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O’Quinn Family Papers

Identifier: spe-nhrc-oqc

Scope and Contents

The Cleodia D. and John W. O’Quinn Family Papers consists of documents and photographs that document the O’Quinn’s lifelong participation in Chicago’s Lawndale community and youth organizations.

The collection includes awards, biographical data, correspondence, news clippings, photographs, programs, schedules, speech drafts and testimonials. Dates range from around 1949 to 1984. The documents the O’Quinn Family activities with Boy Scout Troop #3365, Conference of Women of Africa and African Descent, Lawndale Professional Matrons, O’Quinn Fine Arts Academy, O’Quinn Royal Gladiators Drum and Bugle Corps, Sears Annual Westside Art Fair and West Side Negro Women’s League.


  • circa 1937-circa 1987, undated


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.

Biographical / Historical

The O’Quinn Family is known for the O’Quinn Royal Gladiators Drum and Bugle Corps, which they founded in 1962. The Corps “posted the colors” in numerous community and city events, won awards and traveled nationwide, while providing recreation and training for hundreds of boys and girls. The Drum and Bugle Corps evolved out of the Fine Arts Academy organized by the O’Quinn’s in 1953. The Academy offered cultural education and a community studio for young people in the Lawndale community, including drama, music, dance, talent shows, parades, tutoring, counseling, job placement and arts and crafts.

John William O’Quinn was born in Larmon, Mississippi and attended Southern Christian College and Alcorn College before coming to Chicago. He served with the Navy in World War II. He graduated from the Chicago Barber College and was the owner and manager of the Triple Q Barbershop at 1218 S. Central Park Avenue in Lawndale. He served as scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop #3365 and participated extensively in other scout-related activities, earning a Distinguished Silver Beaver Award in 1973. In addition to his involvement with Boy Scouts, the Fine Arts Academy and the Drum and Bugle Corps, Mr. O’Quinn was active in numerous community and youth organizations, including American Legion Posts #896 (Robert Brooks) and #1268 (Crispus Attucks), the American Boys Commonwealth, the Maxwell Street YMCA, the O’Quinn Community Center, the Boys Brotherhood Republic, Reading is Fundamental and the Westside Citizens Organization. He was chairman of the Sears Art Festival parade committee and taught Sunday school. Mr. O’Quinn was the first black to run for Alderman of the 24th Ward. He died in 1996. In 1940, he married Cleodia Lyndon Dawkins.

Cleodia Lyndon Dawkins O’Quinn’s community involvement has been equally extensive. Born in Sedalia, Mississippi, she attended Herzl Junior College and the Chicago Teachers College, holds a doctorate in theology and is a licensed evangelist. Like her husband, she was involved with the Drum and Bugle Corps, the Fine Arts Academy, the American Legion and scouting. She served as director of teacher training for the Boy Scouts of America. In 1960 she was elected vice-mayor of Lawndale, a post she held for ten years. She represented Lawndale at the Conference of Women of Africa and African Descent (Ghana, 1960). Her activities included leadership education, the Lawndale Women’s League, the Lawndale Professional Matrons and the Maxwell Street YMCA. She died around 2011.


5.75 Linear Feet (in 6 boxes, includes 112 photographs)

Language of Materials



The O’Quinn Family Papers document their participation in Chicago’s Lawndale community that includes Boy Scouts of America, O’Quinn Royal Gladiators Drum and Bugle Corps and West Side Negro Women's League.


The collection is arranged into two series: Series 1: Family Papers, circa 1937-1984, undated and Series 2: Community Organizations and Events, 1940-circa 1987, undated.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by John W. and Cleodia D. O’Quinn in February 1985. This collection overlaps that of Bethel New Life Records in provenance. Original contact between Special Collections and the O’Quinn Family was made through Bethel New Life, but the Bethel material was accessioned into Special Collections and cataloged independently of the O’Quinn Family Papers.

Related Materials

Bethel New Life Records

Chicago Public Library Archives, Toman Branch

Girl Scouts of America #427 Records

Lawndale-Crawford Community Collection

Lawndale-Crawford Historical Association Records

North Lawndale Community Collection

O’Quinn Family Papers

Faith Rich Papers

South Lawndale Community Collection

John Toman Scrapbooks

Guide to the O’Quinn Family Papers
Original author unknown, 1985. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Michelle McCoy, 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository

Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States
(312) 747-4875