Champe, John L. (John Leland), 1895- | Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries
John Leland Champe was born in Elwood, Nebraska on April 27, 1895 and graduated from high school in Friend, Nebraska in 1911. From 1917 to 1919 he was a member of the 36th Infantry of the U.S. Army. He rose to the rank of 1st Lieutenant but never actually served over seas in WWI. He received a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Nebraska in 1921.
On December 27, 1924, John Champe married Flavia Waters, a teacher of ballet. He became a successful businessman and worked for the National Assurance Corporation in Lincoln from 1924 to 1935, eventually becoming Vice President. Champe, while still in business, became interested in anthropology. He did graduate work in archaeology at the University of Nebraska from 1934 to 1936. Deciding to make this his life's work, he enrolled as a graduate student in anthropology at Columbia University in 1938. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1946.
Champe was instrumental in reactivating the Plains Conference in 1947. The Plains Conference is an annual event that brings together people interested in Plains anthropology, and gives them a chance to present papers on research they have done. The first Plains Conference was actually held in 1931, but the conferences were discontinued during the war.
John Champe became an assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln in 1947, an associate professor in 1950, and a full time professor in 1952. He was Chairman of the Department of Anthropology from 1953 to 1961. He worked on numerous archaeological sites throughout Nebraska and the Great Plains. He did excavations at Ash Hollow Cave near Lewellen, Nebraska. With the Smithsonian Institution River Basin Surveys program, he helped coordinate salvage operations of prehistoric sites located in the reservoir areas of the Middle Missouri. He did archaeological work in cooperation with the Nebraska State Historical Society and the Nebraska State Museum, and developed an archaeological field school as well. He retired as a Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Laboratory of Anthropology at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln in 1963.
From 1954 to 1978, Champe acted as a consultant and expert witness on a number of court cases involving treaty disputes and land claims between various Native American tribes and the U.S. government. Among the tribes involved in these cases were the Yankton Sioux, the Omaha, the Pawnee, and numerous others.
John Leland Champe died of a heart attack on January 28, 1978.