Thursday, December 10, 2009

Peterson Collection Now Open

The Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies is pleased to announce that the Hugh Peterson, Sr. Papers are now open for research. Peterson served in the U.S. House for twelve years from 1934 to 1946. A Democrat, he represented Georgia’s 1st District, which included the cities Savannah, Statesboro, and Vidalia.

Hugh Peterson was born in 1898 in Ailey, Georgia and was a 1918 graduate of the University of Georgia. He served in the Georgia Legislature from 1922 to 1932 and his involvement in state politics included work on the Aviation, Public Highways, and Appropriations Committees. His most well-known piece of legislation was the State Reorganization Act of 1931, which consolidated over 100 state agencies into 19.

Below: Hugh Peterson, Georgia General Assembly portrait, 1925
In 1934, Peterson won a seat in the 74th Congress as a representative of Georgia’s 1st Congressional District. He remained in office until 1946 and his service included extensive research on agriculture and public lands and territories in the United States. He spent his first few terms drafting H.R. 8286 - A Bill to Provide Homesteads Free of Debt for Actual Farm Families, the goal of which was to help American farmers during the Great Depression with their farm debt. As in the state legislature, Peterson was active on numerous committees including: the Committee on Public Lands, the Committee on Territories (in which he spent time studying Hawaii and Alaska), and the Public Roads Committee, the service of which took him to Central America to inspect the Inter-American Highway (now known as the Pan American Highway) as it was being built.

After his congressional career, Peterson continued to be active in politics. He was appointed by General Lucius Clay to serve as an advisor in Germany in 1948. From his retirement from Congress through his death in 1961, Peterson spent the rest of his career as a lobbyist for the Georgia Power Company, the United States Cane Refiners Association and the American Turpentine Farmers’ Association. He also pursued development interests around southeast Georgia, including the resurrection of the Ocean Steamship Company and the establishment of a radio and television station. He also researched further development around Sylva, North Carolina. It was there that he died of a cerebral hemorrhage on October 3, 1961. He was survived by his wife, Patience Russell Peterson (a sister of Senator Richard B. Russell), who died in 2002 at the age of 100, and his son, Hugh Peterson, Jr., who is a retired attorney in Atlanta, Georgia.

The papers primarily document Peterson’s political career in Georgia and Washington, D.C. as well as his personal and business affairs in Ailey, Georgia. They include legislative research files regarding agriculture, public lands and transportation, correspondence with contemporary politicians, campaign files, correspondence from constituents, speeches and statements, photographs, and artifacts. The finding aid for the Peterson Papers is available at

Above: Rusty clips removed from the collection during processing.

Post by Renna Tuten, Project Archivist, Russell Library

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