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Richard Dempsey papers, 1929-1989, bulk 1960s-1980s

Dempsey, Richard W., 1909-1987

Painter, Educator

Collection Information

Size: 2.9 Linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter Richard W. Dempsey measure 2.9 linear feet and date from 1929 to 1989, with the bulk of the papers dating from the 1960s to the 1980s. The papers contain biographcial material, correspondence, writings, project and exhibition files, printed material, photographs, and artwork and notes related to planning artwork.

Biographical/Historical Note

Richard W. Dempsey (1909-1987) was a painter known primarily for his abstract works and his portraits of prominent African American individuals including Ethel Waters, Duke Ellington, Thurgood Marshall, and Adam Clayton Powell. He was born in Ogden, Utah, but spent the majority of his youth in Oakland, California. He studied art at Sacramento Junior College, the California School of Arts and Crafts, and the Student Arts Center. Dempsey had four exhibitions in California before moving to Washington, D.C. to begin work as an engineering draftsman with the Federal Power Commission in 1941. He later transferred to a position as an illustrator with the General Services Administration (GSA), where he would spend the rest of his nearly 30-year government career.


The Richard Dempsey papers were initially lent for microfilming in 1990 by Vonja Kirkland Dempsey, Richard Dempsey's widow. After the collection was microfilmed, Vonja Kirkland Dempsey donated the bulk of the collection, excluding some photographic material, in 1990.

Related Materials

Language Note

The collection is in English.


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.