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RG5573.AM:  Norris W. Alfred, 1913-1995

Papers:  1956-2000, n.d.

Polk, Polk County, Neb.:  Writer, newspaper publisher/editor

Size:  4.25 cu.ft.; 5 boxes


Born in Polk, Nebraska on October 14, 1913, Norris W. Alfred graduated from Polk High School in 1931. After graduation he went to work for the local newspaper, the Polk Progress, where he ran the linotype. From 1935-1937 he attended Kearney State Teachers College (part-time). In 1937 he transferred to Doane College in Crete, Nebraska, and worked in the college print shop to help pay for his education. He graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry in 1940.

After failing a physical for the armed services, he moved to Illinois and worked as a chemist at Samuel Bingham Rubber Rollers in Chicago. In 1945, at the end of World War II, Alfred quit his job and returned to Crete, Nebraska where he worked in the print shop of the Crete News. In 1946 he moved to Kansas City where he took art courses at Kansas City University and supported himself as a teaching assistant and research assistant in chemistry.

In 1948 Alfred moved to John Day, Oregon to paint and supported himself by running the linotype in local print shops. He then moved to Hamilton, New York in 1950 where he continued to paint and support himself by working in various print shops. He exhibited some of his paintings at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin as well as at a studio near the University of Chicago.

With the death of his father Olof, Alfred returned to Polk, Nebraska in 1955 to look after his mother. He took over the family’s dry goods store, but soon sold it in order to buy the Polk Progress, at which time his career in journalism began in earnest. He ran the Polk Progress until 1964 when he decided to sell the newspaper and return to painting in Oregon and Washington. Less than two years later he returned to Nebraska and repurchased the Polk Progress. He served as publisher and editor of the Polk Progress until his retirement in 1989.

During his career, Alfred was named “Master Editor” by the Nebraska Press Association and received a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in 1980. He was nominated by Lynn Ludlow of the San Francisco Examiner and was one of twenty accepted by the committee. Norris W. Alfred died on December 5, 1995.


This collection consists of papers relating to the life and career of Norris W. Alfred. The collection is divided into five series: 1) Columns and editorials; 2) Correspondence; 3) Speeches and presentations; 4) Writings; and 5) Subject files. The majority of the collection relates to Alfred’s career in the newspaper industry, particularly as publisher of the Polk Progress.

Series 1 consists of various columns and editorials written by Alfred for the Polk Progress and other newspapers. Some manuscript drafts of columns are present, but the majority of this series consists of newspaper clippings. The materials in this series date from 1956-1995. Series 2 contains personal and professional correspondence to and from Alfred. The first part of this series is organized chronologically and the remainder is arranged alphabetically by subject (as Alfred had organized them). The correspondence covers the years 1963-1995.

Note:  Additional personal correspondence is also located in Box 5 of the collection.

The speeches and presentations in Series 3 date between 1980-1991 with several undated speeches at the end of the series. Alfred gave the majority of these speeches at colleges and universities and meetings of professional and civic organizations. Most of the speeches relate to his experiences as a newspaper publisher. Series 4 consists of various other writings by Alfred including manuscripts and poetry, although some drafts of newspaper columns or speeches may also be present. Included in this series are Norris’ typescript journal entries dating from 1991-1994. Series 5 consists of various subject files kept by Norris Alfred. The series contains information about the history of Polk, Nebraska, bird watching, and Alfred’s Pulitzer Prize nomination. Also included are several folders of biographical information about Norris Alfred. Of particular note is the folder containing transcripts of an oral history interview.

Note:  The Nebraska State Historical Society collection does not include the actual oral history interview. The location of this interview is unknown.


Series 1 – Columns and editorials

Box 1


  1. 1995, editorials

  2. 1994, editorials

  3. 1993, Columns for Grand Island Independent

  4. 1992, Columns for Grand Island Independent

  5. 1992-1994, Originals and Revisions – Miscellaneous years

  6. 1991, Columns for Grand Island Independent

  7. 1991, Originals and Revisions

  8. 1990, Columns for Grand Island Independent

  9. 1989, Nov. 23, Omaha World Herald article

  10. 1989, Polk Progress editorials

  11. 1988, Polk Progress editorials

  12. 1987, Polk Progress editorials

  13. 1986, Polk Progress editorials

  14. 1985, Polk Progress editorials

  15. 1984, Polk Progress editorials

  16. 1983, Polk Progress editorials

  17. 1982, Polk Progress editorials

  18. 1981, Polk Progress editorials

  19. 1980, Polk Progress editorials

  20. 1979, Polk Progress editorials

  21. 1978, Polk Progress editorials

  22. 1977, Polk Progress editorials

Box 2


  1. 1976, Polk Progress editorials

  2. 1975, Polk Progress editorials

  3. 1974, Polk Progress editorials

  4. 1973, Polk Progress editorials

  5. 1972, Polk Progress editorials

  6. 1971, Polk Progress editorials

  7. 1970, Polk Progress editorials and “Polking Around”

  8. 1969, Polk Progress “Polking Around”

  9. 1968, Polk Progress “Polking Around”

  10. 1967, Polk Progress “Polking Around”

  11. 1966, Polk Progress “Polking Around”

  12. 1965, Polk Progress “Polking Around”

  13. 1964, Jan.-Aug., Polk Progress “Polking Around”

  14. 1963, Polk Progress “Polking Around”

  15. 1962, Polk Progress “Polking Around”

  16. 1961, Polk Progress “Polking Around”

  17. 1960, Polk Progress “Polking Around”

  18. 1959, Polk Progress “Polking Around”

  19. 1958, Polk Progress “Polking Around”

  20. 1957, Polk Progress “Polking Around”

  21. 1956, Polk Progress “Polking Around”

Series 2 – Correspondence (see also Box 5)

  1. 1963-1972

  2. 1973-1982

  3. 1983-1989

  4. 1990-1993

  5. 1994-1995, n.d.

  6. Balzer, Alice

  7. Berliner, Harold

  8. Bird Watchers Digest

  9. Boomer, John

  10. Cool, Robert Newton

  11. DeCamp, John

  12. Estabrook, Robert H.

  13. Keller, Robert

  14. Ludlow, Lynn

  15. Pollock, Beverly

Box 3


  1. Prairie/Plains Resource Institute

  2. Today Show

  3. Tyler, Dan

  4. Union Pacific Railroad (Mr. Combs)

  5. University of Nebraska Agronomy Department

Series 3 – Speeches and presentations

  1. 1980 – Sigma Delta Chi meeting (Lincoln, Neb.)

  2. 1981, June – “How I Write Editorials,” ISWNE

  3. 1989, Dec. 15 – Nebraska Wesleyan University (Lincoln, Neb.)

  4. 1990, Apr. – “Aging, Dying & Death,” Nebraska Wesleyan University (Lincoln, Neb.)

  5. 1990, June 9 – Nebraska Central College Alumni (Central City, Neb.)

  6. 1990, Oct. 12-13 – “Mr. Dooley — Finley Peter Dunne Remembered,” Irish American Heritage Center (Chicago, Ill.)

  7. 1991, Jan. 28 – (York, Neb.)

  8. 1991, Apr. 6 – Nebraska AP Wire Editors (Grand Island, Neb.)

  9. Undated – Doane College Journalism class (Betty Levitov)

  10. Undated – “Readings for Interns,” The Land Institute (Salina, Kan.)

  11. Undated – Nebraska Press Association panel on editorial writing

  12. Undated – “Media’s Values Toward Energy,” Prairie Project (Aurora, Neb.)

  13. Undated – Sertomas (Grand Island, Neb.)

  14. Misc. undated and untitled

Series 4 – Writings

  1. Norris’ Journal (pages 1 to 150, begin December 1991)

  2. Norris’ Journal (151 to 300, begin June 1992)

  3. Norris’ Journal (301 to 448, begin January 1993)

  4. Norris’ Journal (449 to 600, begin August 1993)

  5. Norris’ Journal (601 to 783, begin July 1994)

  6. Norris’ Journal (300 to 373) – copies

  7. Norris’ Journal (364 to 409) – copies

  8. Norris’ Journal (410 to 480) – copies

  9. Norris’ Journal (481 to 575) – copies

  10. Abstracted Copies of Journal Pages (400s, incomplete multiples)

  11. Abstracted Copies of Journal Pages (500s, incomplete multiples)

  12. Abstracted Copies of Journal Pages (600s, incomplete multiples)

  13. Abstracted Copies of Journal Pages (700s, incomplete multiples)

  14. “About Birds”

  15. “About Polk”

  16. “Alvena”

  17. “Bird Watchers Diary”

  18. Butterfly Against the Gale

  19. “Dad Alfred”

  20. “First Start”

Box 4


  1. “Growing Up Years, The”

  2. “Grow Old”

  3. How To Raise A Family Without Really Trying

  4. Miscellaneous writings

  5. “Mother Alfred”

  6. “Notes from the Field,” NEBRASKAland

  7. “Pardon Thing (The), Certainties, etc.”

  8. Poetry

  9. “Polk Scene, The”

  10. San Francisco Examiner columns

  11. “Sense of Place, A”

  12. “Some Correspondence On Farming Practices”

Series 5 – Subject Files

  1. Biographical information (oral history transcripts)

  2. Biographical information (articles, clippings, etc.)

  3. Biographical information (articles, clippings, etc.)

  4. Birds – Migration

  5. Central City Friends history

  6. Dowling, Vincent – TV program proposal

  7. Easter, Luke

  8. Editorial writings and ideas

  9. Miscellaneous

  10. Miscellaneous writings by others

  11. Murals, Nebraska State Capitol

  12. Museum of Nebraska Art (Tribute to Norris Alfred)

  13. Polk History

  14. Pulitzer nomination

Box 5


  1. Letters to Family



Alfred, Norris W., 1913-1995

Authors — Nebraska

Farm life — Anecdotes

Newspaper publishing — Nebraska

Polk County (Neb.) — History

Polk Progress, The

Polk (Neb.) — History

Polk (Neb.) — Newspapers

Polking around


Revised 05-15-2008   TMM