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Identifier: WH1270


The collection contains documents, audio-visual materials and photographs ranging from 1892 to 1980. The bulk of the collection consists of photographs, papers, audiotapes and film reels of the many organizations with which Clarence and Fairfax Holmes were active. Personal, business and family materials are also included. Scrapbooks, correspondence and personal papers provide a glimpse into Denver's African American community from the turn of the twentieth century through the Civil Rights Movement.


The series covers Holmes' professional career as a dentist including business and supply records for his practice. Holmes invested modestly in Denver real estate; a few papers describe his assets and landlord duties. The highlight of the series is the clubs, organizations and events sub-series which show the breadth of professional, church, human service and civil rights organizations to which Holmes devoted much of his life. Correspondence and awards show the devotion and respect he garnered from many Denver communities. The papers reflect his involvement in both local and national organizations.

The papers concerning Holmes' founding and tenure as president of the Cosmopolitan Club of Denver are especially strong, describing the group's pioneering work on such issues as anti-discrimination, interfaith understanding, international cultural awareness and philanthropy.

Personal papers round out the series. The papers illustrate Holmes' involvement in the Sigma Pi Phi fraternity, his Denver City Council campaign, household financial records, and biographical news clippings about Holmes and other people and events that interested him. Memorial service programs and awards are included.


Papers relating to Fairfax Butler Holmes comprise this series. It includes correspondence, certificates and meeting minutes of organizations in which she and Clarence were active together, as well as those to which she herself belonged such as the Needlework Guild of America. Her achievement in helping open a new building for the George Washington Carver Day Nursery is documented, as well as her early career working for the Young Women's Christian Association. The series also contains wedding and divorce papers from her first marriage to A. Christopher Richey and papers her marriage to Clarence Holmes. Family documents relating to her parents, in-laws and children are also included in this series.


The audio-visual series contains 8mm film, reel-to-reel audiotapes, cassette tapes and VHS videotape. The material covers a cross-section of activities important to Holmes, particularly during the 1950s-60s. His involvement with dental as well as philanthropic organizations is documented, as are social, political, sporting and travel interests. Family gatherings, parties and graduations are also represented.


The series includes ephemera and oversize awards and certificates from Fairfax and Clarence Holmes' schooling and civic involvement. A scrapbook compiled by William E. Wise (Clarence Holmes Sr.'s half-brother) and later maintained by Clarence F. Holmes contains mostly newspaper clippings of historical, political and entertainment news topics. Some correspondence, clippings and notes describe Wise's participation in the Philippine-American War at the turn of the twentieth century.

A scrapbook contains memorabilia from Holmes' time at Ebert School and Howard University.

A scrapbook or "friendship book" compiled for Clarence Holmes in 1971 by longtime friends and fellow Cosmopolitan Club members contains personal letters honoring Holmes and his contributions to the Cosmopolitan Club.

Newspaper supplements include a Denver Star issue covering the Convention of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, Inc., showcasing prominent African American citizens of Denver, their businesses and residences.


Ranging from 1892 (Holmes' baby picture) to 1976, photographic prints, slides and negatives comprise this series. Family photographs consist of images of Fairfax and Clarence Holmes, their children, their parents and other relatives. Many group photographs show family members as well as friends. Though specific dates were often lacking, estimates of the decades resulted from consideration of fashions, automobiles and types of film. The same method was used to provide time periods for the large number of images of group meetings. Other categories of photographs included such topics as sports, locations of unidentified group meetings, recognizable celebrities and residences. Graduations and wedding photographs are numerous and remain general categories in the series. It is likely that Holmes attended and photographed these ceremonies when they involved his patients and friends as well as his family. Holmes also photographed many well-known or famous people. Group photographs include such events as the Cheyenne Frontier Days, political rallies, organization conventions and group travel.

The oversize folder contains photographs of Clarence and Fairfax Holmes' 25th wedding anniversary party, an Omega Psi Phi Fraternity dinner meeting in Chicago (Dr. Benjamin E. Mays pictured), a portrait of Henry Richardson and a print of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


  • TBD


The collection is open for research.


Literary rights and copyrights of the Clarence and Fairfax Holmes Papers are assigned to the Denver Public Library.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.


Clarence Fitzhugh Holmes was born May 21, 1892 in Denver, Colorado, after his parents moved from Washington D.C. Clarence and his older brother William grew up at 2139 Curtis Street. Clarence Holmes Sr. (1865-1938) was employed by the Denver Athletic Club and Schlotz Drug Store. Clarence's mother, Mary Holmes (died 1939), worked as an attendant at the women's comfort station at the post office. Clarence Holmes attended Ebert School and graduated from Manual High School in Denver in 1913, and Howard University and Howard University College of Dentistry in Washington D.C. (B.S. 1917, D.D.S. 1920.)

In 1920, Holmes opened a dental practice at 2602 Welton Street in Denver's Five Points neighborhood. He was the first African-American dentist to join the Denver Dental Society. During the Depression, Holmes performed free extractions for people as part of a Community Chest program. He practiced in the same office for 56 years, retiring in 1975.

Clarence Holmes married Fairfax Butler Richey on April 2, 1923 in Denver. They moved briefly to Pueblo, Colorado in 1926, but returned to Denver in 1931.

Clarence Holmes helped to found the Colorado-Wyoming branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a group he joined while at Howard University. He also helped to found the Glenarm YMCA, which unlike other YMCA branches was open to African Americans. Holmes was perhaps best known for his involvement with community organizations in Denver such as the Cosmopolitan Club, an organization comprised of socially progressive men and women who believed in promoting interracial and interfaith understanding. Dr. Holmes founded the club in 1931 and served as its president for over 30 years.

Holmes participated in various philanthropic organizations such as the Denver Chi Phi chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. He also served on the Colorado Commission for the Aging and on the Mayor’s Committee on Community Relations under Mayor Quigg Newton. In 1955 Holmes lost a bid for City Council to Elvin Caldwell.

Holmes received numerous community awards and recognitions including the Mile-Hi Sertoma Club “Outstanding Citizen” award in 1973 and the Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1974.

Clarence Holmes died in a Denver nursing home on March 9, 1978.

Also born in 1892, Fairfax Butler married A. (Anderson) Christopher Richey on March 8, 1919 in Chicago, Illinois. Both were graduates of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Fairfax's mother and stepfather were Cassie Lewis McPherson (1876-1944) and William Henry McPherson (1879-1952). Fairfax Richey went to Richmond, Virginia to work as a war camp community organizer, and then to Davenport, Iowa to work for the YWCA. Christopher Richey went to New York to work at the headquarters of the YMCA, and then overseas. Fairfax also held a Teachers Temporary Certificate in Chicago. In 1922, Christopher Richey filed for divorce from Fairfax Butler in Nevada. After the divorce was finalized, Fairfax moved to Denver in 1923 to work as a secretary at the Phyllis Wheatley Branch of the YWCA. She met Clarence Holmes in Denver, and they married in 1923. Fairfax and Clarence Holmes had three surviving children: Clarita (Bonner), William E., Rosemary (Berry), June F., who was physically disabled and William E. who was adopted. An infant son, Clarence III, died in June 1932.

While Fairfax Holmes was active in her husband's organizations, attending and hosting meetings, she also pursued her own interests as PTA President, a YMCA board member, and a USO worker during World War II. Fairfax Holmes also volunteered with the Phyllis Wheatley branch of the YWCA in Denver. In 1952 she founded the Denver chapter of The Links, Inc., a service organization of women committed to enriching the culture and economic enrichment of African Americans, and in 1966, she helped obtain funding for a new building for the George Washington Carver Day Care Center.

Clarence and Fairfax Holmes lived at 925 Holly Street in Denver and were members of St. John's Episcopal Cathedral. Fairfax Holmes died in June 1980. She is buried with Clarence Holmes and their daughter, June, at Fairmount Cemetery.


5 (5 linear feet)

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Rosemary Berry and Clarita Bonner, daughters, donated the Holmes materials in 1995.

The National Historical Publication and Records Commission (NHPRC) provided partial funding for the processing of this collection.


The Western History/Genealogy Department has additional collections with material related to Clarence and Fairfax Holmes including:

Clarence Holmes, oral history May 5, 1977 OH70, tapes 1 and 2.

Physical Description


Physical Description


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Physical Description


Physical Description



Boxes: 5 (5 linear feet)

Audio-Visual Boxes: 3

Oversize Boxes: 4

OVFFs: 1

Photo Boxes: 5

Photo OVFFs: 1




Abby Hoverstock

Ann Brown

June 2009

June 2011


Ellen Zazzarino

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Repository Details

Part of the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Repository

10 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy
Denver CO 80204 United States