Ralph W. Donnelly was born on November 20, 1913 in Washington, D.C. He married Gertrude Warfield Shipley on April 17, 1937. The couple had two children, Joseph R. and Kathleen Ann. Donnelly received a BS degree in Education (History and Geography) from J.O. Wilson Teacher's College, Washington, D.C. in June 1935. He also received a MA degree in American Political Science from Catholic University of America in 1940, and also took some continuing education courses after this.
Mr. Donnelly taught in various junior high schools in Montgomery County, Maryland and Washington, D.C., for a combined total of twelve years. He also worked at various life insurance companies in many capacities for about twenty years. Donnelly retired from the Federal Government at the end of 1975 and moved to Washington, NC. He then became a part time instructor in local history and genealogy at several community colleges for about five years.
Donnelly has authored and co-authored several books and more than 50 magazine and newspaper articles on military history and Catholic family history. Some of his publications include, "Blacks in the Marine Corps" (co-authored with Henry I. Shaw Jr., 1975), "Biographical Sketches of the Commissioned Officers of the Confederate States Marine Corp" (1973), "The History of the Confederate States Marine Corp" (1976) and "Service Records of Confederate Enlisted Marines" (1979). Donnelly also edited and published "The Parish Register of St. John the Evangelist, Washington, NC, Beaufort County, 1808-1911" (1984).