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Hammer (Susan) Papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing History
  • Biographical History
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: SJSU Special Collections & Archives
    Title: Susan Hammer Papers
    creator: Hammer, Susan, 1938-
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS.2007.04.01
    Physical Description: 25 boxes (48 linear feet)
    Date (inclusive): 1966-1999 (bulk 1989-1998)
    Abstract: This collection documents the two-term administration of Susan Hammer, who served as Mayor of San Jose between the years 1990 and 1998. The collection consists of administrative files, press and publicity, awards, photographs, videotapes, correspondence, and other memorabilia collected primarily during Hammer's mayoralty. Also included are the files of the Protocol Office created during the term of Hammer's predecessor, Tom McEnery.


    The collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the San Jose State University Library Special Collections and Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Special Collections & Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader. Copyright restrictions also apply to digital reproductions of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Preferred Citation

    Susan Hammer Papers, MSS-2007-04-01, San Jose State University Library Special Collections and Archives.

    Processing History

    Collection processed and EAD encoded by Laura Lind, 2007. Reviewed by Danelle Moon, 2007.

    Biographical History

    Susan Walker Hammer was born in Altadena, California in 1938. She spent her childhood in neighboring Monrovia, where she lived in a house built by her grandparents. Her father, Jim Walker managed an insurance agency he co-owned with Hammer's maternal grandmother, Prairie Krutzch. Hammer's mother, Katrine Walker, was a stay-at-home mother and community activist.
    Hammer, an honor student and avid tennis player, attended Santa Barbara College (became UC Santa Barbara), but transferred to UC Berkeley in her sophomore year where she majored in Latin American History and earned her B.A. in 1960. In the same year, she married Phil Hammer, a law student at UCB's Boalt Hall and a native of San Jose.
    In 1960 the Hammers traveled to Washington, D.C. to work for the Kennedy presidential campaign, and both worked in positions to promote the "New Frontier." Susan Hammer found a position working for the Peace Corps administration, while Phil Hammer worked for the Human Rights Commission. In 1964 they moved to San Jose, where Phil Hammer established a family law practice and Susan Hammer raised their three children (Phil, 1963; Hali, 1965; and Matt, 1968).
    While a self-described homemaker, Hammer continued to contribute to local politics. In 1966 she worked as a volunteer on California Assemblyman John Vasconcello's first campaign, where she stuffed envelopes and answered the phones. This campaign experience served as a springboard for future political involvement. From 1976-1980, she served on the County Juvenile Justice Commission. She was also a founding member of the Board of the San Jose Museum of Art, and she served as Board President from 1978-1980. In 1978, Hammer co-chaired the mayoral campaign of Janet Gray Hayes; in 1980, at Hayes' recommendation, Hammer accepted an interim chair on the City Council. She quickly earned a reputation as an energetic go-getter, able to dive in and get things done. When the Council term ended, she accepted a 6-month appointment as a special assistant to Hayes.
    Hammer was elected to the City Council in 1982 and again in 1986. As a Council Member, Hammer focused her energies on housing, education, and childcare. From 1987-1988, she co-chaired the Housing Task Force and Emergency Task Force on Homelessness. In 1990 Hammer ran for the office of mayor and faced a heated and close race against opponent Frank Fiscalini. Hammer won by a slim margin of 1,263 votes and became the 62nd mayor of San Jose.
    Mayor Hammer is perhaps best known for her commitment to community development. Hammer's administration focused on community improvement. To this end, she increased funding to educational programs, worked to decrease violent crime and stop gang activity, formed relationships with minority groups, focused on the needs of individual neighborhoods, and continued her long-term support of the arts.
    Hammer worked closely with police and community members to improve safety in the city. She established the Gang Prevention Task Force, a group that united law enforcement, city officials, community groups, and former gang members to form strategies for preventing gang-related violence. The group's efforts were considered a success, as the violent crime rate dropped dramatically.
    A strong supporter of environmental issues, Hammer approved and helped implement the Greenline Initiative. This Initiative created an urban growth boundary around San Jose, helping the city provide more cost-effective services and preventing sprawl from destroying habitat in the open space surrounding the city. Environmentalists and city officials supported the measure; however, it met resistance from landowners whose properties fell outside the boundary, and who felt their rights to develop their properties were violated. The Initiative was first approved by City Council in 1996 but was stalled in a lawsuit initiated by the disgruntled landowners. The court ruled that the city must conduct an environmental assessment before considering a Greenline. In October 1998, the environmental impact assessment was completed and the Initiative was re-approved.
    Concerned with economic development as well as community development, Mayor Hammer worked hard to bring more jobs and industry to the area, and successfully lured high-tech firms such as Sony, Adobe, and Cisco Systems to San Jose. Cisco soon became the city's largest employer, as well as the greatest contributor to the city's tax revenues.
    In 1994 Hammer won a landslide re-election, which opened up new doors to participate in the Clinton Administration as a member to the President's Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. In previous administrations, the committee had been composed almost exclusively of male Fortune 500 business leaders. Hammer was the first woman chosen Chair of the Committee, as well as the first elected official to be appointed to the Committee.
    Overall, Mayor Hammer had strong support from the City Council throughout her tenure. Committed to improving diversity in City Hall, Hammer instituted Project Diversity to achieve this goal, hired Regina V.K. Williams as City Manager (the first woman and the first minority to hold this position), and appointed Lou Cobarruviaz, the first Hispanic Police Chief of San Jose. Her political outreach extended to the Latino community and to the GLBT community. Historian Glenna Matthews described Hammer as a visionary for her outreach to the Hispanic community, and for her sensitivity to issues of diversity. Hammer has been credited with making the city's government more down-to-earth, improving public safety, and creating a Mayor's office that was responsive to the needs of neighborhoods and minority groups.
    At the beginning of her second term, President Clinton, Barbara Boxer, and Dianne Feinstein encouraged Hammer to run for Norman Mineta's vacated congressional seat. Newspaper reports suggested that she could potentially seek a state office seat, but in the end she choose to stay in local politics. Hammer retired from public office after her second term ended in 1998, but would have been glad to serve a third term were it not for term limits. Hammer continues to reside in San Jose, where she has remained active in community organizations. From 1999-2002, she served on the State Board of Education. In 2004, her family's commitment to the arts was recognized when the San Jose Repertory Theater was re-named the Susan and Phil Hammer Theater Center. She also received the 2005 Tower Award from San Jose State University for her role in the creation of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library.

    Scope and Content

    The Susan Hammer Papers consist of administrative files, correspondence, publicity, photographs, videotapes, and other memorabilia. The documents, which were donated to the archives by Susan Hammer, also include some files from the Protocol Office created during the 1982-1990 tenure of Tom McEnery, Hammer's predecessor. Hammer's involvement in San Jose community and economic development is well-documented in the collection, including files of the Committee of the Whole, the Redevelopment Agency, Joint Venture Silicon Valley, Cultural Initiatives Silicon Valley, and the New Realities Task Force. Other items of interest include artwork and photographs of Hammer, campaign files, and files from the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiation, a Presidential advisory group to which Hammer was appointed by President Bill Clinton. The bulk of the materials in this collection were created between 1989 and 1998.


    The papers are arranged into five series: Series I. Administrative Files, 1981-1998; Series II. Economic Development, 1990-1998; Series III. Office of Protocol Files, 1981-1991; Series IV. Publicity and Public Events, 1980-1999; and Series V. San Jose Community Development, 1966-1999 (bulk 1990-1999).

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Women mayors -- California -- San Jose
    San Jose (Calif.) -- OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES
    Women in politics -- California
    Mayors -- California -- San Jose
    Hammer, Susan, 1938-