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David R. Gergen Papers, White House Central Files, 1969-1972
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography/Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: David R. Gergen Papers, White House Central Files, 1969-1972
    Dates: 1969-1972
    Collection Number: 3646131
    Creator/Collector: Gergen, David R. (David Richmond), 1942-
    Extent: 91 linear feet; 208 boxes
    Online items available
    Repository: Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
    Abstract: The materials of relate to David Gergen's responsibilities first as Ray Price's deputy in overseeing the Office of Research and Messages and then Gergen's directorship of the same office in 1973 and 1974. The largest portion of the files document Gergen's editorial responsibilities over the speechwriters, but there are also significant files on the preparation of white papers in response to Watergate charges and to the 1972 campaign.
    Language of Material: English


    Collection is open for research. Some materials may be unavailable based upon categories of materials exempt from public release established in the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act of 1974.

    Publication Rights

    Most government records are in the public domain; however, this series includes commercial materials, such as newspaper clippings, that may be subject to copyright restrictions. Researchers should contact the copyright holder for information.

    Preferred Citation

    David R. Gergen Papers, White House Central Files, 1969-1972. Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

    Acquisition Information

    These materials are in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration under the provisions of Title I of the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-526, 88 Stat. 1695) and implementing regulations.

    Biography/Administrative History

    David Richmond Gergen was born on May 9, 1942 in Durham, North Carolina. He graduated from Yale University with a B.A. degree in 1963 and earned a LL.B. degree from Harvard Law School in 1967. That same year, he married Anne Elizabeth Wilson. Between 1967 and 1971, Gergen served in the United States Navy. In 1971, Gergen joined President Richard Nixon’s administration as a Staff Assistant to the President, with duties pertaining to research and speech writing, and later became a Special Assistant in 1973. In his capacity as Special Assistant, Gergen led the speech writing team. After Nixon’s resignation, Gergen was appointed as Special Counsel to President Gerald Ford in 1974 and remained in that position until 1977. After working as an advisor on George H. W. Bush’s unsuccessful 1980 presidential election campaign, he resumed his public service career in 1981 as the White House Staff Director for President Ronald Reagan and, later, as Director of Communications. Gergen left the White House for the private sector in 1984. He worked as an editor of U.S. News & World Report during the period 1985-86. Gergen returned to the White House once more in 1993 when he was recruited by President Bill Clinton to be Counsel to President. He served as an advisor to the President and Secretary of State Warren Christopher on foreign policy matters until 1995, at which time he once again left public service for a career in academia. David Gergen’s television appearances as a political analyst include the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour program and various CNN programs. As a writer, he has contributed to U.S. News & World Report, Parade magazine, the New York Times, Newsweek, and the Washington Post. In 2000, he published Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton. In addition, Gergen has been a member or served on the boards of numerous organizations, including the Aspen Institute, Teach for America, the Ford Foundation’s Innovation in Government program, and the Council for Foreign Relations. Between 1995 and 1999, Gergen taught at Duke University. In 1999, he joined the faculty at Harvard University. As of 2012, he is both a professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Director of the University’s Center for Public Leadership.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    David Gergen joined the White House staff in 1971. As Staff Assistant to the President until January 1973, Gergen reported directly to Ray Price, director of the Research and Messages office. In addition to administrative duties, Gergen gradually took on editorial responsibilities. In 1973, Gergen assumed Price's responsibilities for the office and was promoted to Special Assistant to the President. The materials in this collection document Gergen's entire time in the Nixon administration; it also contains some administrative files inherited from Price and a very small amount of material from approximately the first month of the Ford administration. The Research and Messages office had four components. Although Gergen had supervisory responsibility for the entire operation, and administrative files cover personnel from all four components, most of this collection documents the speechwriting function. The speechwriters were responsible for the final preparation of all materials issued under the President's name, including his speeches, suggestions for his informal remarks, messages to the Congress and statements. The research staff was responsible for fact checking these materials prepared or cleared by the speechwriters. Although the research staff maintained their own files, occasionally the fact checked copies of these various messages appear in this collection. The correspondence section was responsible for processing all mail received by the White House, for preparing letters for Presidential signature, and typing and coordinating mailings. Correspondence, the largest office in the White House, functioned largely autonomously under Roland Elliott from 1971 onward. The final component was the message office, overseen by Eliska Hasek, which prepared Presidential messages for events, anniversaries, celebrations and the like. The materials are arranged in six series, including a chronological file, an administrative file, a messages (Presidential speeches, proclamations, remarks, etc.) file, a Watergate issues file, a subject file, and a research file. Major correspondents in the collection include the President, Ray Price, Alexander Haig, Roland Elliott, Noel Koch, Lee Huebner, Bruce Kehrli, Aram Bakshian, John Andrews, John McDonald, Ken Khachigian, Frank Gannon, Ben Stein, Ann Morgan, Stephen Bull, William Safire, Patrick Buchanan, Dick Moore, William Timmons, Herbert Stein, Ron Ziegler, Gerald Warren and Brent Scowcroft. The chronological file covers the period from just before Gergen assumed supervisory responsibilities from Price to the very beginning of the Ford administration. The materials are primarily memoranda and messages (remarks, talking points, fact sheets, etc.) and pertain to both Gergen's supervisory responsibilities and to the substantive message work of the office. The administrative file contains memoranda between Gergen/Price and staff members, personnel files on staff members, files on job candidates for the office and logs and schedules for the writers and their assignments. The memoranda pertain to administrative matters and to the work Research and Messages staff members or other administration staff were doing on the messages. The personnel files include information on salaries and promotions. Job candidate files frequently contain resumes and writing samples. The log books for 1971-1973 contain, in varying detail, the message needs for the White House, the requester, the due date, and to whom the message was assigned. A small amount of additional material relevant to administrative matters can be found in the alphabetical subject file. The messages file documents the chief work of the speechwriting office, with files on the Presidential speeches, remarks, statements, messages, proclamations, letters, telegrams, scripts, and talking points prepared during Gergen's supervision, as well as materials prepared for the First Family, White House staff members and others. The files frequently contain drafts, revisions, and final copies of the messages. Initials in the upper-left hand corner of each draft indicate the primary writer and editor. The series documents the entire range of the office's activities on topics as diverse as the State of the Union speech, State dinners, signed and vetoed legislation, deaths of prominent individuals, national holidays, the Battle of the Budget and foreign travel. Many files contain only a very small number of documents. The best documentation in terms of providing examples of extensive revision and input from various members of the administration are found in the Presidential speeches, Presidential statements, and Presidential message sub-series. Each sub-series is arranged as Gergen's office maintained it. Outside of the material being arranged by subject, there is no discernible arrangement, such as chronologically by the intended date of the message. A small amount of additional material relevant to messages can be found in the alphabetical subject file. The Watergate issues file is a collection of material pulled together to prepare white papers as a response to various Watergate-related charges made against the President. In addition to the white papers prepared in response to the Milk/ITT and personal finances charges, the files contain early drafts, talking points and background material. The files on San Clemente and Key Biscayne contain copies of receipts and invoices as well as a copy of GSA's investigation of government funds spent on the President's homes. The general file includes information on the White House tapes, Watergate indictments and court filings. The subject file consists of an alphabetically arranged sub-series on a wide variety of topics dealt with by the office, including Watergate, the achievements of the Nixon administration, foreign policy and foreign travel, Medal of Freedom candidates, scheduling and operation of the Correspondence Section; a second sub-series on the 1972 campaign includes a substantial amount of material on the 1972 Republican National Convention, including drafts of the Republican platform and convention scripts. Also among the 1972 campaign materials are several copies of a "McGovern Attack Book" containing statements by Democratic Presidential nominee George McGovern and avenues for attack by members of the Nixon administration or surrogates. The research file consists of a large run of news summaries and a small number of publications maintained by Gergen between January 1972 and September 1974. The news summaries were assembled by Mort Allin's office and served to document news coverage related to the administration on television and in select newspapers and magazines.