Thursday, December 19, 2013

Oral History on the Road

A couple of weeks ago Christian Lopez and I traveled down to Sumter County to record oral histories with local community members for the First Person Project. This trip grew from a collaboration with the UGA Archway Partnership, a program designed to expand the reach of the university and help address economic develop needs and community priorities by implanting UGA "Archway Professionals" in locations around the state.

We worked with Sumter County Archway Professional Maggie Potter and Americus Downtown Development Director Angie Singletary on this trip. From our perspective, we were thrilled to be able to record oral histories from south Georgia--an area that we'd love to have better represented in our collections. At the same time, we were able to share our resources with the folks down in Sumter County. We are providing the Archway Partnership and the Americus Development Authority with copies of the recordings that they can re-purpose for tourism and promotion down the line.

All in all, it was a very successful collecting trip. We recorded eight excellent interviews with citizens from across Sumter County. We also made a pilgrimage to one of the "holy sites" of Georgia politics--checking in at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains and visiting the Carter Boyhood Farm nearby. And not only did we get to spend the night in the beautifully renovated Windsor Hotel in downtown Americus, but during the day we were lucky enough to be allowed to film in the Lee Council House, an amazing historic property owned by the Sumter Historic Trust that we were told was built as a wedding gift for the bride of a local businessman.

We'll be adding all eight of the oral histories from this trip to the First Person Project finding aid soon, but in the meantime, here are a couple of excerpts from our interviews with Willie Green Cutts and Charles Crisp.


Post by Callie Holmes, Oral History and Media Archivist, Russell Library

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Visitor Feedback

Since installing our Now and Then: 1973 exhibit in the gallery last spring we have had thousands of responses to the questions we posed in our Reflection Gallery. We use this space to ask visitors questions connected with the exhibit currently on display. The following post is the first in a series created by our student worker Sarah Hughes, reflecting on the visitor responses to our questions.

Question:Would a political scandal like Watergate have the same impact today?
We asked this question of visitors to our 1973 exhibit. Answers were of course varied, but the majority seemed to agree that the answer is no. Some said the lack of impact would be due to apathy among citizens, while others claimed that Americans are simply too desensitized when it comes to political scandal. One person went so far as to blame Watergate for this effect, saying “…the presidency has less prestige after Watergate.” Another said that “[people would] rather follow celebrities’ lives” than worry about political scandals. 

On the other side, some visitors suggested that modern technology allows people to be more up to date on news, and therefore a political scandal would have more of an impact today. Another visitor said the impact would be equivalent today due to political polarization, citing Republicans’ eagerness to blame President Obama for everything. A few of our visitors drew interesting parallels between the Watergate scandal and more recent political events, like President Clinton’s affair, the 2011 attack on Benghazi, and the spying scandal involving the National Security Administration. One guest asserted “No. But the NSA should face the same scrutiny!” 

What do you think? Are these more recent events on par with the Watergate scandal, and if so, should they/will they be received the same way by the American public? Has technology desensitized people to everyday scandals or has it caused them to be more informed? We’ll let you be the judge. For more information about Watergate and the other happenings of 1973, visit our exhibit on the second floor of the Russell Special Collections building on display through December 2013.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Richard B. Ray Papers Open for Research

Congressman Ray and his wife, Barbara
sporting “Ray is Ready!” campaign buttons
circa 1982.
The Richard B. Russell Library is pleased to announce that the Richard B. Ray Papers are now open for research.

Ray's papers illuminate national politics of the 1980s and early 1990s, particularly President Reagan's tax reform proposals, Cold War defense spending, ebbing support for aid to the Nicaraguan Contras, the Persian Gulf War, and protecting the environment.  As a representative for the third district of Georgia, his papers also give voice to the concerns of his constituents: funding for Fort Benning and Robins Air Force Base, the backbone of the district's economy; protection for the textile industry and other business interests; anger over wasteful government spending; opposition to gun control; and support for funding Social Security and benefits for military retirees. Other concerns were more personal, such as a letter writing campaign in support of funding for the U.S.D.A. School Nutrition Program in 1986, annoyances over local transportation infrastructure, and staunch opposition to a proposed excise tax on beer in 1990. Ray's papers encompass the kinds of materials typical for a member of Congress, including constituent mail, committee and legislative files, press files and speeches, office files, and photographs.

Congressman Ray campaigning in Columbus, Georgia
with Ohio Senator John Glenn, 1982.
Ray got his start in national politics when he went to Washington in 1972 to act as the administrative assistant to U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, where he directed a staff of over 40. Prior to that, Ray's political experience was as a city council member (1962-1964) and then mayor (1964-1970) of Perry, Georgia. After 10 years of service to Nunn, Ray was well-positioned to win the seat for the third district of Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1983, a position vacated by the retiring Jack Brinkley.  He easily won re-election to the next four Congresses, even running unopposed in 1986 and 1988, and served until January 3, 1993. 

Ray made his most significant contributions as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, notably on the Congress Special Panel on Arms Control and Disarmament (1983-1987) and as chairman of the Armed Services Environmental Restoration Panel (1989-1993) charged with investigating environmental hazards at military bases, particularly with the safe and cost-effective disposal of toxic waste.  Ray also became the committee's expert on NATO air base defenses after visiting over 20 facilities in Western Europe.

Additionally, Ray served on the Committee on Small Business, supporting rural development and federal crop insurance programs for farmers and opposing federal regulations he expected would inhibit small businesses.  As a staunch fiscal conservative, he was also a regular supporter of a balanced budget amendment and a cap on government spending.

A lifelong Georgian, Richard Belmont Ray was born in Fort Valley, Georgia in 1927.  He graduated from Crawford County High School in 1944 and then joined the Navy, serving until 1946 on a destroyer in the Pacific Theater. After his military service, Ray farmed for a few years before embarking on a career in pest control, remaining in that field until 1972.  He married Barbara Elizabeth Giles in 1948 and they had three children: Barbara, Charles, and Alan.  Ray died in Macon, Georgia, on May 29, 1999.

Post by Adriane Hanson, Processing and Electronic Records Archivist

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Recollections of the Kennedy Assasination

"We have just learned that President Kennedy has died. God save our country."

-- Dean Rusk, announcing the death of President John F. Kenneky over the loud speaker of a plane filled with other Kennedy cabinet members

On November 22, 1963, Secretary of State Dean Rusk was traveling to Japan with six other cabinet members for a joint meeting with the Japanese cabinet. It was on the plane to Japan that Rusk and the other passengers learned that Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.

In this excerpt from the Dean Rusk Oral History Collection, Rusk describes announcing Kennedy's death to the plane's passengers, the reactions of the other passengers, and his own inner anguish upon hearing the news of Kennedy's death.

We're currently in the process of digitizing all 174 cassette tapes from the Dean Rusk Oral History Collection, and one thing that stands out when listening to these interviews is the stoic nature for which Dean Rusk was famous (Arthur Schlesinger once described him as a "silent Buddha" figure). In this clip on JFK's assassination, you can hear how difficult it is for Rusk to describe the emotional events of the day. Interviewer Thomas Schoenbaum asks Rusk about people crying on the plane. Rusk responds, "I did not shed tears because it's just not my nature to do so. I bleed inside rather than shedding tears."

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, this recording offers a glimpse into how the president's death affected those in his administration.

Russell Library to Host First Person Project Interview Day Dec. 6th

When: Friday, December 6, 2013
Where: Meet in Room 268, 2nd Floor, Richard B. Russell Building for Special Collections Libraries
300 S. Hull Street, Athens, GA 30602

Join the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies for the First Person Project, a new oral history series documenting the experiences of everyday Georgians, on Friday, December 6, 2013 in the Richard B. Russell Building for Special Collections Libraries.

Six sets of partners will be accepted for this First Person Project session, scheduled for Friday, December 6th between 9:00am and 4:00pm. Each audio recording session takes one hour to complete. Photographs will also be taken for each session. The Russell Library will archive the interviews to add to its documentation of life in post 20th century Georgia and will provide participants with a free digital download of the recording and photographs. A $10 donation is suggested for each participant pair.

If you have a friend or family member with a story to tell, become a part of the First Person Project. Reservations are on a first come first serve basis and can be made by calling 706-542-5788 or registering online at

For more information on this event and other upcoming First Person Project days, please email or call (706) 542-5788.

More About the First Person Project
Modeled roughly on StoryCorps, a national initiative partnered with National Public Radio and the Library of Congress, the First Person Project is smaller in scale but similar in concept, providing tools to would-be oral history interviewers and interviewees, including tips on how to create questions and conduct interviews. The project was inspired by the belief that everyone is an eyewitness to history, and that everyone, sometimes with a little encouragement, has a story to tell.

To learn more about the Richard B. Russell Library, visit:

Friday, November 01, 2013

Limited Access for Materials in Special Collections Libraries Thursday, November 7th

On Thursday, November 7, 2013, between 2:45 p.m. and 5 p.m. access to and retrieval of materials in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, and Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection will be limited while the patron management system is offline for updates. During this time period, staff will not be able to process or retrieve new requests for materials.

Patrons who want to review materials during this downtime should submit their requests no later than 10 a.m. on November 7th using the normal procedures outlined at

Patrons who have materials on hold in the Hargrett or Russell reading rooms or the Brown Media viewing rooms already will be able to review materials as per usual. Normal access and retrieval will resume on Friday, November 8, 2013.  For more information, please contact Jill Severn at or 706-542-5766.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Reflections on Senator Russell

We recently hosted a presentation by former Russell Foundation chair Charles E. Campbell on his book, Senator Richard B. Russell and My Career as a Trial Lawyer: An Autobiography.  Campbell joined Senator Russell’s staff in 1965 and served first as legislative aide and then as executive secretary to the senator. After Russell’s death, Campbell finished his law degree and returned to Georgia, where he became a successful trial lawyer.

Many Russell family members were in the audience for the event, prompting Russell Library Director Sheryl Vogt to note that the event was “almost like a reunion.” In his presentation, Campbell focused on Russell’s lasting legacy as Georgia’s longest-serving senator. He described the evolution of Russell’s relationship with Lyndon B. Johnson, first as a fellow senator and then as president of the United States. Campbell also described Russell’s relationship with Ms. Pat Collins. Campbell worked very closely with the senator in the years just before his death, and he fondly remembered Russell’s integrity, independence, thriftiness, and dedication to his work in the senate. While completing research for the book, Campbell spent many hours in the Russell reading room, and our staff was happy to be able to host this event showcasing the fruits of his labor.

A recording of the book talk is available on YouTube:

Post by Callie Holmes, Oral History and Media Archivist, Russell Library

Monday, October 21, 2013

Farewell to Bill Hardman, Tourism Pioneer

The Russell Library staff was sad to learn of the passing of Bill Hardman, interviewed for our Reflections on Georgia Politics oral history series just a few month ago. The following text is adapted from his obituary.

Hardman was Georgia’s first tourism director, the first president of the Southern Travel Directors’ Council (now Travel South USA), chairman of the Travel Industry Association of America (now U.S. Travel Association), a key player in development of the Georgia World Congress Center and the architect of the Southeast Tourism Society (STS).

Born June 5, 1926, in Colbert, Ga., he served in the U.S. Merchant Marines in World War II and attended Piedmont College and Mercer University. In 1959, Georgia Governor Ernest Vandiver appointed him as the state's first tourism director.

When Hardman took on the position Georgia was largely a pass-through state for Florida-bound vacationers then. During his tenure as state tourism director, he built the state’s first eight welcome centers, launched a tourism advertising program, conducted the nation’s first Governor’s Conference on Tourism and promoted Georgia throughout the U.S. and in Canada and Europe. He left state government in 1970 and founded Hardman Productions, which conducted travel and RV trade shows and other events.

Hardman was hired in the early 1970s to lobby the Georgia legislature to appropriate $30 million to build the Georgia World Congress Center and to place it in Atlanta. Many legislators wanted the facility in other cities. Hardman’s service on the national stage included being chairman of the Travel Association of America, now U.S. Travel Association, and having the longest tenure on that association’s board of any member, more than 40 years. In 1983, Hardman was at the center of creation of the Southeast Tourism Society, which started with seven states and has grown to 12.

Our thoughts go out to members of Bill Hardman's family and friends. The Russell Library staff feels lucky to have met Mr. Hardman and learn about his career in Georgia tourism.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dispatches from the Field

Last week, Christian and I traveled to Glynn County, on the coast of Georgia, to collect interviews for a new oral history project we’ve started: The Georgia Environmental Oral History Project. Based on a partnership with Betsy Bean (a native of Glynn County), the goal of the project is to document the forces that have shaped and are currently shaping the Georgia landscape, including such topics as:

-          environmental activism (with a focus on grassroots activism)
-          the development of legislation related to environmental issues
-          the environmental history of the Georgia coast
-          the interplay between conservation, industry, and tourism
-          the politics of "sustainability"
-          the relationship between environmental issues and public safety

While ultimately we’d like to collect interviews from across the state, we decided to start in Glynn County. With numerous Superfund sites, the development issues surrounding St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island, and the challenges of protecting coastal marshlands, Glynn County is an example of the variety of environmental issues Georgia has and continues to face.

We returned to Athens after a two-day recording spree with eight fantastic oral histories to inaugurate the project. Our hosts in Brunswick, the College of Coastal Georgia, couldn’t have been more helpful and accommodating (Thanks, Cary!). Our goal is to collect a variety of viewpoints on environmental topics, and we feel we got off to a great start with these first interviews. We have a long list of names of people we’d still like to talk to, and we’re hoping to be able to plan another trip to Brunswick, perhaps in early 2014, to do some more collecting. While we’re still in the midst of processing these recordings to make them available online and write a finding aid for the collection, here are a few brief clips to introduce you to our first round of interviewees.

Post by Callie Holmes, Oral History and Media Archivist, Russell Library

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Happy Electronics Records Day!

Today, October 10, is a day set aside by the Council of State Archivists to raise awareness of the importance and challenges of keeping electronic records (computer files) usable into the future. Case in point: this 8" floppy disk (see photo to the left) that I found in the George W. (Buddy) Darden Papers. With storage space of about 80 KB, you can fit the data from over 400,000 of these disks on a $20 flash drive (32 GB). But it was a major advancement in storage space when it came on the market in 1971, storing the information from about 3,000 punch cards, the storage medium of the day. And not only that, but it represented a revolutionary shift in computer use. No longer did a computer user have to have coding skills and write her own programs. You could buy a disk, put it in your computer, and have it work - the ability to sell software was born.

All of this to show that computer storage technology changes rapidly, which likely comes as no surprise. Why does this matter? Because people store their important files on removable media like floppy disks or flash drives and tuck them into a drawer for safekeeping. But the fact is these disks and drives are not really safe. Years later, when they come to the archives, or maybe when you want to show your grandchildren photographs from your trip to Europe way back in 2013, these storage devices will be the equivalent of what 8" floppy disks are today and you might not be able to get the data back.

As an electronic records archivist, I have been gathering hardware to allow me to read the most common older technology that we have received, including 3.5" and 5.25" floppy disks. But right now we don't have a way to recover the files saved on the disk pictured here. Fortunately, from the disk labels we are reasonably confident that we have paper copies with similar information. If we knew the disks contained something unique, we'd have to look for a company to recover the data for us. When it comes to saving electronic records, you have to prioritize.

Interested in learning more? Read about the history of floppy disks and how they changed computer technology forever at The History of the Floppy Disk. Or if you are now concerned about your personal computer files, try the Library of Congress's website or the NSLA Personal Digital Archive Toolkit.

Post by Adriane Hanson, Processing and Electronic Records Archivist, Russell Library

Friday, September 20, 2013

Congrats to Bob Short

We are pleased to announce that Russell Library partner Bob Short has won a Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council Award for Excellence in Documenting Georgia History. Short was nominated for his work with the Reflections on Georgia Politics Oral History Series, which is produced and archived by the Oral History and Media unit of the Russell Library.

Bob Short with his wife Diana.
Reflections began in the fall of 2006 at Young Harris College as a lecture and discussion program hosted by Short. In late 2007, the Richard B. Russell Library began producing the program as an oral history video series to further illuminate and personalize the tectonic shifts that occurred in Georgia politics in the late twentieth century. Over the past six years, we've recorded over 150 interviews with Bob Short, and we couldn't ask for a better partner. Traveling around the state with Bob to collect interviews and meet the movers and shakers of modern Georgia politics is always an adventure, and it feels at times like he really does know everyone. Bob Short is the reason that Reflections on Georgia Politics is so successful. He brings decades of experiences to the table and has a deep knowledge of and passion for Georgia political history. Congratulations Bob!

In the clip below, hear Bob Short interview longtime Atlanta journalist and columnist Bill Shipp about his sometimes contentious relationship with Georgia newspapers and politicians during the time when he wrote columns opposing segregation (start at timecode 39:42)

Post by Callie Holmes, Oral History and Media Archivist, Russell Library

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

George (Buddy) Darden Papers Now Open

The Russell Library is pleased to announce that the George W. (Buddy) Darden Papers are now open for research.

Congressman Darden represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 to 1995. A graduate of the University of Georgia and the University of Georgia Law School, Darden served as assistant district attorney and later as district attorney of Cobb County, Georgia, before being elected as a Democrat to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1980. After serving two years in the State House, Darden sought higher office. Following the death of U.S. Representative Larry McDonald of Georgia’s 7th district, Darden ran for and was elected to the U.S. House in a special election held in 1983. Darden served six terms.

Darden pays a visit to the troops, circa 1989.

During his tenure in Congress, Darden served on the House Armed Services, Ethics, and Appropriations Committees as well as the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, Darden and his colleagues faced several major issues including the Persian Gulf War and the rise in military spending. Darden’s legislative record reflects his work to benefit the State of Georgia, such as his support for the Dobbins Air Force Base, and his efforts, along with fellow Georgia Congressman Ed Jenkins, to save jobs at Lockheed’s Marietta, Georgia, facility.

Darden, standing in front of a P-3 Orion, addresses workers at 
Lockheed’s Marietta, Georgia, facility, circa 1993.
A moderate Democrat, Darden strived to represent his constituents’ interests in national issues, such as healthcare reform. Always one to keep local issues in mind, he sponsored a bill to relocate a highway that would have affected the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, located in northwest Georgia.

In 1994, Darden lost his re-election bid to Republican candidate Bob Barr. Following his time in office, President Clinton appointed Darden to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. After Clinton’s presidency, Darden began doing work for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. Darden was unsuccessful in his 2002 run for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House. He is currently a partner with the law firm McKenna, Long & Aldridge.

Chronicling the political career of Congressman Darden, the papers, totaling 290 linear feet of records, offer deep insight into the issues that mattered to Georgians during the 1980s and 1990s. Letters from Darden’s constituents (Series I: Constituent Services) touch on a multitude of topics, including Medicare, Social Security, taxes, gun control, and, to a lesser extent, abortion, the environment, the Iran-Contra scandal, labor and trade regulations, and the military. Legislative files (Series II: Legislative) document his committee service and his work on impending legislation. Other files provide a fuller picture of Darden’s career and interests. Series III: Speeches and Press, for example, is critical to understanding Darden as a politician and public figure through his remarks delivered at events, on the House floor and on other occasions and how the media covered the congressman. Additional records include Series IV: Political, Series V: Personal, Series VI: Office, Series VII: Photographs, and Series VIII: Artifacts

The Russell Library is open for research from 8:30am-4:30pm, Monday through Friday (with the exception of University of Georgia holidays). For more information on this and other collections call (706) 542-5788, email, or visit

Post by Adriane Hanson, Processing and Electronic Records Archivist, Russell Library