Friday, January 25, 2013

More from First Person

In recent weeks we've been actively promoting our upcoming First Person Project day, coming up on Friday, February 8, 2013. I've received lots of calls from interested participants (yay!), many of whom have some questions about how the interview process works and how they should get started putting together questions. I wanted to take a moment here on the blog to answer some of these questions and provide a small example of the work we're doing through FPP.

When an interview pair sign up to participate in the project, they decide what roles to take on - which person will serve as the interviewer (question asker), and which one will serve as the interviewee (question answerer). I advise participants to devote some time to thinking about what stories they most want to record, and developing their questions around these central portions of the interview. Since our upcoming project day is themed around "stories of love" I've suggested thinking about those key stories that the pair want to record -- for example, if a married couple signed up and wanted to document their relationship, I might suggest that they talk about when they first met, what their first date was like, what made them decide to get married, etc. Once the ball gets rolling, they will likely have other important stories about their relationship that will emerge naturally from just the spark of these initial questions. In the end, the work of developing those questions and choosing the focus of the interview is up to the interview pair. Really, it is the relationship between the two participants -- husband and wife, father and daughter, friend and friend -- that makes the interview rich. 

This past October, we had a mother and son interview pair participate in FPP. The son wanted to interview his mother about her life and times -- childhood, marriage, family, and all the events that happened in between and around these milestones. The result was a spellbinding story, and I wanted to share just a short clip of the final product. 

In the clip below the interviewee, Marjorie, tells her son how she and her husband fell in love during World War II. A childhood friend gone to war encouraged her to write to him during his service abroad, because he was homesick. She started writing, and the letters turned into occasional phone calls and then a delivery of a box of chocolate. And then she describes the day they learned the war was over, and the moment she looked out the window and saw her future husband coming down the street to meet her. 

I picked this small slice of an incredible interview because it resonates with our upcoming theme day "stories of love." It is just one part of a much larger story about Marjorie's life and times, but it demonstrates that even a small moment in an interview can be meaningful.  I hope you enjoy the clip, and that I'll hear more from some of you who are interested in participating in the First Person Project.

Post by Jan Levinson, Outreach Archivist, Russell Library

The Right to Choose

One of the most important figures of the 70s feminist movement may be unrecognizable by her real name.  More commonly known as “Jane Roe,” Norma McCorvey shook up the social climate of the 70s when she agreed to be a plaintiff in the landmark case Roe v. Wade.  In 1972, McCorvey filed a lawsuit claiming that Texas law criminalizing most abortions violated her constitutional rights. Setting a foundation for abortion mandates in the 30 years since the case was settled in 1973, Roe v. Wade not only argued for a woman’s right to privacy in regards to abortion, but also established a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy until the period of viability (the period when a fetus is potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, usually around 24-27 weeks).  

After having given her first two children up for adoption, McCorvey, 21, was pregnant with her third when she decided she wanted to have an abortion rather than part with another of her children.  McCorvey, according to an interview with independent news network, was then swept up into a whirlwind of litigations after she was put into contact with two pro-abortion lawyers, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, who were looking for a pregnant mother to help them plead their case.

One of the most contentious decisions made by the court, Roe v. Wade sparked a national debate that continues today, about issues including whether and to what extent abortion should be legal, who should decide the legality of abortion, what methods the Supreme Court should use in deciding the legality of abortion, and what the role religious/moral views should take in the political sphere. The case restructured national politics, dividing the country along pro-life and pro-choice lines, and formed grassroots movements on both sides.

In the decades since the case was settled, McCorvey has completely reversed her stance on abortion and joined the pro-life movement.  Although her opinion in the 70s was enough to dictate how much control any American woman could have over her body, her voice is now just one among a sea of activists in the tumultuous debates over women’s rights and abortion.

During this most recent election cycle, abortion joined topics like the economy and unemployment as one of the weightiest issues that affected voters’ choices.  As recently as October 2012, polls of female voters in swing states—a coveted demographic for both candidates—indicated that though women were equally concerned as men about broad-reaching issues like the economy and unemployment, they considered abortion the most important issue for women, by a wide margin.

A mid-2011 Gallup poll acted as a Litmus test for people’s reactions to various abortion restrictions, many that have become major issues closer to the election cycle. Of the abortion restrictions tested in the poll, informing women of certain risks of an abortion in advance was the most widely favored, at 87%. Seven out of ten Americans favored establishing a full-day waiting period for women seeking abortions, while nearly two-thirds favored making the specific procedure known as "partial birth abortion" illegal.

On the other hand, more extreme measures failed to receive broad public support. Almost 60% of people opposed eliminating funds to organizations who offer abortion services, which was particularly pertinent after Presidential candidate Mitt Romney proposed eliminating funding to Planned Parenthood and overturning Roe v. Wade.

The Romney campaign asserted its anti-abortion stance, though Romney also said he would be willing to compromise in circumstances of rape, incest, or danger to the mother.  Once early voting began, pro-choice activists became even more vocal on the dangers they foresee for women if Romney was elected. 

A recent New York Times editorial suggested that overturning the Roe v. Wade ruling would be relatively easy if a Republican won the presidency. Four of the justices are now over 70, and if one of them retired and was replaced by a more socially conservative justice, pro-choice options could be phased out completely.  Then, the article suggests, the nation’s abortion policy would revert to the pre-Roe v. Wade era, when abortion was illegal in many states. Some states that already held certain bans on abortion could then extend their rights and completely prohibit abortions.

The 2011 poll also indicates a divide on whether healthcare providers and pharmacists should be allowed to opt out of providing services/drugs that could result in an abortion. 46% of people polled said they would favor giving healthcare providers a choice, in contrast with 51% who said that health care providers should provide those services no matter what.  

This issue came to a head with Obama’s Affordable Care Act, whose “preventive services” mandate maintains that religious institutions must offer affordable healthcare services for their employees, even if these services cover reproductive rights—including birth control, abortion, and sterilization—that a religious organization opposes. The Affordable Care Act waged a war between the government and bishops/clergymen arguing that their religious freedom under the first amendment was under attack. The Catholic Church often formed the hub of debates on reigning social issues such as reproductive rights under the healthcare act and gay marriage.

Recently, pro-life supporters have formed a new argument to pledge to the Supreme Court.  Supporters have pushed a personhood clause, which would attribute “legal personhood” to a fetus, equating the life of a fetus to the life of any other child/person.  If the Supreme Court accepted this new definition of personhood, the ruling would affect any other abortion legislation, perhaps defining abortion as an act of manslaughter.

Do you think Norma McCorvey had any idea that the abortion debate would still be so highly debated more than thirty years after her case was filed?

Post by Lori Keong, student worker/blogger, Russell Library

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Community Concern Gathering: Give Us Your 2 Cents!

How should we build a strong vibrant community?
What are the challenges to achieving this goal?  

On Tuesday, February 12th the Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia invites you to participate in a community forum to share ideas and concerns about how communities work (and don’t work) together to tackle tough public issues. Trained, nonpartisan moderators will guide the forum discussion.  The ideas gathered during the program, along with others happening around the country, will inform the development of a new National Issues Forums discussion guide that  will offer commonsense approaches  to transcending partisanship, breaking gridlock, and finding common ground  at the community level.

February 12, 2013, 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Where: Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries, Second Floor, Rm. 285 
Contact: Jill Severn Director, Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia at 706-542-5766.

This program is free and open to the public. The Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia is the civic engagement program of the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Opening of the Ed L. Jenkins Papers

The Russell Library is proud to announce the opening of the Ed L. Jenkins Papers.

Ed Jenkins with Georgia's Peanut Princess, 1980.
Ed L. Jenkins Papers, Russell Library.
Edgar “Ed” L. Jenkins of Jasper, GA served as a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from 1977 until 1992.  Jenkins started out as a country trial lawyer in Jasper, GA before entering the political arena. He first cut his teeth on the political sphere working as an assistant for fellow Jasper resident, Representative Phil Landrum, from 1959 to 1962. After returning to his country law practice, Jenkins was elected to the 95th Congress in 1976.

As the representative for Northwest Georgia, Jenkins worked tirelessly on behalf of the needs of his constituents – in particular, Jenkins was a strong advocate for the textile industry. He was involved in several committees and caucuses including service as chairman for the Congressional Textile Caucus and was a member on the House Ways & Means Committee where he was active on its Trade Subcommittee. It was during his tenure on the Trade Subcommittee that Jenkins sponsored the Textile and Apparel Trade Enforcement Act of 1985 -which is often referred to as the “Jenkins amendment”. The amendment proposed limiting the amount of textile imports allowed from major producing countries outside the US. Although the amendment was ultimately vetoed by the President and failed to pass in the House, the number of co-sponsors for the bill and quantity of files on the amendment found in his collection demonstrates his tenacity for supporting domestic production in the United States, and in particular for the textile industry in Georgia. 

Ed Jenkins speaking about the Textile & Trade Enforcement Act
at a press conference, 1985. Ed L. Jenkins Papers, Russell Library.
When he wasn’t fighting on behalf of the textile industry, Jenkins also worked to support conservation and recreation efforts for the Chattahoochee National Forest, on tax legislation, was involved in the development of President Reagan’s Balanced Budget amendment.

In 1987, Congressman Jenkins became a familiar face on television when he was appointed to the House Select Committee during the Iran-Contra Hearings.  Jenkins' quiet and assuming manner and approach to interrogating Col. Oliver North was well-noted by not only his constituents in Georgia, but the wider American public.

Jenkins chose not to run for another term after the 102nd Congress in 1992. Following his retirement from politics, Jenkins returned to Georgia where he remained actives in church and civic affairs and served as Chairman of the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia. On January 1, 2012, Jenkins passed away shortly before his 79th birthday.

The opening of the Ed L. Jenkins papers on the 20th anniversary of his retirement from Congress is a celebration of a Georgia politician who was once described as “one of the smart operators on Capitol Hill.”

The Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies is open for research Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, with the exception of University holidays. For more information, please visit or call (706) 542-5788.

Posted by Tammi Kim, Processing Assistant for Arrangement & Description Unit, Russell Library

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Call for Volunteers!

The University of Georgia’s Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries is now accepting applications for participants in its docent program. 

The Docent Corps is a skilled group of volunteers who provide tours of the library galleries to visitors, ranging from fifth graders to adults. Docents are trained to highlight permanent and rotating exhibitions and to help increase awareness of the many resources offered by the three special collections libraries: the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Walter J. Brown Media Archive and Peabody Awards Collections and the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies

“Participation in the docent program requires a substantial commitment of time and energy on the part of volunteers, but we think it is tremendously rewarding,” said Jan Levinson, outreach archivist with the Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, who coordinates the program. 

A 10-week training program provides an opportunity for docents to meet curators, archivists and other special collections staff; learn about the collections and techniques for leading tours; and become familiar with all parts of the Russell Special Collections Building. Follow-up meetings throughout the year provide opportunities to learn about new exhibits in the galleries and programs sponsored by the three special collections libraries. 

“We are looking for applicants who are enthusiastic, flexible and open to working with visitors of all ages,” Levinson said. “We don’t require prior experience in the arts and humanities, but a love of history and experience with teaching or public speaking is desirable.” 

For more information about the docent program, see For more information about the training schedule and expectations, see

Interested individuals can apply online at Applications must be submitted by Feb. 8, 2013. Questions may be directed to Jan Levinson at or 706/542-5788. All candidates selected for admission to the docent program will be required to submit to a background investigation.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Hugh Gillis: Georgia's Longest Serving Lawmaker

At the time of his retirement in 2004, Hugh Gillis was the longest serving member of the Georgia General Assembly. He passed away on New Year's Day 2013 at the age of 94.

Gillis was born in Soperton, Georgia on September 6, 1918. He was the grandson of Treutlen County founder and state representative Neil Gillis, the son of state senator and highway commissioner Jim L. Gillis, and brother of Jim L. Gillis, Jr. Gillis attended Georgia Military College, and in 1939 received an undergraduate degree in agriculture from the University of Georgia.

In 1941, he ran successfully for the Georgia House of Representatives. He served two terms, one from 1941 to 1944, and the other from 1949 to 1956. Meanwhile, he started his own company, Gillis Ag and Timber. Gillis was elected twice to the Georgia Senate, the first time in 1957, and the second in 1962. He would hold that seat for the next forty-two years, making him the longest-serving member of the Georgia General Assembly. In the senate, he was elected president pro tempore, and served on the Appropriations Committee. Working to bring doctors to rural communities, Gillis was influential in the creation of the dental school at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. He also served as head of the Natural Resources Committee, a seat which he held until his retirement in 2004.

In 2008, Bob Short interviewed Gillis for the Russell Library's Reflections on Georgia Politics oral history series. 

Thursday, January 03, 2013

When the World Tuned In to Watch...

When I began processing the Ed L. Jenkins Papers, I was excited to see that his collection included some papers related to the Iran-Contra Hearings. In 1987, in between advocating for trade and budget legislation, Jenkins found himself appointed to the House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran. Along with the Senate Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition, the televised hearings became known as the Iran-Contra Hearings. The hearings marked the first time that joint hearings were held by the House and Senate.

On May 5, 1987, the world tuned in to watch the first of 41 days of the televised joint hearings that made political figures such as Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, Vice Admiral John Poindexter, Senator Daniel Inouye, Senator Warren Rudman, and Representative Ed Jenkins household names.

The files related to the hearings in the collection range from exhibits and committee memorandum to  reports and testimonies. What I found most interesting in the files was the volume of constituent letters and telephone messages responding to the hearings, all maintained by Jenkins' constituent services staff.

In July 1987, Lt. Col. Oliver North began his week-long testimony before the joint committee. It was during the North testimony that Jenkins took center stage to question the National Security Council staff member about his involvement with the armed sales transaction to Iran. Constituent responses in the letters and telephone messages sent to the Congressman’s office range from outrage over the “lynch-mob” style of the hearings to praise over Jenkins’ calm and effective ability to question Lt. Col. North and other witnesses in the hearings.  And while the majority of the constituent responses praise Jenkins, others responded in indignation over the words and actions of other members of the joint committee.

Regardless of who or what was “right” or “wrong” in the political sphere, reading the responses by the public (the good, the bad, and the ugly) demonstrates the continuing importance of constituents expressing their opinions to their elected officials.

Post by Tammi Kim, Processing Archivist, Russell Library