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W.B. Shafer, Jr. Papers

Collection ID: MG 52

Scope and Contents

This collection contains information about the Norfolk and Southern economic booms of the 1950s and 1960s, Shafer's real estate and investing ventures during that same time period, the political issues and causes that he advanced, his charitable donations, books and newsletters that he wrote, and various correspondence. Except for correspondence, much of the material in this collection is undated.


  • circa 1937-1982, undated
  • Other: Date acquired: 01/22/1982



4.80 Linear Feet

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Biographical or Historical Information

W. Bruce Shafer was an idealist and a philanthropist. He was an industrious promoter and "booster" of ideas, projects, Norfolk, and even himself. To some he was an eccentric, while others considered him a genius. Shafer was a Methodist and a Mason. He was religious and conservative. He did not necessarily ally himself with either political party. Shafer was more about morals and issues than party. Shafer was born in 1894 in Norfolk County. His father was a produce broker, and the family business went broke the year Shafer graduated from Norfolk Academy (1912). W.B. Shafer, Jr. went to work shipping produce. A few years later, he and his father jointly founded a firm that became one of Norfolk's most successful produce brokers. In his youth, Shafer served on several bank boards, financed farmers, and wrote books about finance and honesty. Although Shafer himself did not fight in World War I, he still did his part. He originated and financed "The Potato Publicity and Wheat League" which helped farmers and prevented a food shortage. After the war, Shafer originated the World War I Soldier Bonus and contributed $50,000 to the campaign between 1918 and 1936. Shafer ran for Norfolk City Council in 1928, and claims the election was stolen from him. The experience disenchanted him from local politics. He ran for Congress in 1944 as an independent. He tried again for Norfolk City Council in 1966. Despite his disenfranchisement with politics, he was advisor to two presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge, as well as friend and supporter of many Congressmen. Shafer was a big "booster" of the Norfolk and Southern economic booms. He spent over $100,000 in ads boosting the South. He also wrote books, booklets, flyers, and newsletters promoting Norfolk, Dallas, and the South to realtors, investors, governors, congressmen, and others. He advocated for the local bridge-tunnels, better highways, and the Dismal Swamp Canal to make Hampton Roads more accessible to businesses. His hard work and foresight brought businesses into Ward's Corner and Military Circle. He was also involved with the development of Fox Hall and Norview. Shafer's other projects included a world peace plan to put a chaplain in each embassy to cultivate friendship, a prosperity plan to bring advertising money to the South, and a "religious reformation" movement. He directed his energy to oppose corruption in government and the Norfolk City Council, the Norfolk news monopoly, "hippy communism," and other things he thought were wrecking America. Shafer was a prolific writer about his ideas. Besides newsletters, flyers, and correspondence, he wrote several books and booklets including: "How to Make a Fortune Honestly and Quickly," "Go South Young Man, Go South Where God Still Lives," "Success and Happiness," "3 Books that Made the South and 1000 Millionaires and 10 Billionaires," and "Washington and the New Economic South." Despite frequent complaints about his health and age, Shafer lived to the ripe old age of 95. He passed away in 1990. True to his life, his tombstone promotes the ideals and causes he lived for.

Note written by Special Collections Staff

Language of Materials



Long time Norfolk native. Made his fortune in real estate and spent his life promoting humanitarian and idealistic causes. Ran unsuccessfully for Norfolk City Council in 1928 and 1966 and lost a bid for the House of Representatives in 1944. Honorary member of the Veterans of Foreign Affairs in recognition for his successful push to have bonuses paid to World War I veterans. Author of 3 Books That Made the South And 1000 Millionaires and 10 Billionaires, Go South Young Man, and Go South Where God Still Lives. Includes correspondence, copies of The Spotlight, newspaper clippings, rough drafts of his writings, and photographs.

Arrangement Note

This collection is organized into six series: Series I: Projects, Issues, and Causes; Series II: Philanthropy and Religious Charities; Series III: Correspondence; Series IV: Books, Essays, and Other Publications; Series V: Miscellaneous; and Series VI: Artifacts.

Source of Acquisition

W.B. Shafer

Method of Acquisition

Gift. Accession #A82-1

Related Materials

Oral histories with Shafer can be found in the Old Dominion University Libraries Digital Collections website.

Related Publications

3 books under one cover : second Yankee invasion of the South ... Call #:  F209 .S532 1982 Investment success & happiness Call #: F209.5.S53.G6 Go south, young man, go south where God still lives, and five other books : true economic history of the South from 1865-1999 A.D. (tells when the communistic-hippie movement will stop and the nation return to sanity) Call #: F209.5 .S53 How to make a fortune quickly and honestly Call #: HF5386 .S4185

A Guide to the W.B. Shafer, Jr. Papers
Special Collections Staff
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 ODU Community Collections Repository

3000 Perry Library
4427 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk VA 23529 US