purcell's tenure as a Georgia State Representative, his involvement with the Habersham County Democratic Party, and his work on behalf of veterans of the Vietnam War. The papers include correspondence, speeches and remarks, book manuscripts and promotional material, campaign and political files, clippings, posters, and photographs.

Organization and Arrangement

The papers are arranged in four series: I. POW and Veterans Work, II. Georgia House of Representatives, III. Georgia Veterans Services Board, and IV. Political and Personal.


Administrative Information and Restrictions

Conditions Governing Access note

This collection is open for research.

Preferred citation

Benjamin H. and Anne Grant Purcell Papers, Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Georgia, 30602-1641.

Conditions Governing Use note

Library acts as "fair use" reproduction agent.

Copyright Information

Before material from collections at the Richard B. Russell Library may be quoted in print, or otherwise reproduced, in whole or in part, in any publication, permission must be obtained from (1) the owner of the physical property, and (2) the holder of the copyright. It is the particular responsibility of the researcher to obtain both sets of permissions. Persons wishing to quote from materials in the Russell Library collection should consult the Director. Reproduction of any item must contain a complete citation to the original.

Finding Aid Publication

Finding aid prepared by Mat Darby, 2016.


Related Materials

Access Points

Democratic Party (Ga.)
Georgia. General Assembly. House of Representatives.
Prisoners of war.
Purcell, Anne
Purcell, Ben
Veterans--United States.
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Missing in action--United States.

Related Collections in this Repository

Christopher Fleming Collection of Jon Nielsen Visual Materials

Reflections on Georgia Politics Oral History Collection, ROGP 079 Max Cleland

Related Collections in Other Repositories

The Vietnam Center and Archive, Texas Tech University


Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

 

Series I. POW and Veterans Work, 1967-2013

Extent: (2.0 linear feet, 1 oversize folder and 1 rolled item)
Scope and Content: Series I. POW and Veterans Work documents Mrs. Purcell's efforts to earn the release of Col. Purcell following his capture by the Viet Cong in 1968 and his subsequent detention as a prisoner of war until 1973. Also included are files related to the Purcells' work to share their experiences through public appearances, the media, and their book, Love and Duty, and Col. Purcell's involvement with and support for POW and other veterans' organizations. Of particular interest are the communications Mrs. Purcell received from the Department of the Army during her husband's captivity, a scrapbook documenting her work on behalf of POW/MIA organizations, and a POW bracelet worn during Col. Purcell's detention.
BoxFolder
11[Department of the Army], 1967-1973
12[Return to the United States], 1973
13[Correspondence and Newsletters], 1973-1976
14[Letter to Fort Benning], 1976
15-6[School Notes: Volume I], 1992
17-8[School Notes: Volume II], 1992
19[School Notes: Volume III], 1984
110-13[Correspondence], 1991-2012
114[Speeches], 1973-2003
115Ben's Talks, 1978-1994
116[Speech Notes], 1985-2013
BoxFolder
21-2[Speaking Engagements], 1994-2010
23Ben Purcell Comments at Veteran Memorial (Replica), 1997-2000
24Talks - Letters, 1986-1993
25[Colonel Ben Purcell Formation Plaza], 2012
26[Awards], 1988-2012
27[Photograph: Purcell Family], 1972
28[Photograph: Colonel Purcell, Anne Purcell, Zell Miller, and John Foster], circa 1975
29["Love and Duty"], 1993
210Love and Duty: A POW Memoir by Ben and Anne Purcell, undated
211[Helen and Kurt Wolff Books], 1975-1976
212[Television and Documentaries], 1993-2003
213[In Shadow of the Blade], 2000-2004
214[Ron Miller Book Endorsement], 2010
215[POW Accounts and Interviews], 2010
216[American ex-POWs], 1997
217[Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office], 2003
218[Georgia Committee for POW/MIA], 2005
219[POW Newsletters], 1992-1993
220A New Peace Initiative for Indochina: an Address to the Nation by Richard Nixon, 1970 October 7
221[Vietnam Conflict Maps], undated
222[Clippings], 1987-2012
Box
4Scrapbook [material related to Anne Purcell's efforts to free POW's], 1970-1973
4POW bracelet: Lt. Col. Ben Purcell / 2-8-68, circa 1970
Box
5Poster: A Prayer for Our Missing in Action, circa 1970
5Certificate: National Defense University, 1988
5Clippings: "Vietnam revisited" [series of articles on Ben and Joy Purcell's trip to Vietnam], 1993
5Poster and Resolutions: POW/MIA Recognition Day, 2005-2011
Box
6Posters: National POW/MIA Recognition Day, 2007-2008
6Poster: Rolling Thunder 20th Anniversary, 2007
 

Series II. Georgia House of Representatives, 1995-1998

Extent: (0.25 linear foot)
Scope and Content: Series II. Georgia House of Representatives documents Col. Purcell's service as a state representative serving District 9 and includes issue mail from constituents and files related to legislation and appropriations affecting Habersham and White Counties.
BoxFolder
223[Issue Mail], 1995-1996
224[Correspondence, Bills, and Resolutions], 1995-1996
225[Habersham County Appropriations], 1996-1998
226[White County Reapportionment], 1995
227[Andersonville Trust], 1995
228Devotions and Prayers by Chaplains - 1996 Regular Session and 1995 Special Session - Georgia House of Representatives, 1995-1996
 

Series III. Georgia Veterans Services Board, 1991-2002

Extent: (0.25 linear foot)
Scope and Content: Series III. Georgia Veterans Services Board documents Col. Purcell's tenure as a chair and member of the board and includes meeting minutes, correspondence, reports and publications.
BoxFolder
229Ben Purcell - Chairman - Veterans Service Board, 1998-2002
230[Appointments to Veterans Service Board], 2001-2002
231[Georgia Veterans Service Board Meeting], 2000-2002
232[Department of Veterans Service - News Releases], 1998-2002
233[Dedication of the Pete Wheeler Georgia War Veterans Memorial Plaza], 1999-2000
234Georgia Veterans Memorial Cemetery and Alzheimer's Wing, 2001
BoxFolder
31State of Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts - Management Reports - State Department of Veterans Service, 2000-2001
32Veterans Bulletin, 2000
33Georgia Department of Veterans Service - 1991 Service Officers School, 1991
 

Series IV. Political and Personal, 1986-2013

Extent: (1 linear foot and 1 oversize folder)
Scope and Content: Series IV. Political and Personal documents Col. Purcell's campaigns for state representative, his work in local and state Democratic Party organizations, his involvement in church activities.Included are campaign advertisements, clippings, and correspondence; meeting agendas and announcements; and church mission files.
BoxFolder
34Ben's Campaign, 1986
35[Campaign Clippings], 1994-1996
36-7[Campaign Materials], 1993-1998
38National Rifle Association Materials, 1995-2002
39-10[Habersham County Democratic Committee], 1996-1997
311[Meeting Material], 1996-1998
312[Habersham County Democratic Committee], 1998-2000
313Hills of Habersham, 1999
314-15[Habersham County Democratic Committee], 1988-2002
316Young Democrats, 1996-1997
317Haiti Mission Trip (Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention), 1983-1984
318Ben Purcell - Deacon, 1996-2010
Box
5Poster: Habersham Democratic Party Tribute to Colonel Ben Purcell, 2013