Scope and Content Summary
Related Materials at History San Jose Research Library
Title: Ernie Renzel Papers
Date (bulk): (1953-2004)
Renzel, Ernest H., Jr., 1907-2007
History San Jose Research Library.
San Jose, California 95112-2599
Abstract: Renzel's personal papers, including
diplomas, personal and professional certificates, awards, San
Jose City records and Santa Clara County public documents.
The bulk of the papers relate to Renzel's term as San Jose City
Councilman and Mayor, his role in developing the San Jose
International Airport and Kelley Park, and his term as Foreman
of the Santa Clara County Grand Jury. The collection also includes
several personal objects. The collection contains approx. 82
photographs, a DVD movie and a CD-ROM of digital photographs.
Physical location: History San Jose Collection Center
Collection materials are in
The Records are available to the public for research by appointment.
Property rights reside with History San Jose. For permissions to
reproduce or to publish, please contact History San Jose Research
($BOX_NO}, History San Jose Research Library.
The collection was donated by Renzel's daughter Jenifer Renzel
in January 2008, after Renzel’s death in 2007. It was accessioned
Processed by History San Jose staff, 2008-9. The collection was
initially inventoried at collection level and rehoused in
original folders; later, in October 2009, the collection was
organized and catalogued at folder and item level, and rehoused.
The documents in the collection were catalogued at folder and
item level; photographs were catalogued individually, and
records entered into the archives database.
Ernest (Ernie) H. Renzel, Jr., was born in San Jose on August 7,
1907. His grandfather, Conrad Renzel, was a San Jose baker who
expanded his South First Street shop to groceries in the 1860s.
Ernie's father, E. H. Renzel, Sr., continued the business, and by
the turn of the 20th century was vice president and manager of the
Keystone Co., San Jose’s first wholesale grocery firm.
Renzel attended San Jose State Normal School and graduated from
San Jose High School as president of the student body in 1925. As a
member of the Crown and Shield Honor society and athlete, he played
for two years on the basketball championship team of the northern
coast section and won the Peninsular Athletic league tennis singles
championship for San Jose High for two years.
Renzel studied economics and played on the varsity basketball and
tennis teams at Stanford University, graduating in 1929. He went on
to become President of E. H. Renzel Company Wholesalers. He was married
to Emily Hillebrand for 63 years; they had one son and four daughters.
Renzel entered local politics during WWII. In the early 1940s,
San Jose City Hall was being run by taxi-service operator Charlie
Bigley, widely viewed as a political boss who could always get a
majority elected to the San Jose City Council. As a result of two
councilmen going to war, six of the seven council seats were left
open in the 1944 election. Bigley opposers formed the Progress
Committee, and its campaign manager, lawyer Harvey Miller, persuaded
Renzel, Al Ruffo and four others into running. Their victory resulted
in Renzel's selection as president of the council in 1945. Renzel
served one term as unofficial mayor before turning the job over to
Ruffo in 1946; by then, Renzel had gotten "Mayor" accepted as the
One of Renzel's major accomplishments was the San Jose Municipal
Airport. Renzel served as Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce
Aviation Committee that initiated action to purchase the first
tract of land for an airport in 1937. Renzel found the land himself,
negotiated a price with the ranch land's owners, and the Committee
spearheaded a ballot measure to pay for it. In 1940, as mayor,
he exercised an option for the City to purchase 484 acres at $300
an acre. By 1946 the first airplanes were using the site, and in
1949 San Jose Municipal Airport was dedicated.
Renzel continued his airport involvement as Master of Ceremonies
at airport dedication events from 1938 to 1977. He served on the San
Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce Special Aviation Committee,
and as a Member and Chair of the San Jose Municipal Airport Commission
from 1969 to 1977.
Renzel was honored on several occasions for his work as "Father
of the San Jose Airport." On 2nd March, 1994, a bronze bust designed
by sculptor Susan Powell was unveiled by Mayor Susan Hammer in the
main lobby of San Jose Airport Terminal C following a Rotary Club
of San Jose luncheon highlighting Renzel's efforts to establish the
airport. The Aero Club of Northern California then passed a resolution
on 28 October 2003 to name the airfield at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose
International airport "Ernie Renzel Field." In 2004, the San Jose City
Council adopted this resolution and honored Renzel, age 97, with a
ceremony at City Hall.
Renzel and his wife Emily also loaned money to the City of San
Jose in 1951 to buy the land for the existing Kelley Park property,
and negotiated the acquisition of the Lewis D. Bohnett collection
for the San Jose Historical Museum in 1965. The Chinese Historical
and Cultural Project in Kelley Park also benefited from Renzel's
While Renzel continued his wholesale business, he was also actively
involved in community affairs. He was a long-time member of the
Rotary Club of San Jose, listed under "Groceries, Wholesale,"
served as thirty-second President in 1945 and later as Director.
He was also President of the Community Chest and of Associated
Wholesalers. Renzel acted as Santa Clara County grand jury foreman
in 1970, and gave his service to YMCA fund drives, chamber of commerce
groups, and service clubs. He was on the Board of Directors of the
San Jose Hospital, the San Jose Art Museum, and the Community Foundation.
Renzel was appointed Historic Landmarks Commissioner from 1967-1970
and served as Commissioner of the Housing Authority of the County of
Santa Clara. As a former college athlete, he was a member of the
Stanford Athletic Board and was issued the Distinguished Service Award
Renzel's public service was honored in 1992, when he received the
Legacy Medal from San Jose; in 1994 he received the Rotarian of the
Year award. In August 2007, just before his death, Renzel was awarded
the City of San Jose Commendation by Mayor Chuck Reed.
Renzel died in San Jose at the age of 100, September 15, 2007.
Scope and Content Summary
Renzel's personal papers document his public service to the City
of San Jose and Santa Clara County. The records are housed in two
manuscript boxes (1-4), two flat boxes (5,6), and one oversized folder.
The collection is organized into seven series:
- Series 1. Santa Clara Grand Jury, 1970. 1 folder, 2 items.
- Series 2. San Jose City Planning, 1944-1965. 1 folder, 2 items.
- Series 3. San Jose City Records, 1944-1946. 12 folders.
- Subseries 3.1. San Jose City Council Ordinances, July 1944 – June 1946. 1 folder.
- Subseries 3.2. City Council Resolutions, 1944-1946. 3 folders.
- Subseries 3.3. Minutes, 1944-1948. 8 folders.
- Series 4. San Jose Airport, 1939-2007. 2 folders.
- Subseries 4.1. Planning and History, 1939-1977. 1 folder.
- Subseries 4.2. Recognition, 1977-2007. 1 folder, 1 item.
- Series 5. Kelley Park Development, 1951-1991. 3 folders.
- Subseries 5.1. Kelley Park General, 1951. 1 folder.
- Subseries 5.2. Chinese Historical and Cultural Project, 1989-1991. 1 folder.
- Subseries 5.3. Lewis D. Bohnett Collection Acquisition, 1965. 1 folder.
- Series 6. Personal History, 1900-2007. 3 folders, 4 items.
- Series 7. Misc. Ephemera and Objects. 1 folder, 2 oversize, 8 objects.
The following is a selection of terms that have been used to index
the collection in the archives' database.
Bohnett, Lewis D.
Lynch, John J.
Nissen, James N.
Renzel, Ernest H., Jr.
Ruffo, Albert J.
Aeronautics -- California -- History.
Aviation -- Santa Clara Valley
Chinese Historical and Cultural Project
City councils--California--San Jose
Grand jury--California--Santa Clara County.
Museums -- Acquisitions
Museums -- San Jose (Calif.)
Ordinances, Municipal -- California -- San Jose.
Public records -- San Jose (Calif.)
Public records --Santa Clara County (Calif.)
Rotary Club, San Jose, Calif.
Sainte Claire Club (San Jose, Calif.)
San Jose (Calif.) -- History -- 20th century.
San Jose (Calif.) -- City planning
San Jose (Calif.) -- Politics and government
San Jose (Calif.) -- Recreational facilities
San Jose (Calif.). Airport Commission.
San Jose (Calif.) Historic Landmarks Commission
San Jose (Calif.) Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.
Southwest Airways aka Pacific Air Lines (firm)
Traffic engineering--California--San Jose.
United States. Federal Aviation Administration.
Genres and Forms of Materials
Clippings (information artifacts).
Related Materials at History San Jose Research Library
- 2004-17: Leonard McKay photograph collection
- 2008-9: Digital gift of images from Ernie Renzel
- 2009-16: Images of Rotary Club of San Jose past presidents
- 74-3822: Scrapbook containing newspaper clippings regarding the development of San Jose, 1946-1947.
- 1997-366-32: Prussia Store Collection: Papers regarding downtown parking in San Jose.
- 1997-368: Frank Brown Collection
- 1997-373-72: Map of San Jose Airport with development plans marked; distributed to campaign for Measure "F".
- 2006-49-4: Gift of Patricia Loomis: Photocopy of speech pamphlet for "The New Metropolis: San Jose between 1942 and 1972"
given by George Starbird to the San Jose Rotary Club on March 1, 1972.
- 2008-131: American Institute of Architects Santa Clara Valley Chapter
- 1994-87: Bust of Ernie Renzel, Jr. Wax model for Bronze installed at the San Jose international Airport. Artist: Susan
- 1995-111-5a: 60 Years of Flight in Santa Clara County. Written and directed by David Elliot, Produced by Alex Zanini - Explores
flight from Montgomery (controlled flight innovator) at Santa Clara University to the opening of the new terminal at the San
Jose Municipal Airport in 1965.
- 1996-130: Peninsula Times Tribune photographic collection
- 1997-208: History San Jose Photographic Collection
- 1997-237-198: Book, “San Jose International Airport” by Patricia Loomis
- 1997-373: History San Jose Map Collection
- 1997-342-125A: San Jose Historical Museum 25th Anniversary, September 1996. Camera 1 raw video. VHS format.
- 1979-1026: Manuscripts and Small Collections: Special Report created by William C. Brown, Chief of Police, submitted to the
San Jose City Manager and City Council. Circa early 1945 (based on information contained within the report).
- 1986-139-12a: City of San Jose City Council, City Planning Commn. and Administrative Officials: "San Jose: Design for Tomorrow,"