Ryman, Donald (Interview transcript and video), 2019


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Ryman, Donald (Interview transcript and video), 2019


Smither, James (Interviewer)


Donald Ryman was born on April 1, 1928 in Brady Lake, Ohio, into a very mobile family, moving eleven times before settling into East Canton in 1939. Ryman’s father pursued a degree in education in addition to his degree in mechanical engineering, and with the outbreak of the Second World War, his father was finally able to get a job as a mechanical engineer. His mother struggled to acquire food for the family and there was little fuel to use for their car due to stringent wartime rationing. After graduating high school, he attended Ohio State University in June of 1945 with the expectation that he might be drafted into the war. He briefly joined the university’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps and Ryman graduated from Ohio State in 1948, moving on to Harvard Law School where he encountered financial difficulty and accumulated some debt with the university. In June of 1950, he received several draft notices before enlisting in the Navy. Ryman was then flown to San Francisco, California, for Navy Boot Camp and was later transferred to Newport, Rhode Island, for Navy Officer Candidate School. Ryman finished his training at Newport in July of 1952, was sworn into the Navy Reserves, and was transferred to the Eighth Naval District, headquartered in New Orleans. He was frustrated that New Orleans seemed to be so poorly managed, and by the persistent racial segregation of the South as well as lingering racism in the Navy. Ryman was then assigned to a gasoline tanker vessel out of Norfolk, Virginia, on which he participated in routine deck watches on the bridge and helped refuel destroyers. He was then transferred to the USS Coral Sea, operating primarily in the Mediterranean. After serving aboard the Coral Sea twice in the Mediterranean, Ryman was shipped home on the USS Everglades to Norfolk where he was officially discharged. He then returned to Culver, Indiana, where his wife and baby were living. He eventually moved his family to Dayton, Ohio, and later up to Buchanan, Michigan, where he acquired a job on the legal team of Clark Equipment Company. Reflecting upon his service in the Navy, Ryman held his later experiences with Clark’s legal team in high regard since he appreciated the fact that he could walk to work as well as the success of the business during his tenure.




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Grand Valley State University Libraries, Special Collections & University Archives, 1 Campus Drive, Allendale, MI, 49401.


Veterans History Project (U.S.)






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Ryman, Donald F., “Ryman, Donald (Interview transcript and video), 2019,” Digital Collections, accessed April 15, 2024, https://digitalcollections.library.gvsu.edu/document/48901.
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