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Armwood Family papers

Identifier: MS-1991-02
  • No requestable containers

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

The collection provides a general overview of the Armwood family’s numerous accomplishments and professional and personal activities. Birth, marriage, and death certificates are included as well as photographs, correspondences, legal documents, military service records, newspaper clippings, brochures and other printed materials, diaries, manuscripts, and speeches.


  • Created: 1866-1991


Conditions Governing Use

None.  The contents of this collection may be subject to copyright. Visit the United States Copyright Office's website at more information.

Biographical or Historical Information

In 1866, the Armwood family settled near the Alafia River in Seffner, FL. Over the years, the family played a major role in the social and political development of Hillsborough County, especially as related to the area’s African American community.

In 1878, family patriarch Levin Armwood (1854 - 1936) married Margaret Holloman (1862 - 1936), the daughter of Hillsborough County pioneer Adam Holloman. Levin and Margaret Armwood had five children:  Walter Adam (1879 - 1944), Idella (1881 - 1968), James (1883 - 1889), Henry (1884 - 1885), and Blanche (1890 - 1939).

A citrus-grower by trade, Levin Armwood, Jr. served as Hillsborough County’s first African American deputy sheriff, Supervisor of County Roads, and Postmaster; he was also the first African American police officer for the city of Tampa.  In 1914, along with his son Walter, Levin Armwood opened the Gem Drugstore on Central Avenue, the first African-American owned drugstore in Tampa.

One of the most widely recognized members of the Armwood family, Blanche Armwood, is regarded as one of Hillsborough County’s most prominent women of the early 20th century. An educator and speaker who rose to national heights, Blanche Armwood began her professional career as a teacher for Tampa’s African American schools. In 1914, the same year that her family opened the Gem Drugstore, Blanche was contacted by the Tampa Gas Company to serve as a demonstrator. Later that year, Blanche Armwood established the Tampa School of Household Arts, where African American women and girls learned domestic science skills. She served as principal, instructor, and course developer for the school and eventually established a sister school, the New Orleans School of Domestic Science, in Louisiana. Based on Armwood’s success, other domestic science schools were established in Georgia, Virginia, and South Carolina. Other significant accomplishments of Blanche Armwood include appointment as Supervisor of Negro Schools for Hillsborough County (1926 - 1934) and co-founder and first executive secretary of the Tampa Urban League. In 1985, Armwood Senior High School was dedicated in her honor.

Walter Armwood III died on September 30, 2009.


12.39 Linear Feet

15 boxes

Language of Materials



Contains records and related materials documenting the professional and personal lives of the Armwood family, a pioneering African American family in Hillsborough County, Florida.

Arrangement Note

The collection is divided into two record groups: (1) Armwood Family papers; (2) Armwood Family photographs.

Record Group (1) is further subdivided into three sub-groups: (1) General Family papers; (2) Blanche Armwood papers; (3) Walter Armwood.

Within each subgroup, items are arranged alphabetically by name, by type of material, or chronologically.

Source of Acquisition

Hazel Armwood Orsley, Burnie H. Orsley, and John H. Armwood

Method of Acquisition


Related Materials

Armwood, John, Oral History Cassette Tape and Transcript, USF Department of Anthropology African Americans in Florida Project, USF Libraries - Tampa Special Collections, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL.

Other Descriptive Information


Armwood Family papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the USF Libraries - Special Collections Repository

4202 East Fowler Ave.
Tampa FL 33620-5400 US