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.