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Brinker, Dr. William J. papers

 Record Group — Box: 1
Identifier: RG-0000-0074

Scope and Contents

The collection largely documents oral histories from Cookeville residents who served in the 109th Cavalry or the Vietnam War, as well as the spouses, parents, and children of Vietnam veterans. The research and interviews were primarily done by William John “Bill” Brinker. These papers were all created and collected in the process of writing the books "A Time for Looking Back" and "And We Did Cope" as well as articles such as Oral History and the Vietnam War. As a part of his research, Brinker also included notes and sound recordings of Vietnam folk music. Topics covered include the Vietnam War, the 109th Cavalry, and Cookeville Veterans. Oral histories are heavily represented throughout. Materials include photographs, clippings, correspondence, transcripts, sound recordings, a guest book for an exhibit at the Cookeville Depot Museum, and notes regarding his research. As well, this collection documents his personal activities, including his being on the board of the Cookeville Arts Council--minutes included; some correspondence, and his personal history and travels represented by some effects, travel slides, and newspaper articles about him.


  • Creation: 1988 - 2009


5.37 Cubic Feet (11 Legal Document boxes  (15".25" x 5" x 10.25"); 1 Oversize flat box (15.5" x 22" x 2"))

Language of Materials



The collection primarily documents William John "Bill" Brinker's interviews with Cookeville veterans who served either in the Vietnam War or the 109th Cavalry as well as interviews with their families and his research on such topics. Brinker (1935-2021) was a history professor at Tennessee Tech University and eventually the chairman of the History Department. Having served in the military himself, he was an avid researcher of war studies, specifically of the Vietnam War. Using the research and interviews found in this collection, Brinker published several books and articles.


This collection is arranged fristly into two series : 109th Cavalry and Vietnam Veteran Interviews and Research (1988-1992) and "And We Did Cope" Interviews and Research (1989-2009). Within each series, oral histories are arranged in alphabetical order. Two accruals account for materials that were subsequently added comprising a third series: Activities and Travel, also arranged alphabetically.


William John “Bill” Brinker (1935-2021) was a professor in the History Department at Tennessee Tech University from 1971 to his retirement in 2003. However, he continued to teach post-retirement until 2012. He served as chairman of the History Department from 1993 to 2002 and founded the William J Brinker Scholarship for Study Abroad. While teaching, Brinker also edited the diplomatic newsletter Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) from 1980 to 2003, publishing nearly 100 quarterly volumes.

Brinker was born to George and Eva Brinker in Drayton Plains, Michigan, and graduated from Waterford County High School in 1952. Dissatisfied with his progress in the architecture program at the University of Michigan, Brinker enlisted in the United States Army. After attending Army Language School, he served as a German linguist from 1956 to 1959 in Frankfurt, Germany, and West Berlin. Upon arriving home, Brinker returned to the University of Michigan and received his BA and MA in History. He transferred from teaching high school history to an interim job at Manchester College in Indiana but eventually left to attend The University of Indiana for his Ph.D. After jumping from job to job, he settled at Tennessee Tech University.

As an avid researcher of the Vietnam war, Brinker published the journal article Oral History and the Vietnam War in The Journal of American History after a month spent in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia as a participant in the US-Indochina Reconciliation Project in 1988. He also completed two collections of oral histories with Cookeville veterans who served in Vietnam and their families. Using artifacts owned by his interviewees, Brinker held a Vietnam War exhibit at the Cookeville Depot Museum from November 11th to December 3rd,1990. In addition, he received a grant from the Tennessee Humanities Council to publish the two collections of interviews which he titled: A Time for Looking Back (1990) and And We Did Cope (2012).

Brinker also published works concentrating on topics such as Cookeville’s 109th Cavalry Troop and Harold “Mose” Sims.

Brinker was married to Marilyn Brinker with whom he had two children: Evelynn Holden and Nicholas Brinker.
William J. Brinker papers
Hildebrand, Sydney Dewar, Jennifer
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
4th Edition

Repository Details

Part of the Tennessee Tech University Special Collections Repository

1100 North Peachtree Avenue
PO Box 5066
Cookeville Tennessee 38505 United States