Arthur Randolph Kelly

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For other people named Arthur Kelly, see Arthur Kelly (disambiguation).

Arthur Randolph Kelly (October 27, 1900 – November 4, 1979) was a professional archaeologist born in Hubbard, Texas to Thomas Lucius Kelly and Mamye Lewis (Atwood) Kelly on October 27, 1900.

After graduating from high school, Kelly studied at the University of Texas; obtaining his bachelor's degree in 1921. As an undergraduate at the University of Texas he became interested in the field of physical anthropology while taking classes under anthropologist G.C. Engerrand; who directed Kelly to go to Harvard and study under anthropologist Earnest Hooton. He earned his M.A. in anthropology in 1926 and his Ph.D. in 1929; both from Harvard.

Kelly taught as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois from 1929-1933. While there he also worked on the Cahokia Mound site. He was let go from his position at the university due to the Great Depression.

Kelly was hired in 1933 by the Smithsonian Institution as director of excavations at the Macon Plateau Site near Macon, Georgia on the Ocmulgee River as a part of the Federal Relief archaeological program. James A. Ford was assigned by the Smithsonian as an assistant to Kelly.

While at Macon Plateau, Kelly was in charge of between 700 and 1000 Works Progress Administration laborers. On December 23, 1936 the National Park Service put the Macon Plateau site on the list of National Historic places and was formally called the Ocmulgee National Monument. The same year Kelly was hired by the National Park Service as Superintendent of the Ocmulgee National Monument.

In 1939 Kelly was promoted to chief archaeologist of the National Park Service, and moved from Macon, Georgia to Washington, D.C. He left Washington in 1941 to become superintendent of the Custom’s House National Monument in Salem, Massachusetts.

In 1943 Kelly went back to his former job as superintendent at Ocmulgee National Monument at Macon, Georgia where he remained until he was asked by the University of Georgia to start a Department of Anthropology there in September 1947.

Kelly served as Chairman of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Georgia from 1947 until 1963, and remained a professor there until 1969. Kelly’s archaeological work in Georgia include the Etowah Mound and Village site, Lamar Mounds, the Lake Douglas Mound, the Oliver and Walter F. George River Basin surveys, the Estatoe Mound, the Chauga Mound, and the Bell Field Mound among others.

Doctor Kelly and his wife, Rowana, had four daughters together: Sheila, Joanna, Patricia, and Cora Lewis.


  • Willey, Gordon R. (1988). Portraits in American Archaeology: Remembrances of Some Distinguished Americanists. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.