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Totten, Henry Roland

by William S. Powell, 1996

6 Nov. 1892–9 Feb. 1974

See also: Totten, William Theophilus, from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography

Senior portrait of Henry R. Totten, from the University of North Carolina yearbook <i>The Yackety Yack</i>, 1913.  Presented on DigitalNC. Henry Roland Totten, botanist and professor, was born in Matthews, the son of William Theophilus and Jeannette Frances Barham Totten. He attended the Yadkin Collegiate Institute and in 1913 was graduated from The University of North Carolina, from which he also received the M.A. (1914) and Ph.D. (1923) degrees. His graduate work was under the direction of Professor W. C. Coker. Totten was an instructor in botany in Chapel Hill between 1914 and 1917. Following enlistment in the Reserve Officer Training Corps in World War I, he was commissioned second lieutenant (1917), was stationed at Camp Jackson, S.C., with the field artillery (1917–18), and served in France (1918–19). He was a graduate student at the University of Paris in 1919. Totten retained his army reserve commission; he entered World War II as a captain and rose to lieutenant colonel. Returning to his post as instructor in botany in 1919, he became assistant professor (1923–25), associate professor (1925–29), and professor (1929–63). He retired in 1963.

A dedicated teacher of general botany, pharmacognosy, dendrology, and taxonomy, Professor Totten helped train two generations of pharmacists. His research interests were in the fungi, ferns, and vascular flora, while his primary interest was in the taxonomy of the woody plants of the southeastern United States. His outstanding publications include Trees of the Southeastern States

(1916, 1937) with W. C. Coker and "Fagacease" for the Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas (1968). A member of many professional organizations, he was particularly active in the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society, North Carolina Academy of Science, Association of Southeastern Biologists, and Southern Appalachian Botanical Club. A leader in wildflower preservation, he also was influential in the establishment of garden clubs in North Carolina.

Dedication in W. C. Coker and H. R. Totten's <i>The Trees of North Carolina</i>, published 1916.  From the collections of the State Library of North Carolina.

After the retirement of W. C. Coker, Totten became director of the arboretum on the university campus, and it was his interest and  efforts that helped procure the site of the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel  Hill. He won numerous awards for teaching and for distinguished contributions to the  training of pharmacists and received an honorary doctorate of laws from Atlantic Christian College. His greatest pleasure, however, resulted from the naming of an oak in his honor, Quercus totteni, by Lionel Melvin. He also was noted for his fondness in roaming the fields and woods with his students, friends, and his dogs.

A Methodist, he was married in 1923 to Addie Williams, who joined him in his work, particularly with garden clubs.


Daniel L. Grant, Alumni History of the University of North Carolina (1924).

Mary F. Henderson, ed., Social Register of North Carolina (1936).

William S. Powell, ed., North Carolina Lives (1962).

University of North Carolina, Faculty Council, Minutes, "Henry Roland Totten," 19 Apr. 1974.

Who's Who in the South and Southwest (1967).

Additional Resources:

"Henry Roland Totten (1892-1974)." UNC-Biology, Herbarium.  Ibiblio. (accessed January 16, 2014).

"A Nursery of Patriotism: The University at War." Exhibits, UNC Library. (accessed January 16, 2014).

Coker, William Chambers, and H. R. Totten. 1916. The trees of North Carolina. Chapel Hill [N.C.]: W.C. Coker. (accessed January 16, 2014).

Image Credits:

Coker, William Chambers, and H. R. Totten. 1916. The trees of North Carolina. Chapel Hill [N.C.]: W.C. Coker. 

The Yackety Yack, Vol. 13.  Chapel Hill, [N.C.]: The Dialetic and Philanthropic Literary Societies and the Fraternities of the University of North Carolina. 1913. (accessed January 16, 2014). 


Since moving to Chapel Hill, recently, I have enjoyed visiting the Totten Oak. In 1950s my Father found it Buffalo Creek Swamp south of Greensboro. He planted acorns in our yard in Pleasant Garden. But my Father could never quite figure out the hybrid contributors. He brought a specimen to Dr Totten and after some research Dr Totten identified the hybrid cross. My father of course named the oak after this great Botanist. I do miss them both.

I am very happy to have found this page. Dr. Totten was my mother's uncle through marriage. Growing up I have fond memories of my visits to Chapel Hill to see "Uncle Tot" and Aunt Addie. He would give mini lectures about the mushrooms in his yard, and eventually as a pharmacy student I continued my visits with him . Totten Center is a wonderful tribute to his legacy.

It is a great pleasure to read about Dr. H. R. Totten. He was my uncle by marriage and was admired by our family. I remember when He and Aunt Addie would drive to Florida searching for flowers and taking many pictures which we would all enjoy seeing. I also remember the little house they lived in at Chapel Hill. I think the university campus eventually surrounded their property. Dr. Totten was a great teacher and a gentleman. I miss both he and Addie.

Dear Mr. Williams,

Thank you for visiting H. R. Totten's entry on NCpedia and taking the time to share your family connection and memories with us.  We love to learn when readers have made personal connections with entires and can contribute their knowledge and experiences to the record.

Please visit us again!

Kelly Agan, NCpedia Staff, Government & Heritage Library

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