On April 4, the Library celebrated its acquisition of the papers of Caspar W. Weinberger, who served as secretary of defense during Ronald Reagan's presidency, in cabinet posts for Presidents Nixon and Ford, in California state government and politics, and as vice president and general counsel of the Bechtel Group, an international construction firm.
"The Weinberger Papers are the stuff of which history is made," remarked John Haynes, manuscript historian and curator of the collection, which is housed in the Manuscript Division. "They will allow scholars to recreate history in a way that is accurate. They affect how history is recorded and disseminated."
Caspar Weinberger Jr., who with his mother, Jane, and sister, Arlin, will control access to the papers during their lifetimes, thanked the Library "for how much it has done for us" and explained that the family had decided that the "priceless" papers had to reside at the Library. "How could they go anywhere else?" he asked at the celebratory event held in the Members Room of the Thomas Jefferson Building.
"I'm very glad that the papers have ended up in the Library of Congress, where they absolutely belong," Arlin Weinberger concurred.
Speaking at the ceremony, Haynes gave a brief chronology of the Library's acquisition of the papers. In 1976, then Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin asked Weinberger to place his papers at the Library for historical preservation and research. Talks ensued, and in 1987, Weinberger signed a deposit agreement with the Library by which the Library held and organized the papers and he retained ownership and control over their access during his lifetime. The papers began arriving at the Library in the late 1980s, and the final segment was transferred in 2005.
Weinberger died on March 28, 2006, and eight months later, in November, his widow signed an instrument of gift that conveyed ownership of the papers to the Library. Although Mrs. Weinberger and her son and daughter will control access to the papers during their lifetimes, they already have granted access to a number of scholarly researchers.
Comprising 535,000 items housed in 164 containers, the papers cover Weinberger's entire life (1917-2006). The greatest number of items deal with his career in California state politics and the federal government. The collection also includes family papers and files from his private law practice, as well as material relating to a public affairs program he moderated for San Francisco public television station KQED for 10 years and a syndicated newspaper column he wrote from 1958 to 1966.
His early interest in politics is shown by scrapbooks and other items he kept about national affairs during his time as a student at San Francisco Polytechnic High School in the 1930s. His commencement oration on the nobility of politics anticipated his first run for public office as a Republican candidate for the California State Assembly in 1952. He was elected to represent the San Francisco Bay area, and his three consecutive terms in Sacramento are meticulously recorded.
Weinberger's papers offer insights on the policies of the Nixon, Ford and Reagan presidential administrations in which he served as director of the Office of Management and Budget (1972-1973), secretary of health, education and welfare (1973-1975) and secretary of defense (1981-1987).
Subject files documenting his service as secretary of defense relate to incidents and developments connected with U.S.-Soviet nuclear weapons discussions, the invasion of Grenada, the Falklands War, various crises in Lebanon, American policy toward Nicaragua, relations with NATO, the U.S. attacks on Libyan sponsorship of terrorism and the aftermath of a March 1981 attempt to assassinate Reagan. Files dealing with the Iran-Contra matter were made available to a special prosecutor, subpoenaed for a hearing and returned to the Library.
These foreign policy files consist mainly of photocopies of original items that are classified government documents and are not accessible to the general public.