Thursday, August 26, 2010

Case Mail Now Open

The Russell Library is pleased to announce that Senator Richard B. Russell’s case mail (1931-1935) is now open to the public for research.

People write to their elected officials for any number of reasons, but often they write to ask for help – for their senator or congressman to step in on their behalf regarding a personal matter that requires government assistance. These personal requests from constituents are referred to as “case mail.” Due to the sensitive nature of these materials, case mail is restricted for 75 years from the date of creation in order to protect the privacy of constituents. Often, case mail is not even transferred to a repository along with the rest of a manuscript collection due to the storage space required to accommodate such large quantities of correspondence, which are subject to lengthy restrictions during which time no one is allowed to access the material. In light of all this, the opening of Senator Russell’s case mail from the early 1930s is a relatively unique event.

This portion of the Richard B. Russell Collection documents the issues that Senator Russell worked on during his term as Governor of Georgia and his early years in the U.S. Senate. Most dominant among the concerns expressed by his constituency in this period were those about unemployment and economic relief provided by federal organizations and New Deal programs. The majority of these letters are from Georgians asking the Senator for recommendations and help in securing federal positions and, to a lesser extent, recommendations for admission to military academies and universities. Many express a keen interest in New Deal projects that provided opportunities for work, including the Civil Works Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Administration, and Tennessee Valley Authority.

Other letters requesting relief were redirected by Senator Russell to various organizations such as the Red Cross, Federal Emergency Relief Administration, Georgia Emergency Relief Administration, or county-level organizations. These letters illustrate the overwhelming impact of the economy on an already struggling population in rural Georgia but also show the pride people expressed, even when asking for help. Many sought to find a position for themselves that could benefit the state – such as working in the Department of Agriculture to address the screw worm epidemic killing off cattle. Others suggested the creation of more rural mail routes in the state, on which they could be hired to serve.

Senator Russell also assisted Georgians with immigration issues. In one series of correspondence, the Senator aided a man trying to bring his French wife and child into the United States. In another, he corresponded with a Jewish medical student trying to leave Europe amid rising political tensions.

The case mail contained in the Russell collection provides a glimpse of a cross section of the events of the time. Local, national, and even international happenings are recounted through these personal stories and requests for assistance from people across the state.

The Russell Library is open for research from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, with the exception of University holidays. For further information on the case mail contained in the Richard B. Russell Collection contact or call (706) 542-5788.

Post by Laura Starratt, Russell Library Volunteer

No comments: