Professor Wilson L. Heflin, 1913-1985.
Professor Wilson L. Heflin, 1913-1985.

Guide to the Wilson L. Heflin Papers, 1936-1943

MS 391

A collection in the
Special Collections & Archives Department,
Nimitz Library

Naval Academy Seal

United States Naval Academy
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, MD 21402-5029

Prepared by: David D'Onofrio

August 2008

Descriptive Summary

The Wilson L. Heflin Papers were donated to the Special Collections and Archives Department by Kathryn Heflin. Accession No. 08-10.
3 linear inches.
Access to the Wilson L. Heflin Papers is unrestricted.
The Wilson L. Heflin Papers are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.
It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information
Preferred Citation:
Wilson L. Heflin Papers, MS 391
Special Collections & Archives Department
Nimitz Library
United States Naval Academy

Biographical Sketch

Wilson L. Heflin was born on September 19, 1913 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After attending Young Harris Junior College from 1930 until 1932, Heflin enrolled in Birmingham Southern College in 1932, earning an A.B. in 1934. Immediately following his undergraduate work, he began graduate work in English at Vanderbilt University, receiving an M.A. in 1936. Following a stint as an instructor of English at University of Alabama's School of Commerce and Business from 1937 to 1941, Heflin returned to Vanderbilt on a fellowship to pursue a Ph.D.

After completing his coursework, Heflin returned to teaching English at the University of Alabama in 1942, teaching courses in freshman composition, American literature, and American social, economic and political literature. Having enlisted in the Naval Reserve, Heflin was sent to U.S. Naval Air Navigation School, Hollywood, Florida, in May 1943. Upon completion of his training, he was assigned to U.S. Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas in September 1943, where he served as a flight navigation instructor, and beginning in December 1945, as Assistant to the Superintendent of Aviation Training. While at Corpus Christi, Heflin worked on writing the final chapters of the Aviation Training Department's history, and authored Star Navigation: A Ground Training Manual (August 1944).

On May 22, 1946, Heflin was transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy for duty as an instructor in the Department of English, History and Government, where he served until June 4, 1947. Upon his release from active duty in August of the same year, Heflin petitioned for, and was granted an appointment as a civilian instructor in English at the Academy. Steadily, Heflin rose through the ranks in the English, History and Government Department, and later the English Department, achieving the rank of Assistant Professor in 1948, Associate Professor in 1951, and full Professor in 1959. While at the Academy, Heflin taught numerous classes, including Composition and Literature (later Rhetoric and Introduction to Literature), Classic American Writers, and Readings in Western Ideas. He was also instrumental in the introduction of Literature of the Sea, first offered as a class in the spring semester of 1971.

Throughout his academic career, Heflin published extensively on Herman Melville and the sea, establishing himself as an authority on the subject. He completed his doctoral dissertation “Herman Melville’s Whaling Years” in 1952 (he had initially considered “Stephen Crane’s Treatment of War” or “Navigation in American Literature” as dissertation topics). While at the U.S. Naval Academy Heflin published numerous articles and book chapters, including "The Source of Ahab's Lordship Over the Level Loadstone (American Literature, November 1948), "Melville's Third Whaler" (Modern Language Notes, April 1949), "The Peacock and the Whale" (The Nautical Research Journal, January 1952), "Melville and Nantucket" (Moby-Dick Centennial Essays, 1953), "New Light on Melville's Cruise in the Charles and Henry" (Historic Nantucket, October 1974), and "Sources from the Whale-Fishery and 'The Town-Ho's Story" (Artful Thunder: Versions of the Romantic Tradition in American Literature…, 1975). In addition to publishing on Melville, Heflin was also a founding member of the Melville Society, for which he served as president in 1958.

In addition to his teaching and scholarly pursuits at the Academy, Heflin served as editor of the Annual Summary of Research, and was a member of the Promotion and Tenure Committee. He continued to serve in these capacities until he announced in September 1985 his intention to retire at the end of the year.

Wilson L. Heflin died on November 11, 1985 following a brief bout with cancer. He was married to the former Kathryn Rochester and had two daughters, Kathryn Heflin and Anne Heflin Kaldrovics. The Wilson L. Heflin Prize for Leadership in the Humanities is named in his honor.

Scope and Content Note

The Wilson L. Heflin Papers, consisting of three linear inches of documents, span the period from 1936 to 1943. The papers illustrate Heflin's early research on Stephen Crane for a proposed Ph.D. dissertation entitled "Stephen Crane's Treatment of War."

The collection consists of handwritten and typescript research notes, annotated texts, journal articles, and correspondence.

The Heflin Papers are arranged (alphabetically by document type) into a single series. The bulk of the collection consists of Heflin's research notes, including handwritten notes from various sources, as well as a partial annotated typescript of The Red Badge of Courage. The remainder of the collection consists of correspondence with various repositories and authorities pertaining to Heflin's search for sources, a fragmentary dissertation prospectus describing Heflin's intended goal of proving that Crane's depictions within The Red Badge of Courage were based on actual accounts and reports, and several journal articles, including "A Possible Source of The Red Badge of Courage," 1939 by Lyndon Upton Pratt, "Stephen Crane as Social Critic," 1940 by Russel B. Nye, and "Stephen Crane and the Philistine," 1943 by David H. Dickason. Also included is Heflin's handwritten translation of Henry Ludeke's "Stephen Crane's Gedichte," pertaining to Crane's poetry.

Related Collections

Research material and correspondence pertaining to Heflin's book Herman Melville's Whaling Years, published posthumously and based upon his dissertation of the same title, make up the Wilson Heflin Papers, 1830-1990, at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Additional material pertaining to Heflin's career in the Naval Reserve and at the Naval Academy can be found in the William W. Jeffries Memorial Archives, Nimitz Library, United States Naval Academy.

Container List

Box Folder  
1 1 Correspondence, 1936-1942
2 Dissertation Prospectus, undated
3 Journal Articles, 1939-1940 and 1943

Includes "A Possible Source of The Red Badge of Courage," 1939 by Lyndon Upton Pratt, "Stephen Crane as Social Critic," 1940 by Russel B. Nye, and "Stephen Crane and the Philistine," 1943 by David H. Dickason.

4-5 Notes - Miscellaneous, ca. 1940-1942
Box Folder
2 1 Notes - Red Badge of Courage (Annotations by Chapter), undated
2 Notes - Red Badge of Courage (Annotations by Page), undated
3 Translation - "Stephen Crane's Gedichte" by Henry Ludeke, ca. 1943

Hand-written translation of article by Ludeke from 1938, published in Anglia, Volume 62, pages 410-422.