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Melville C. Branch, Jr. Papers, 1914-2004

Identifier: M 327

Scope and Contents

The materials in this collection range from 1914 to 2004 and include correspondence, drawings, photographs, and numerous publications by Dr. Branch and others. The collection documents Branch's early life, mostly through correspondence with family members, and his entire academic career. Most items concern Dr. Branch's professional accomplishments in the field of architecture, urban planning, and design. The collection includes scrapbooks, portfolios, and oversized handmade books of Branch's artwork for the General Motors Futurama at the 1939 World's Fair, the Baltimore Museum exhibition "The City," and Richmond's bicentennial celebration in 1937.

His more than fifty years of research and writing concerning comprehensive planning as a universal process are represented in the collection by twelve of his books and various papers specifically devoted to this subject.


  • 1914-2004


Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research without restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Biographical Information

Melville Campbell Branch, Jr. (1913-2008) pioneered consideration of planning as a distinct intellectual discipline and the subject of professional practice. He was the first person in the United States to receive an advanced degree in Planning: a Ph.D. in regional planning from Harvard University in 1949. He is the first person in the nation designated Distinguished Professor of Planning, by the University of Southern California. His nearly 60-year career includes work in academia, government, private enterprise, and the U.S. Navy.

In an unpublished 2003 essay entitled "Planning: Universal Process", Dr. Branch wrote that for "over fifty years, my thoughts, research, and working experiences have been directed to exploring and formulating in written form the fundamental nature and significance of the planning process as a law of human forethought and action." He concludes the essay by noting that planning has "shaped the human condition, subject to events beyond human influence. Aside from procreation, it is also the human activity which will most crucially affect our prospects as a society and our survival in an ever-changing world."

A long-time educator, researcher, and writer, Dr. Branch is the author of twenty-three books and over seventy-five professional papers relating to planning. His original contributions include the first books published on: corporate planning; sample surveys in city planning; the use of aerial photography and remote sensing in city and regional planning; and comprehensive planning theory and principles. Another three of his books expand on several elements of comprehensive planning: communication, simulation, and human behavior.

Born in Richmond, Virginia, on 16 February 1913, Dr. Branch is the eldest son of Melville Campbell and Martha (Bowie) Branch. He attended Princeton University (1930-1934) graduating as a Bachelor of Arts with high honors, and the Princeton University graduate college (1934-1936), receiving a two-year Master of Fine Arts in Architecture. In the summer of 1934, Dr. Branch studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Fontainebleau, France, and received a Diplome for a project in planning and design. From 1937-1938, Dr. Branch was a fellow at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where he completed independent research in city planning.

Dr. Branch headed the section designing the urban areas in the General Motors Futurama exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair. He was a Research Assistant at the U.S. National Resources Planning Board (NRPB) in the executive offices of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1939-1941. On leave from November 1940 - February 1941, Dr. Branch designed and directed the exhibit "The City" at the Baltimore Museum of Art, the largest city planning exhibit displayed in the United States to that date. He left the NRPB to become Director of the Bureau of Urban Research at Princeton University.

In 1943, Dr. Branch was commissioned Lieutenant JG in the U.S. Naval Reserve, assigned as an Instructor at the U.S. Naval Air Combat Intelligence School. He taught "maps and photographs" and wrote a flack information bulletin circulated in the Pacific Ocean area. After three years in the Navy, he spent a year at Harvard enrolled for the Ph.D. degree in planning. From 1947 until 1951, Dr. Branch was an Associate Professor in the Graduate Program of Education and Research in Planning at the University of Chicago.

In 1951, Dr. Branch left Chicago for Los Angeles, California, becoming an Intelligence Officer at the Los Angeles Office of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. In 1954, he became Corporate Associate for Planning and Member of the Senior Staff (West Coast) of the Ramo-Woolridge Corporation (RW). While there, he was appointed in 1961 to the Los Angeles Board of City Planning Commissioners, serving nine years as a member, vice president, and president. Dr. Branch was a Lecturer in Engineering (Planning) at the College of Engineering at the University of California at Los Angeles from 1962-1966.

Dr. Branch joined the faculty at the University of Southern California in 1966 as a Professor in the Planning Program within the School of Public Administration. The Program developed into a School of Urban and Regional Planning, and finally into a School of Policy, Planning, and Development. He taught half-time from 1984-1992 as a Professor Emeritus.

Dr. Branch has consulted briefly for Douglas Aircraft Company, Standard Oil Company of California, Southern California Edison Company, and during the summer of 1978, for the Department of Economic Development and Planning, Faculty of Economics and Management, at the National University of Malaysia.

In 1939, Dr Branch was awarded the Charlotte Elisabeth Proctor Fellowship for independent graduate study at Princeton University. In 1986, the Distinguished Leadership Award of the American Planning Association. In 2000, the Planning Educator Award of the Association of Collegiate Schools in Planning. In 2003, he was elected a Fellow in the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Dr. Branch was married to his second wife, Hilda S. Rollman-Branch, M.D., for over fifty years. Dr. Rollman-Branch came to the United States from German occupied territories in Europe during World War II. While in the United States, Dr. Rollman-Branch studied chemistry, medicine, psychiatry and psychoanalysis. She has served many notable appointments in the Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Society and Institute (LAPSI) and the American Psychoanalytical Association (APsaA).

Melville Campbell Branch, Jr died on February 11, 2008 while living in Pacific Palisades, California. He was 94 years old.


12 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged chronologically by the major periods of Dr. Branch's personal and professional life.

Acquisition Information

Donated to the Special Collections and Archives Department by Mr. Melville C. Branch, Jr. in 2003.

A Guide to the Melville C. Branch, Jr., 1914-2004
A Collection in Special Collections and Archives, James Branch Cabell Library, M 327
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the VCU James Branch Cabell Library Repository

Special Collections and Archives 901 Park Avenue
Richmond Virginia 23284 USA US
(804) 828-1108