Organization of Inventory
Title: Earl Warren Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1924-53
See Series List
California State Archives
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[Identification of item], Earl Warren Papers, F3640, California State Archives.
Alternative Form of Materials Available
Selected audio recordings from this collection were digitized as part of the "California Light and Sound" collection through
the California Audiovisual Preservation Project (CAVPP). To learn more about how this material was digitized, please visit
EARL WARREN, GOVERNOR
by Merrell F. Small
Office of Governor Earl Warren
That researcher will be disappointed who delves into the Warren Papers with any expectation of discovering things politically
sensational to write about.
Intrigue was alien to Earl Warren's nature. In all his dealings he was open, aboveboard and non-partisan. Republican in national
politics, in the state he was literally apolitical. Why not? The election laws of his era permitted the registrants of all
parties to choose him as their nominee, which they did in primary elections including one even for the high office of governor.
And on his part Warren never questioned whether a citizen looking to him as Alameda County's district attorney, the attorney
general of California, or governor, was Republican or Democrat or the member of any other party or none. His instruction to
his staff was that all were to be "dealt with courteously and considerately."
Similarly in matters of gubernatorial patronage. His sole interest was in finding that person best qualified for the job he
was filling. "I will surround myself with good people" was his creed. He persuaded attorneys of prosperous private practice
to serve as judges at greatly lessened income. He made not a politician but a renowned engineer responsible for the state
highway system. Many appointees were Democrats, although Warren actually did not realize this sometimes. On one occasion (which
I witnessed!) he was taken quite by surprise when a newsman asked him the party affiliation of the man he had just appointed
to head the Public Utilities Commission. His second Director of Social Welfare, Charles I. Schottland, commented at the conclusion
of his interview with the governor, "You have not asked me about my politics or my religion: I am a Jew and a Democrat." Warren
replied that it was not for this that he was "hiring" Schottland, "but for your qualifications for the job."
The fact that his Executive Secretary, William T. Sweigert (later a distinguished Federal Judge in San Francisco), was a Democrat,
was well known. I was a Republican, and I believe the majority of the other staff members were also, but to this day I do
not know. The subject simply didn't come up. The governor's interest was in whether we had enough solid experience in the
fields from which he drew us to enable each to help advance his purpose of administering the state government efficiently
To be part of such an administration was to know the meaning of pride in one's job. There has never been in public office
a finer man than Earl Warren. His public ethics and personal integrity, his kindliness and compassion, his dignity and great
respect for the office he occupied for nearly 11 years, elevated the public's confidence in government to a degree that has
not been surpassed in the history of California, and inspired his staff to their utmost efforts. There was in Sacramento and
the state an "era of good feeling" while he was governor. He would not tolerate the solicitation of state employees for financial
support of his political campaigns. He put an immediate stop, upon taking office, to the practice of ordering goods and services
from supporters as such; they could get the business only by competing successfully for it.
In office, he was a magnificent administrator. His personal magnetism, the genuineness of his ability to inspire loyalty and
enthusiasm, accounted for this in great measure. He had the confidence in his department heads and staff that enabled him
to delegate responsibility. He did not clutter his mind or his desk with details. But with his uncanny faculty for absorbing
and retaining facts, he was a thoroughly informed chief executive.
The office was as a carefully planned and organized, smooth-running business. The mail was meticulously catalogued-a fact
which the researcher will appreciate-and expeditiously dealt with. Form letters had to be used to an extent, but much of the
correspondence was given individual treatment, necessitating long hours and six-day weeks on the part of the staff. Warren
answered some letters himself (and originated considerable correspondence), but most replies were drafted by assistants. Often
he made changes to adapt these totally to his style and thinking, and he did so invariably with speeches. Indeed, so much
did he work on speech drafts that he could honestly say that he wrote his own speeches. One of his assistants had the title
of "research secretary," but none that of "speech writer."
His addresses were not exciting. It used to be said of his oratory that "he never got listeners to stamp their feet and cheer-but
neither did anyone ever walk out on him." He did not tell funny stories, but his speeches bore fruit-as when, after telling
his audiences for two years that he intended taking California "out of the asylum age into the age of hospital treatment,"
the legislature appropriated money to replace the ancient institutions with new.
From the standpoint of administrative theory, this governor would be said to have had "blind spots" in handling a staff. He
was a demanding taskmaster. He expected perfection, or at least the effort. He himself often procrastinated, as with preparing
legislative messages, and we had to mollify deadline-haunted reporters as best we could. He never praised publicly, but let
a member of the staff earn his displeasure-the occasionally inevitable consequence of any high-pressure job-and he'd say so
without regard to the presence of others. But neither did he carry a grudge ever. Minutes after a bawling-out, he'd speak
of plans for other work or a similarly agreeable subject. And so entire was our admiration that there was not one of us who
would not have gone to any length to serve him.
His pay scale was certainly not a factor in the enthusiasm we had for our jobs; no one knew better than his employees how
careful Earl Warren was with public funds! Unlike other governors, who add members to their staff at the legally maximum salary,
Warren would "dicker" when he hired us and then at the end of each year give us a little raise. Maybe the idea was to give
us an "incentive," but I think it was as much his habit of frugality.
When district attorney and attorney general, Warren held regular staff meetings, but none while he was governor. One or two
times weekly he'd ask a secretary or several to lunch. (His staff assistants bore the title of "secretary," causing a certain
amount of confusion for the public.) It was then that we had good access to Warren's mind. It was a pleasant procedure: sharing
a meal usually assures the absence of tensions!
Once I made the remark that the governor didn't furnish us with many "signals" about our duties. His answer was, "I hired
you because I believed you were someone of good character and that you have ability, so if you study the problem you're faced
with and discuss it with the department involved when you need additional information, and then do what you think is right
and fair, you won't have any trouble with me."
Another way of keeping abreast of the governor's thinking was to attend his press conferences. These were not haphazard. Warren's
press secretary, Verne Scoggins, scheduled them twice weekly, one timed for the advantage of morning newspapers and the other
giving a lead to the evening papers They didn't always produce front-page headlines, but they were pleasant occasions. The
reporters had to work hard at being objective with this hearty, friendly man.
As with the speeches, Warren could use his press conferences effectively on occasion. His advocacy of a three-cent gasoline
tax increase to finance major highway improvements was bitterly opposed by the oil companies. In the midst of the struggle
the companies simultaneously raised the price of their product three cents a gallon. Warren believed this was intended to
checkmate him, but he proved to be the better chess player. He quietly announced to the newspapers that he had asked the United
States Justice Department to consider whether there might have been collusion. The opposition to his highway bill collapsed.
Most of the governor's working day was spent on the telephone or conferring at his desk. In the files there are daily lists
of telephone calls and the names of the people who saw the governor, but the researcher will regret that the business done
was not fully recorded. At the same time, nothing was neglected. Warren followed up on his conferences and conversations with
verbal instructions to the staff, and the correspondence reflects the action taken.
The excellent descriptive catalog of the Papers compiled under the direction of the Chief of Archives, Dr. W. N. Davis, Jr.,
and his principal assistant, David Snyder, will facilitate for the researcher his evaluation of what they contain and in finding
specific items, the wartime internment of California residents of Japanese ancestry, for example.
As attorney general, Warren took swift and energetic action following the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Navy
to move these residents out of the war zone--all the area of California within 150 miles of the coast. Because a high proportion
of the enlisted men in America's Pacific Fleet came from California, this state suffered many of the 2800 Pearl Harbor casualties,
and feelings were running very high. In later years Warren apparently had regrets for the harshness of the action, realizing
in a calmer time that many of the internees were loyal to the United States. This can be judged somewhat from the statement
(series entry 265) regarding the reemployment of persons of Japanese ancestry following the war, and the file on the trip
the governor made to Japan in 1951 (series entry 241) ostensibly to cheer the California National Guard troops that had been
"federalized" for combat service in Korea, but equally to demonstrate that California no longer harbored ill feelings for
the Japanese people.
The "loyalty oath" controversy involving University of California professors is covered in series entry 343. Others of the
papers will document for the researcher the organization of Warren's campaigns for the governorship (series entries 6-8) and
the Presidency (series entries 9-10); the "hot cargo" issue (series entry 6); health insurance (series entry 477); the post-war
building program (series entries 308-309); the treaty with Mexico allocating 1,500,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water to
that country, and the efforts of California to block it (series entry 49); the records and recommendations of his statewide
conferences of citizens; and his messages to the legislature.
But by and large there is not much exciting material in the Warren Papers. Much of the material in the Warren Papers is in
fact of a merely routine character. There were no scandals in the administration of this very careful, thoughtful and high-minded
man. There were no "shake-ups," no legislative investigations of Warren appointees. His administration was honest and it ran
Meanwhile, starting a number of years before the Warren Papers were made available to the public, the Regional Oral History
Office at the University of California, Berkeley, has had an oral history project covering Earl Warren's public career in
California. Consisting of the recollections of most of the people associated with him then, it is a comprehensive story of
this important epoch. Warren himself was interviewed twice by the ROHO staff.
Somewhat of a body of literature has also been produced. Warren especially liked the books written by John D. Weaver and Leo
Katcher. He paid me the compliment of saying he enjoyed the articles I wrote about him in the Sacramento "Bee" from 1969 to
May 3, 1976
The Earl Warren Papers are the first major collection of a California governor's administrative and personal papers to be
deposited in the State Archives. Except for provisions covering specific classes of records--original laws, proclamations,
pardons, commutations, and reprieves, extraditions, etc.--California has no legal provisions requiring the Governor to deposit
his papers in the State Archives or elsewhere The lack of such provisions has meant every Governor from Peter H. Burnett to
Ronald Reagan, with the exceptions of Warren and Goodwin J. Knight, has taken his papers with him upon leaving office. Of
these only a half dozen major collections and a number of other smaller collections have survived or found their way into
The accession of the Warren Papers was a result of the efforts of Frank M. Jordan, Secretary of State. On September 29, 1953
Jordan wrote to Warren, "You will recall that some time ago we discussed the question of securing for the Archives all of
the official records of the Governor so that they may become available to students and other persons interested in research
of the history of the State of California." On September 30 President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced the appointment of Warren
as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, thereby setting in motion the machinery which led to the deposit of the
Warren Papers in the State Archives.
Warren responded to Jordan's letter on October 1 by confirming his intentions of transmitting to the Secretary of State records
accumulated during his tenure as Governor and as Attorney General. In the same letter Warren included the following instructions:
"If I do not ask them returned within ten years from this date then and in that event you are at liberty to place these files
in the State Archives.... In the event of my death during such ten year period you have similar authority with regard to the
disposition of the files."
Warren concluded by stipulating that the files were to remain sealed during the restricted period.
The actual transfer occurred on October 4, 1953. Paul J. O'Brien, State Archivist, receipted for the records contained in
295 legal file drawers and 34 pieces (not otherwise described) which had been stored in a commercial warehouse. Warren left
California for Washington, D.C. on the same day in time to be sworn in and preside at the opening of the Supreme Court on
the following day.
In May, 1954, the Warren Papers were transferred from the metal filing equipment into cardboard boxes to free the former for
more pressing storage needs. Each box was sealed with the seal of the Secretary of State. For the next nine years the Warren
Papers remained untouched in accordance with the provisions of the letter of transfer. The collection in its interim form
amounted to a small mountain of 630 boxes, each holding approximately one cubic foot of records.
In mid-1963, with the original 10 year closure period about to lapse, the Archives formulated plans to begin the task of processing
the Warren Papers. On October 2, 1963, however, Warren addressed a note to Secretary of State Frank M. Jordan requesting that
his records "be continued under seal during my lifetime or unless notified otherwise at a future date."
Secretary of State Jordan acknowledged Warren's letter on October 11 and included a request that the State Archives be allowed
to process the records. On June 1, 1965 Warren authorized the processing of his records. At the same time he disclosed the
reasons for closing his records.
"As you will remember, I left the Governorship on four days notice, and did not have an opportunity to see any of the papers
which were sent to the Archives. As you know, in a Governor's Office, there is often correspondence that could be injurous
to some of the people mentioned, and I would not want to have my gubernatorial records used to stir up political strife or
controversy or to injure any person. It is for this reason and that reason alone that I would not want to make the papers
public at this time."
In late 1965 the compiler of this inventory was assigned the responsibility of arranging and cataloging the Warren Papers.
The first task was to determine the major record groupings and to devise a plan for their arrangement. The initial survey
disclosed five major sub-groups:
- Political: campaign records covering the period 1926-50, including Warren's campaigns for reelection as Alameda County District
Attorney, his activities with the Republican State Central Committee and Republican National Committee, the State Attorney
General campaign of 1938, the Gubernatorial campaigns of 1942, 1946, 1950, and the Presidential Campaign of 1948.
- Attorney General Office Files, 1939-42.
- Governor's Office - Administrative Files, 1943-53.
- Governor's Office - Legislative Files, 1943-53.
- Governor's Office - Federal Files, 1943-53.
Also included were small collections of personal and Masonic papers indicating the possible existence of additional Warren
Papers that had not been turned over to the State Archives.
The original survey and processing, including the elimination of duplicate and unwanted records and printed materials generally
available in the State Library, occupied approximately 3½ years of part-time work. The net reduction amounted to approximately
36% of the total records received. A rough inventory was produced and forwarded in March, 1972 to Chief Justice Warren, retired,
in hope that Warren would write a statement on his papers for inclusion in the final inventory. The hope was not fulfilled.
In mid-1972, as a result of a phone conversation between Chief of Archives W. N. Davis, Jr. and Warren's office, the Archives
learned of the existence of Warren's Personal Papers for the period 1927-53. The papers had been stored in Sacramento since
October, 1953 and because of the high storage costs the question of transferring them to the State Archives was raised. On
August 1, 1972 Warren authorized the Chief of Archives to examine the papers and to determine which should be transferred
to the State Archives. A preliminary survey was made in early September and a decision made to accession the entire collection
to the State Archives. These records, amounting to 170 cubic feet and approximately 27 linear feet of scrapbooks were received
into the Archives on September 7. A more detailed analysis followed and recommendations on specific dispositions submitted
to Warren on December 1.
Warren's Personal Papers, after thorough analysis and processing, were revealed to be a mixture of personal, political, and
administrative papers. The mixture is explained by the fact of the very brief period of time that was available to the Governor's
staff to separate the two collections before they were sent to either the Archives or commercial storage. In the processing
of the Personal Papers rearrangement and additional description of many series entries were required. This is particularly
true of Warren's political files for a considerable overlap existed between the two collections. In addition the Personal
Papers contained documentation on the 1952 Presidential campaign which was not found among records in the first transfer.
A few classes of records were removed from the collection and disposed of because of their personal nature. These included
Masonic papers, personal financial records such as bank statements and cancelled checks, and a few private family records.
Organization of Inventory
The Earl Warren Papers will be described in 7 parts. These are as follows:
- Part I: Political, 1926-52.
- Part II: Administrative files of the Alameda County District Attorney's Office,
and State Attorney General's Office, 1939-42.
- Part III: Governor's Office - Administrative Files, 1943-53.
- Part IV: Governor's Office - Legislative Files, 1943-53.
- Part V: Governor's Office - Federal Files, 1943-53.
- Part VI: Personal Papers, 1927-53.
- Part VII: Miscellaneous Papers,
This part will include a number of series maintained as separate collections within either the Administrative or Personal
Papers. These include:
- 1. California Counties File, 1943-53.
- 2. Health Insurance File, 1945-50.
- 3. Photograph File, 1891-1953.
- 4. Audiovisual File, 1942-52.
- 5. Scrapbooks and newspaper clipping files, 1936, 1938-52.
Each part will be preceeded by a more detailed statement of organization and content.
For purposes of description the Earl Warren Papers are arranged by series entries. A series entry relates to records brought
together under a single filing system, or because they relate to a particular subject or activity. Series headings or titles
are standardized and include the following informational elements:
- 1. Series entry number.
- 2. Title of Series.
- 3. Date span of series.
- 4. Quantity of records, expressed in terms of the number of file folders, volumes, or cubic feet.
- 5. Series identification numbers.
The series title is followed by a descriptive paragraph and includes:
- 1. Arrangement.
- 2. Physical types of records.
- 3. Subject content (where applicable).