José Robles Pazos was born in 1897. He was educated in Madrid at the following institutions: Bachiller, Instituto de San Isidro, 1914; Licenciado en letras, University of Madrid, 1918; Prof. Spanish Literature, Residencia de Estudiantes; Colaborador, Centro de Estudios Historicos, 1918-20. In 1920 he came to Johns Hopkins University as Instructor in Spanish, becoming Associate Professor in 1922.
Early in June of 1936, after the close of classes at the Johns Hopkins University, Robles and his wife and children left for a vacation in Spain. Shortly after, the Civil War in Spain broke out. Soon after the beginning of the hostilities Robles entered the service of the Spanish Government on a temporary basis pending his return to Baltimore. He also worked as an interpreter at the Russian Embassy. Early in December of 1936 Robles was arrested, and his whereabouts and fate remained unknown. It was not until March 4, 1939 that it was officially announced by the Director of the Spanish Press Bureau in Valencia that Robles had been shot as a traitor by the Spanish Republican Government in February of 1937. After many vicissitudes Robles' wife and daughter escaped to Mexico, where they proposed to settle, in late 1939. Robles' son Francisco was captured during a military engagement in the summer of 1938 and interned in a prisoner of war camp in Zaragoza under sentence of death. This sentence was commuted to a long prison term through the efforts of the American Ambassador in Madrid. The last letter in the collection relating to Francisco Robles indicates that by May 1940 efforts were in progress through diplomatic channels to secure his release and transfer to the United States.
Henry Carringon Lancaster was chair of the Department of Romance Languages and professor of French literature at Johns Hopkins University. Robles was a colleague of Lancaster's and a member of the Johns Hopkins University faculty when he was arrested.