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Smith, Burton Jay



  • Existence: 1916-1989

Burton Jay Smith was born on January 11, 1916, in Adrian, Michigan. His parents were Burt H. and Lucia (Jones) Smith. Desiring to become a schoolteacher, Smith attended Adrian College and then the University of Michigan, where he obtained his B.S. He became a science teacher in the Wyandotte, Michigan public school system, and also worked as a summer camp counselor at Camp Davaja in Brighton, MI.   In 1936 Smith joined the National Amateur Press Association (NAPA), and in the winter of that year published his first amateur magazine, Eisegesis. He published a number of other journals, including Amateur World, Micros, Avocation, and Tanacovio. In April 1941 he published the first issue of Literary Newsette; from the seventh issue onwards, the journal was co-edited by his amateur journalist colleague Willametta Turnepseed, who carried on publication alone after Smith's induction into the military. Smith and Turnepseed fell in love and were engaged to be married in May 1942.   Smith enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces in January 1942, but he was not called to active duty until January 1943. He trained as a flight navigator at various locations, including Nashville, Tennessee; Ellington Field, Texas; San Marcos, Texas; Mountain Home, Idaho; and Wendover Field, Utah. He won his silver wings and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in September 1943. He was attached to various squadrons of the 8th Army Air Corps, and was transferred overseas, first to North Africa, then to England in early 1944. In June of that year he was promoted to First Lieutenant and awarded the Air Medal with several clusters. On August 31, 1944, he wrote to his fiancee Willametta, ending with the lines Good-night; I have to fly tomorrow. He was killed the next day when his plane crashed near Norfolk. Smith was buried in the Cambridge Military Cemetery and posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.   Willametta Turnepseed was born in Russell, Kansas in 1909 .Her family moved from Kansas to Springfield, Ohio, where she lived much of her early life. She graduated from high school at fifteen, at which time she had already begun to take an interest in the world of amateur journalism. Turnepseed wrote a number of short stories between 1935-1942 for such publications as All-Story Love Stories and Street and Smith's Love Story Magazine.   In 1938 she joined NAPA and became an enthusiastic member of the amateur printing world. She started Lo-Qui-Tur, a Springfield, OH chapter of NAPA on the first day of her attendance at the 1938 NAPA convention, and while in this chapter produced a well-received paper, Walk One Flight. Turnepseed served NAPA in a number of administrative capacities, including Mailing Manager (1940-1941), Vice-President (1941-1943), Official Editor (1943-1944),President (1944-1946), and Executive Judge (1946-1948, 1953-1954).   Over the years Turnepseed was active in a number of other associations, including the United Amateur Press Association (UAP) and the British Amateur Press Association (BAPA). Over her years of activity, from 1938-1988, she edited or co-edited nearly 1300 publications (individual issues of journals).   Turnepseed's fiancee Burton Jay (BeeJay) Smith was killed in action on September 1, 1944. She met fellow printer and NAPA member Martin Keffer, of Roanoke, Virginia, in 1945. The two were secretly married in Roanoke on May 31, 1947 (the marriage was made public in late June). Keffer, like his wife, remained active in amateur journalism until the end of his life. Both Turnepseed and her husband were killed as the result of a car crash on May 8, 1989.


Author: Jeremy Brett, December 2007

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Burton Jay Smith and Willametta Turnepseed Papers

Identifier: msc0868
Abstract Correspondence, chiefly love letters, between amateur printers Smith and Turnepseed, together with a few additional materials, including copies of their co-edited Literary Newsette. Many of Smith's letters document his activities training as a navigator in the United States Army Air Force, 1943-1944.
Dates: 1941-1944