Robert Winship Woodruff papers, 1819-1996 (bulk 1924-1986)

Emory University

Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322



Permanent link: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/9027g

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Woodruff, Robert Winship.
Title: Robert Winship Woodruff papers, 1819-1996 (bulk 1924-1986)
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 10
Extent:300 linear ft. (588 boxes), 245 oversized papers (OP), 2 extra-oversized papers (XOP), 134 bound volumes (BV), 61 oversized bound volumes (OBV), and AV Masters: 7.5 linear ft.
Abstract:Personal papers of Atlanta businessman and philanthropist Robert Winship Woodruff including subject files, family papers, legal files, scrapbooks, photographs and photograph albums, personal papers, printed material, writings about Robert W. Woodruff, financial records, and memorabilia, architectural drawings and maps, and audio-visual materials.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Series 6-10 are stored offsite. Researchers must contact MARBL in advance for access to these materials.

Series 1: Some correspondence is closed to researchers (boxes 263-266 and 354).

Series 9: Financial records are closed to researchers.

Series 12: Use copies have not been made for all of the audiovisual series at this time. Researchers must contact MARBL in advance for access to these materials.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.


Gift, 1965 with subsequent additions.


[after identification of item(s)], Robert Winship Woodruff papers, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.


Processed by Randy Gue, 2007-2009.

Collection Description

Biographical Note

Robert Winship Woodruff (1889-1985), an Atlanta business leader and philanthropist, was born in Columbus, Georgia in 1889. Woodruff, the son of Ernest Woodruff and Emily Winship Woodruff, arrived in Atlanta with his family in 1893. After graduating from the Georgia Military Academy (now Woodward Academy), Woodruff attended Emory College (at Oxford) briefly before deciding he would rather work than finish school.

In 1909 Woodruff started shoveling sand at General Foundry and Pipe for sixty cents a day. Two years later, he got his first sales job selling fire extinguishers for General Fire Extinguisher Company. In 1912 he married Nell Hodgson, and he accepted an offer to work as a purchasing agent at Atlantic Ice & Coal, one of his father's companies. The Atlanta Ice & Coal job was short lived and he soon went to work as a salesman for the White Motor Company in Cleveland, Ohio. Over the next ten years, Woodruff worked his way up to vice president and general manager of the company.

Robert Woodruff left the White Motor Company in 1923 and took over as president of The Coca-Cola Company. In 1919 Woodruff's father, Ernest, the president of Trust Company of Georgia, assembled a stock syndicate, a holding company that purchased The Coca-Cola Company from Asa Candler and the Candler family. Under Robert W. Woodruff's leadership, Coca-Cola made "a peaceful near-conquest of the world," as Time magazine wrote. Although he retired in 1954, he continued to guide and influence the company as a member of the Board of Directors and as chairman of the Finance Committee.

Woodruff was an avid sportsman. In 1928 he purchased Ichauway, a 30,000-acre plantation in Baker County, Georgia with his friend and White Motor Company president Walter White. With its longleaf pines and wiregrass, Ichauway proved to be the perfect habitat for quail. But Ichauway Plantation was also a working farm complete with tenants working for shares. Ichauway held a central place in Woodruff's life.

Over the years, Woodruff, Atlanta's famous "Anonymous Donor," contributed millions of dollars to local civic and charitable causes. Woodruff believed southern philanthropists should focus their efforts on their own region because, at the time, there were few other resources to help the South so he focused his charitable efforts in Atlanta and Georgia. In Baker County he helped wipe out malaria and hookworm. In Atlanta, he helped build an arts center, and he gave to medical and educational institutions.

His first gift to Emory University was $40,000 in 1937 to establish the Robert Winship Memorial Clinic, a cancer clinic. This gift began a longstanding relationship between Woodruff and Emory University. This relationship culminated in 1979 when Woodruff and his brother George Waldo Woodruff decided to liquidate the assets of their parents' foundation, the Emily and Ernest Woodruff Fund, and donate the proceeds to Emory. This decision resulted in a gift of approximately $105 million to the university. At the time it was the largest gift to a university ever at the time. Other beneficiaries of Woodruff's eleemosynary projects included donating funds for the creation of what was known as Central City Park (now Woodruff Park) in downtown Atlanta and to the state of Georgia's purchase of Ossabaw Island, a barrier island off of Georgia's coast.

Woodruff died March 7, 1985, at the age of 95. He was buried at the Westview Cemetery in southwest Atlanta.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of papers of Robert Winship Woodruff from 1819-1993 (bulk 1924-1986). The papers include subject files, family papers, legal files, photographs and photograph albums, scrapbooks, personal papers, printed material, writings about Robert W. Woodruff, financial records, memorabilia, architectural drawings and maps, and audio-visual materials. The collection documents Woodruff's professional career, his personal life, and his philanthropic activities.

The subject files (Series 1), comprise the largest part of the collection. They consist of files that include correspondence, printed material, and unpublished documents about people, businesses, organizations, and subjects important to Robert W. Woodruff. Family papers (Series 2) contains correspondence from Woodruff to his parents; as well as papers of Woodruff's parents, Ernest and Emily Woodruff, and his brother, Henry F. Woodruff. The legal files (Series 3) relate to both Woodruff's personal and professional life and include files relating to his personal holding and investment companies as well as files relating to Coca-Cola and its competitors.

The photographs and photograph albums (Series 4) include professional images and amateur snapshots of Woodruff, his family, his associates, his work, his philanthropy, and his dogs and farm animals. It also includes number of photograph albums that capture Woodruff's time at Ichauway Plantation and TE Ranch. Series 5 consists of chronological scrapbooks and subject-oriented scrapbooks that document Woodruff's life.

Personal papers (Series 6) consists of Woodruff's appointment books, his famous Christmas cards featuring the bird paintings of Athos Menaboni, genealogy files and special occasion files as well as honors and awards given to him. The printed material (Series 7) contains clippings either about Woodruff or about topics that were important to Woodruff such as Atlanta, Coca-Cola, and Emory University. Series 8 includes typescripts and proofs of writings by others about Woodruff.

The remainder of the collection consists of financial records (Series 9), memorabilia (Series 10), Maps and blueprints (Series 11), and audio-visual materials (Series 12). The audio-visual materials consist of motion picture films, sound recordings and video recordings created by or collected for Robert W. Woodruff. The series includes motion pictures of Woodruff's houses and his vacations, audio recordings of events honoring Woodruff, and video recordings about Ichauway Plantation. There are also commercial films about Woodruff in this series.

Arrangement Note

Organized into twelve series: (1) Subject files, (2) Family papers, (3) Legal files, (4) Photographs and photograph albums, (5) Scrapbooks, (6) Personal papers, (7) Printed material, (8) Writings about Robert W. Woodruff, (9) Financial records, (10) Memorabilia, (11) Architectural drawings and maps, and (12) Audio-visual materials.

Description of Series