Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Miss Raesly

A key person in the development of the Richard B. Russell Library was Barboura Raesly, Senator Russell’s personal secretary from 1957 until his death in 1971. (Miss Raesly was in both of the images featured in the last post). In March of 1971, Senator Herman Talmadge, Chairman of the Russell Foundation, sent a letter to members of the board’s executive committee regarding the task that lay ahead: readying Senator Russell’s papers for public use.

“As I know you are aware,” he wrote, “these papers are extremely voluminous, comprising several hundred packing cases. Much work on these papers remains to be done, in terms of classifying and in determining the disposition of purely personal or sensitive materials. It was impossible to examine the papers in this light prior to their being gathered and packed for shipping.”

Above: Barboura Raesly surveying the "voluminous" papers of the late Senator Russell. Today, the Richard B. Russell, Jr. Collection consists of: 3,535 boxes of manuscript materials, 2,876 titles (i.e. books), 458 Audiovisual items, over 4,500 photographs, 143 scrapbooks, and 715 artifacts. Whew!

Talmadge went on to suggest that it would serve the interests of the Russell Foundation, as well as the future library, to hire Miss Barboura Raesley to help with the initial sorting of the papers. “This work, of course, can best be accomplished by a knowledgeable person who is familiar with the Senatorial business of the late Senator Russell,” Talmadge wrote. He could think of no one better suited to the task.

Talmadge received overwhelming support for his suggestion on the new hire. A letter from Fred Davison, then President of the University of Georgia, to Talmadge on March 27, 1971 indicated that things were moving quickly. He assured Talmadge that “the employment and living situation for Miss Raesly seem to be in the process of settlement.”

And so it began that Miss Raesly came to be hired by the Foundation. Correspondence reveals that in 1973 she was offered a one year contract to continue her work, and that she played a pivotal role in organizing the dedication ceremony of the Russell Memorial Library in the summer of 1974.

Post by Jan Levinson, Assistant Outreach Archivist, Russell Library

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