Verley Archer was born in Springfield, Tennessee, in 1917. After graduating from high school in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in 1937, she took a typing course and worked at a variety of jobs. At the beginning of World War II, she was recruited for clerical work at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, but because of her intelligence and organizational skills, she was taught Chinese in six weeks by Colonel Wang, a Chinese officer assigned to Wright-Patterson, and thereafter she taught technical English to Chinese Air Force trainees sent to the United States.
After the war, Ms. Archer took a journalism course at the University of Dayton and for the next several years she worked as a fund-raiser and writer for trade journals in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Philadelphia, and New York. In 1958, she returned to Tennessee and was hired by Vanderbilt University, first working in the Economic Development Office, and two years later, transferring to the Office of Alumni and Development.
Because of her fund-raising activities for this office, Ms. Archer became interested in the Vanderbilt family. By 1968, with the support of Chancellor Alexander Heard, she had embarked upon her genealogical researches which culminated in the publication in 1973 by Vanderbilt University of her book, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, Sophia Johnson Vanderbilt, and Their Descendants. While she was involved in the writing of this book and in preparations for the Vanderbilt Centennial, Ms. Archer was also enrolled at Peabody College, graduating in 1974 with a B.S. degree.
She continued to work in the Alumni and Development Office at Vanderbilt until failing health forced her to retire in 1979. Even then, she continued to work from home for Vanderbilt University as a consultant on genealogy of the Vanderbilt family. Ms. Archer died December 20, 1982.