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Johnston Avery and Virginia Hall Avery Private Papers

Identifier: SC-MS-035

Scope and Contents

The bulk of this collection consists of correspondence written or received by Johnston Avery, including holograph, typewritten and typewritten carbon copy letters. Important correspondents include William V.S. Tubman, President of Liberia from 1944 to 1971, and other Liberian government officials; Robert R. Reynolds, U.S. Senator from North Carolina from 1933 to 1945; J.C.B. Ehringhaus, North Carolina governor from 1933 to 1937; and various businessmen involved in the LAMCO Joint Venture. Of particular note is correspondence with Avery's family members, which provides descriptions of his surroundings and opinions on various issues. Other items of correspondence include letters written by or addressed to Virginia Hall Avery, the wife of Johnston Avery, and copies of letters concerning his business interest sent by various parties for his information.

The collection also includes two typewritten manuscripts authored by Mr. Avery. One deals with the decartelization of German industries and the other is a biography of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, one of Mr. Avery's most admired historical figures. Additional files contain LAMCO reports, speeches, photographs, souvenir programs, Liberian newspapers, assorted newspaper clippings, and a scrapbook.


  • Creation: 1915 - 1973


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Copyright Statement

Copyright is retained by the descendents of the Avery family. Contact CSENCAH staff ( for instructions on submitting a permission to publish request.

Biographical Note

Johnston Avery, a North Carolina native, pursued several careers. He was a newspaperman, political campaign aide, government official and businessman. His papers reflect his involvement with several important issues of his time. He assisted Senator Robert R. Reynolds in his campaign for repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment (Liquor Prohibition Amendment). He served as Assistant Chief of Decartelization Branch of the U.S. Office of Military Government (OMGUS) in Berlin following World War II. When he became convinced that OMGUS was blocking attempts by the Decartelization Branch to carry out its mission of breaking up the German cartels, he resigned and brought charges against OMGUS. A Congressional investigation ensued which substantiated these charges.

First in an official capacity and later as a private businessman, Mr. Avery became involved in the economic development and exploitation of natural resources of Africa, specifically in Liberia. With the State Department, he was Assistant Administrator of the Point Four Program, which was established to help developing countries acquire technical expertise. He resigned from this position to become President of the Liberian American Swedish Minerals Company (LAMCO) Joint Venture, a position he held until his death. LAMCO discovered and began mining one of the largest and purest iron ore deposits ever discovered, which is located in the Nimba Mountains of Liberia. The Republic of Liberia owns 50% of the LAMCO Joint Venture. The company also received capital investment from the International African-American Corporation (now Liberian iron Ore Ltd), Bethlehem Steel Corporation, and the syndicate of companies controlled by Swedish financier, Marcus Wallenberg.

Johnston Avery, 1901-1970, A Chronology

1923 - 1924 Reporter for Greensboro (NC) Daily News.

1924 - 1928 Reporter, then Editor for Hickory (NC) Daily Record.

1925 - Jun 6 Married Virginia Davenport Hall of Hickory, NC.

1928 - 1932 Editor and Publisher of Lenoir (NC) News-Topic.

1928 - Recipient, Separk Award for editorial work.

1930 - Recipient, North Carolina Press Association Award.

1931 - Participated in the successful campaigns of J.C.B. Ehringhaus for Governor of North Carolina and Robert R. Reynolds for U.S. Senator from North Carolina.

1932 - Assistant to Senator Reynolds, Washington, DC

1933 - 1935 Assistant to the Director, U.S. Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce.

1935 - 1950 Special Assistant to the Attorney General, Anti-Trust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC and New York, NY.

1935 - 1947 Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve.

1946 - 1948 Assistant Director, Decartelization Branch, U.S. Office of Military Government, Berlin, Germany.

1948 - Transferred back to Anti-Trust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC.

1950 - 1952 Assistant Administrator, U.S. Technical Cooperation Administration (Point Four Program), Foreign Operations Administration, Department of State, Washington, DC.

1952 - 1970 President of Liberian American Swedish Minerals Co. (LAMCO).

1952 - 1955 Director, International African-American Corporation.

1955 - Dec 23 LAMCO's chief geologist, Sandy Clark, discovered iron ore at Mount Nimba, Liberia.

1956 - Drilling began at Nimba Mountains, Liberia.

1958 - Feb Established a home at Cascais, Portugal to be mid-way between New York, Stockholm and Liberia.

1959 - May 7 Decorated Grand Commander of the Star of Africa, Monrovia, Liberia.

1961 - Began building home on Middle Sound, New Hanover Co., NC.

1963 - Decorated Knight Commander of the Order of Vassa, Stockholm, Sweden.

1969 - Sep 5 Entered leukemia unit, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD.

1970 - Oct 1 Died, Baltimore, MD.


"Big Deal in the Liberian Jungle." Forbes. December 1, 1961, pp. 31-32.

"Business Around the Globe: A Landscape of Ore." Fortune. December 1961, pp. 65-72.

"Johnston Avery, Mines Developer, Dies Thursday." Wilmington Star-News, October 2, 1970.

Moody's Industrial Manual, 1963. New York: Moody's Investor's Service, 1963.

Who Was Who in America: Volume V. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1973.


5.33 Linear Feet (Contains 13 document boxes, 1 oversize box, and 1 map case folder)

Language of Materials


Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Mrs. Virginia Reich, daughter of Johnstion and Virginia Avery, on August 30, 1983.

General Note

Includes two 3-ring binders of photocopies from the collection of correspondence during 1956-1957.

Items donated to the Museum of World Cultures by the family hold the accession # 1983.08.

Additional papers relating to the Decartelization Branch of the U.S. Office of Military Government were donated to the National Archives and Records Administration by Mr. Avery in 1954.

Digital Access

Portions of this collection have been digitized and/or are born-digital. These items are identified by a black icon beside the item title when browsing via the collection organization hierarchy (to the right in desktop view; on the bottom in mobile view).

To view or access all of the digitized and/or born-digital materials in the collection directly, please select "View Digital Material" in the blue header above, just below the collection title.

Processing Information

Originally processed by Sue Cody Hiatt in 1984. In 2015, this collection was re-foldered and re-housed by Rebecca Baugnon.

Johnston Avery and Virginia Hall Avery Private Papers
Sue Cody Hiatt
1984 May 23
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository