Scope and Content
Title: Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc. Records
Collection number: C134
Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc.
178 cubic feet
California State Archives
Abstract: Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc. was the country's first political campaign management firm. The company's records document
their state, local and national political campaigns as well as work for various public relations clients spanning the 1933
to 1974 time period. Also included are records of the company's wire service, the California Feature Service, 1944-1974.
Physical location: California State Archives
Languages represented in the collection:
Collection is open for research.
For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the California State Archives. Permission for reproduction or publication
is given on behalf of the California State Archives as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility
for possible infringement which may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the California State Archives
[Identification of item], Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc. Records, C134.[series number], [box and folder number], California
State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, California.
Acquisition and Custodial History
The California State Archives acquired the Records of Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc. through a donation.
Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns Inc., the country's first political campaign management firm, was founded in 1933 by business
partners (later husband and wife) Clem Whitaker, Sr. and Leone Baxter. Although operating under the name Campaigns Inc., the
company was not actually incorporated until 1950. Corporate filings at that time show Clem Whitaker, Sr., Leone Baxter and
Howard Hassard (the firm's attorney) as Directors of the company. The company's principal office was located in San Francisco
but temporary offices were opened in other cities as required including Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
While the company's primary activity was managing campaigns for candidates and ballot measures, they also handled public relations
for various corporate clients such as Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Western Pacific Railroad, and Utah Construction Co. among
others. Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns Inc. also included under its umbrella the California Feature Service and the Whitaker
& Baxter Advertising Agency. The Feature Service was a newspaper wire service and public relations vehicle providing articles,
editorials and cartoons to about 300 California newspapers.
With Clem Whitaker, Sr. in failing health, he and Leone Baxter sold the firm to son Clem Whitaker, Jr. and partners James
Dorais and Newton Stearns in 1958. The elder Whitaker and his wife then founded Whitaker & Baxter International, a public
relations consulting firm headquartered in the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Leone Baxter continued to run this company
after her husband's death in 1961.
Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns Inc. was most closely associated with Republican candidates and conservative political issues.
A few measures like their very first campaign against P.G.& E. (Prop. 1, 1933), a ballot measure to establish the civil service
system (Prop. 1, 1936), and a measure to increase teacher salaries (Prop. 3, 1946) are among the few exceptions.
The firm handled many ballot measure campaigns (most of them initiatives) including the well-known Ham and Eggs pension plans
from the 1930s through the 1950s, efforts to redraw State Senate district boundaries on the basis of population, anti-labor
union measures such as those prohibiting picketing and "featherbedding", and several propositions favoring large oil companies.
Among the candidates whose political campaigns were managed by Whitaker & Baxter, Earl Warren, Goodwin Knight and Richard
Nixon are probably the most significant. The firm helped elect Earl Warren to his first term as Governor but had a falling
out with him late in the campaign and never worked with him again. They ran Goodwin Knight's successful campaigns for Lieutenant
Governor and Governor, and were involved in his failed run for the U.S. Senate. Whitaker & Baxter were also in charge of Richard
Nixon's presidential campaign in his home state of California where he prevailed despite losing the overall election to Kennedy.
Whitaker & Baxter were well established and successful at the state level when they were tapped in 1949 for their first national
campaign representing the American Medical Association in their fight against President Harry Truman's national health insurance
plan. Later in 1965, the firm again became involved in a campaign at the national level, this one in support of efforts to
pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring that state legislative
districts be based on population ("one man, one vote").
Throughout all this, the firm was continuously involved with local politics in San Francisco - both candidates and ballot
measures. Mayoral campaigns included those of Roger Lapham, Elmer Robinson, and Harold Dobbs. Their ballot measure work included
an anti-picketing ordinance (for), efforts by the city to create a public power system (against), a bond measure to fund expansion
of the de Young Museum (for), and numerous measures relating to city garbage collection (for). They also represented the interests
of local developers - in particular, the Utah Construction Company in their campaigns to develop tideland areas of the San
Clem Whitaker, Sr.
Born in Tempe, Arizona on May 1, 1899, Clement Sherman Whitaker was the son of a Baptist minister. His uncle, Robert Whitaker,
was also a Baptist minister as well as a well-known socialist who was active in the American Civil Liberties Union and a friend
of Upton Sinclair.
Clem Whitaker's career as a journalist began with a brief stint at the Willits
News at age 13. Later he moved to Sacramento and began writing for the Sacramento
Union before he reached 18. He spent a short period serving in the Army during World War I and returned to journalism at the Sacramento
Union where at 19 he became city editor. By age 21 he was a political writer for the San Francisco
Examiner. In 1921, he founded the Capitol News Bureau providing political news to about 80 newspapers statewide. By 1930, he had sold
this business to United Press.
His experience as a political reporter led to his involvement in lobbying activities; he lobbied successfully for legislation
to establish the State Board of Barber Examiners and unsuccessfully to pass legislation banning capital punishment. His lobbying
efforts brought him to the attention of lawyer Sheridan Downey (later U.S. Senator from California) who was organizing a campaign
to defeat a referendum concerning the Central Valley Project. Downey invited both Whitaker and Leone Baxter to take part,
which led to the creation of their campaign management firm in 1933.
Clem Whitaker was married twice - first to Harriet Reynolds in Sacramento with whom he had three children, Clem, Jr., Milton
and Patricia. He was separated from his first wife in 1935 and married his second wife, Leone Baxter, in 1938. In 1961, he
died in San Francisco of a respiratory ailment at age 62.
Much less is known about Leone Baxter. She was born November 20, 1906, in Kelso, Washington according to her Social Security
application. She wrote for the Portland
Oregonian and was married and widowed before the age of 28. At some point, she moved to Redding, California, where she got a job promoting
a water carnival for the Chamber of Commerce. She became manager of the Chamber in 1929, and it was in this capacity that
she became involved in the Central Valley Project referendum campaign. Because of its proximity and potential economic impact,
the CVP (including the Shasta Dam) was of particular interest to the City of Redding and its Chamber of Commerce. Baxter was
co-founder of Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns Inc. in 1933; she and Clem Whitaker were married in 1938. She died near San Francisco
in 2001 at the age of 95.
Clem Whitaker, Jr.
Clem Whitaker, Jr. was born Aug. 30, 1922, in Sacramento. He was Clem Whitaker, Sr.'s oldest son by his first wife, Harriet
Reynolds Whitaker and grew up in Sacramento attending local public schools. His parents separated when he was 13. While still
in high school, he worked for both the Sacramento
Union and Sacramento
He attended the University of California, Berkeley majoring in Economics but did not graduate. In 1943, his education was
interrupted by service in the U.S. Army Air Corp as a fighter pilot. He joined his father's firm in 1946 after he was discharged
becoming a partner in the business by 1950. He purchased the company from his father in 1958.
Later he was chairman of the board of the Wye Energy Group, president of the San Francisco Opera Foundation, a wine connoisseur,
and active in many charitable causes. He was married twice and had a daughter and stepdaughter. He died at age 77 in 1999.
Scope and Content
The Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc. records span the years 1933 to 1974 and contain approximately 165 cubic feet of textual
records, as well as 13 cubic feet of audiovisual materials, such as audiotapes, motion picture film, and videotapes. Boxes
1-36 are fully processed while boxes 51-198 are partially processed. The collection is organized into six series, the largest
and most significant of which is Series 1 Campaign Files containing project files for both political campaigns and public
Whitaker & Baxter are often described as the inventors of modern political campaign management or "government by public relations"
as Carey McWilliams wrote (1). A California State Federation of Labor leaflet from 1956 aptly described Whitaker & Baxter's
specialty as "piloting a politician or an idea into the snug harbor of public acceptance" (2). The firm's extensive records
trace the development and evolution of political campaign management and provide a window into the inner workings of the firm.
The records also span a time period during which the role of the media in political campaigns greatly expanded, and tools
such as polling and mass mailing came into broader use.
By far the most voluminous files belong to the costly campaign against government health insurance funded by the American
Medical Association from 1949-1952, and at the state level by the California Medical Association. Some of these files are
included in the Campaign Files series, but the bulk are financial records and are part of the Accounting Files series. Another
significant part of the firm's records document the Whitaker & Baxter's involvement in a campaign at the national level to
amend the U.S. Constitution in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring the reapportionment of state legislatures
on the basis of population.
Of particular interest are the campaign files relating to various ballot measures including the Central Valley Project referendum
(Prop. 1, 1933), numerous Ham and Eggs government pension measures (Prop. 1, 1939, Prop. 2, 1949, Prop. 10-11, 1952, Prop.
4, 1954), a measure to prohibit "featherbedding" (railroad staffing levels, Prop. 3, 1948), State Senate reapportionment (Prop.
13, 1948, Prop. 15, 1960, Prop. 23, 1962), an oil conservation measure proposed by oil companies (Prop. 4, 1956), and a constitutional
revision resulting in a full-time legislature (Prop. 1A, 1966).
The firm's largest and most significant campaigns for political candidates are well documented and include several for Goodwin
Knight (Lt. Governor, 1946; Governor, 1954; Governor and U.S. Senate 1958), Earl Warren's first gubernatorial campaign in
1942, and the California portion of Richard Nixon's 1960 presidential campaign.
On the local level, records of the San Francisco mayoral campaigns of Roger Lapham (1946 recall attempt), Elmer Robinson (1947,
1951), and Harold Dobbs (1963) can be found. Also, the records of numerous local ballot measure campaigns in San Francisco
(and a few other Bay Area communities) are spread throughout the collection and include such issues as garbage collection,
electric utilities, museum expansion, and an early attempt to establish regional government. Their work on behalf of local
developers - particularly, the Utah Construction Co. and its development of Bay Farm Island in the 1950's - is well represented.
Also included are records of Whitaker & Baxter's public relations work for such corporate clients as Pacific Gas & Electric,
various railroads, local developers, the 1956 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, Trojan Powder Co., San Francisco
Bar Pilots, Westborough Homes, and others.
Notes: (1) Carey McWilliams, "Government by Whitaker & Baxter",
The Nation (April 14 and 21, 1951). (2) Oil Conservation Measure, Yes on Proposition 4, 1956. Records of Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns,
Clement Sherman Whitaker, Jr., Oral History Interview, conducted 1988-1989 by Gabrielle Morris, Regional Oral History Office,
University of California, Berkeley. State Government Oral History Program, California State Archives, OH 90-9.
Whitaker & Baxter International Records, c.1958-1992, BANC MSS 93/103, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in
the library's online public access catalog.
Whitaker, Clem, Sr.
Whitaker, Clem, Jr.
Whitaker, Clement Sherman, 1922-1999
Knight, Goodwin, 1896-1970