The Johnny Tolbert letters is a collection of 151 letters and four Western Union telgrams sent from United States Army soldier
Johnny Tolbert (1924-1989), also known as Johnnie Clifton or J.C., to Ruth Mae Clennell (1925-2000) from San Pedro, California
Tolbert met Clennell on September 2, 1943, the night before his deployment to the South Pacific. Tolbert's love and affection
for Clennell and his feelings of homesickness are the main themes of the letters, though his letters also touch upon the
events of the Second World War, observations of local natives, and attitudes toward the Japanese that are reflective of the
The collection also includes original envelopes with stamps and Army examiner markings, postcards, newspaper clippings, and
Johnny (or Johnnie) Clifton Tolbert was born on March 28, 1924 in Blount County, Alabama to Lawrence C. Tolbert and Flora
M. Layton. He was the oldest of six children. On February 23, 1943, he enlisted as a soldier for the United States Army in
Fort McClellan, Alabama. He was deployed September 3, 1943 to the South Pacific as part of the 245th Port Company. Throughout
the Second World War, he was stationed in Australia, New Guinea, New Britain, and the Philippines, where he participated in
a beach invasion. After the Japanese surrendered, Tolbert was sent to Leyte, Okinawa, and Shanghai, where he guarded Japanese
prisoners. After Shanghai, Tolbert finally came back home to the United States. He arrived first in Honolulu, and then in
Seattle on December 24, 1945. By the time Tolbert married Ruth Clennell on March 30, 1946, Tolbert had been discharged and
had moved to Birmingham. They married in Birmingham, where Tolbert worked at the Haverty Furniture Company. Eventually, by
1952, Johnny and Ruth Tolbert moved to San Pedro, California, where Johnny was employed as a ship clerk and salesman while
Ruth stayed at home as a homemaker. They remained married until Tolbert's death. Johnny Clifton Tolbert died on June 1, 1989
in Los Angeles, California. He was buried in Green Hills Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California, where Ruth was later buried
as well after her death on January 3, 2000.
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