Solon T. Kimball

Name Solon T. Kimball
Born August 12 1909
Died October 12 1982
Birth Location Manhattan, Kansas

Anthropologist, head of the the War Relocation Authority 's (WRA) community government section, and, briefly, acting director of the Manzanar camp. A Harvard educated anthropologist who came to the WRA through the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA), Solon T. Kimball oversaw efforts to design and implement inmate community government in the ten concentration camps. He went on to a lengthy and decorated academic career after the war.

Solon Toothaker Kimball was born and raised in Kansas, the son of lawyer. Graduating from Kansas State University in 1930, he went on to Harvard, finishing a Ph.D. in 1936. Along the way, he studied under W. Lloyd Warner and was an assistant on Warner's "Yankee City" study, a pioneering study of a New England town. He also did fieldwork in Ireland for a year, co-authoring with Conrad Arensberg Family and Community in Ireland , published in 1940 by Harvard University Press. From 1936 to 1942, he worked as a section head for the OIA on the Navajo Reservation at Window Rock, Arizona. In 1935, he married Hannah Price, and the couple had children born in 1938 and 1941.

With outbreak of the war and the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans, Kimball joined the staff of the Poston camp, which was jointly administered by the OIA. From there, he went to the WRA's San Francisco office in July 1942 to head the "Community Organization" section of the Community Management Division. He also served a short stint as Manzanar's acting director, arriving on November 5 to replace Harvey M. Coverley . Ralph Merritt , who would serve as Manzanar's director for the rest of its existence, arrived to relieve Kimball on November 24. Kimball briefly returned to San Francisco, before being transferred to the Washington office in December to become head of the reorganized Community Government and Activities unit, later renamed "Community Organization and Activities," where he worked under his former OIA colleague John H. Provinse . He remained in that position until August 1945. In addition to formulating policy on "community government," he also oversaw the production of manuals and reports and made frequent visits to the various concentration camps.

After leaving the WRA, he became an associate professor of anthropology at Michigan State University. Joined there in 1947 by former WRA community analyst Asael T. Hansen , the pair left together for the newly formed Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Alabama in 1948, with Kimball becoming the head of the department. Stints at Teachers College, Columbia University (1953–66) and the University of Florida (1966–80) followed. He retired in 1980 and passed away two years later. An influential figure in applied anthropology, he received lengthy obituaries in Anthropology & Education Quarterly and American Anthropologist . (In both, it is noted that he almost never talked about his WRA work.) [1] The Solon T. Kimball Award for Public and Applied Anthropology award has been awarded annually since 1984 at American Anthropological Association annual meeting.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

For More Information

Burns, Allan F. "Obituary: Solon T. Kimball, 1908–1982." Anthropology & Education Quarterly 14.2 (Summer 1983): 148–57.

Community Government in War Relocation Centers . Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, 1946.

Hayashi, Brian Masaru. Democratizing the Enemy: The Japanese American Internment . Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.

Moore, Alexander. "Solon Toothaker Kimball (1909–1982)." American Anthropologist New Series 86.2 (June 1984): 386–93.

Provinse, John H., and Solon T. Kimball. "Building New Communities during War Time." American Sociological Review 11.4 (Aug. 1946): 396–409.

Solon T. Kimball . Kansaspedia , Kansas Historical Society.

Solon T. Kimball Award for Public and Applied Anthropology . American Anthropological Association website.

"Solon T(oothaker) Kimball." Contemporary Authors Online , Gale, 2002.

Starn, Orin. “Engineering Internment: Anthropologists and the War Relocation Authority.” American Ethnologist 13.4 (1986): 700-20.


  1. Allan F. Burns, "Obituary: Solon T. Kimball, 1908–1982," Anthropology & Education Quarterly 14.2 (Summer1983), 150; Alexander Moore, "Solon Toothaker Kimball (1909–1982)," American Anthropologist New Series 86.2 (June 1984), 387.

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