Biography / Administrative History
Title: Thomas A. Gaudette Papers
Collection number: CSLA-18
Gaudette, Thomas A., 1923-1998
21 archival document boxes
Loyola Marymount University. Library. Department of Archives and Special Collections.
Los Angeles, California 90045-2659
Abstract: The holdings in the Thomas A. Gaudette Papers consist of materials that Gaudette gathered to document both his work in community
organizing as well as that of other persons and groups.
Languages represented in the collection:
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[Identification of item], Series number, Box and Folder number, Thomas A. Gaudette Papers, CSLA-18, Department of Archives
and Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University.
Gift of Kathryn Gaudette. Accession number: 1999.20.
Biography / Administrative History
Thomas ("Tom") A. Gaudette was born in 1923, in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents were Roman Catholic and his father a member
of a railroad union, two critical influences on Tom Gaudette's later development as a community organizer. Gaudette served
with distinction in the United States Army Air Corps in World War II, surviving the famous raid on Ploesti, Romania, and by
war's end earning the Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and a Presidential Citation. After the war, he graduated in 1949 from Boston
College, where he played hockey, again demonstrating a toughness that would be a hallmark of his organizing career.
By the 1950s Tom Gaudette and his wife Kay had settled in Chicago, where he worked as a vice-president for the Admiral Corporation.
Here, he was introduced to community organizing, for his new home had become a center of community organizing because of the
work of Saul Alinsky and the Roman Catholic Church.
Experienced in labor organizing and trained in sociology, Saul Alinsky (1909-1972) inspired the community organizing movement
in the United States. Alinsky-style community organizing is dedicated to creating grass-roots organizations led by local people
with the end of combating government bureaucracies or businesses or other powers unresponsive to local concerns. The organizer,
in the classic Alinsky sense, does not assume leadership of community organizations. Instead, he or she may inspire local
communities to action, but the organizer's real job is to identify leaders who can direct the community organizations, so
that communities themselves can truly determine their own direction. The Alinsky maxim "Never do for the people what they
can do for themselves" aptly expresses this approach to community organizing. Identified with neither socialist thought nor
the New Left of the 1960s, community organizing is thus a populist movement possessed of a profound faith in the democratic
abilities of local communities to control their destiny. A major correlative belief is that, when local communities themselves
address their problems, social justice and true democracy are realized.
In 1939, Alinsky successfully organized the Back of the Yards neighborhood in the slums of the stockyards area of Chicago.
His Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council successfully fought for major civic improvements and stands as a landmark success
in the history of Alinsky's organizing. It still exists today. An important reason for the success of Alinsky and the Back
of the Yards Council was the strong support of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Chicago, with its advocacy of social activism.
Auxiliary Bishop Bernard Sheil championed Alinsky's work in the Back of the Yards, and such other notable Chicago Roman Catholic
Church leaders as Cardinal Samuel Stritch and Monsignor John Egan would continue to provide him with invaluable moral and
financial support. In short, Alinsky's methods of community organizing would be rooted in socially active churches, most notably
It was in this context that Tom Gaudette entered community organizing in Chicago. Active in their Roman Catholic parish, Tom
and Kay Gaudette's involvement in the Christian Family Movement led to their joining the Chatham-Avalon Park Community Council
in 1957. Tom Gaudette emerged as a leader of this organization, serving as its president and spokesman in fights over such
issues as zoning restrictions and controls on taverns in Chatham-Avalon Park. Another key issue, dominant in the Chicago of
the 1950s and 1960s, was the African-American integration of white, often ethnic, neighborhoods, with subsequent white flight
to the suburbs. Through his work in these areas, Gaudette met Father Egan, who, as head of the Chicago Archdiocesan Conservation
Council concerned with integration, was beginning his rise in the ranks of Roman Catholic social activism. Impressed with
Guadette's character and leadership abilities, Egan believed him the right person to organize an area that the monsignor had
targeted for such work: Chicago's West Town, a Polish-American community. Saul Alinsky had refused Egan's earlier request
to organize the area, citing the lack of money and an organizer to carry out the work. Egan responded by raising money for
the project from the archdiocese and sending Gaudette to Alinsky to interview for the position of organizer for West Town.
After an interview memorable for the profane give and take between the two, Alinsky hired Gaudette in 1961, leading to an
eleven year association between the men. Alinsky schooled Gaudette in community organizing, making him one of the handful
of organizers whom Alinsky personally trained.
Gaudette went to work for Alinsky on Chicago's west side, organizing the Northwest Community Organization (NCO) in 1961, one
of the hallmark Alinsky community organizations in Chicago. NCO, under Gaudette's tutelage, fought the extensive demolition
of housing planned for the area because of urban renewal. After working with NCO, Gaudette, at the request of Father Egan
and other clergy, turned his attention to South Austin in south Chicago. His work here led to the Organization for a Better
Austin (OBA) in 1966, notable for the fact that it brought together African-Americans and whites in an area tormented by racial
Despite efforts by Alinsky to have him undertake organizing efforts in other cities, Gaudette refused to do so. Chicago would
remain his base of operations, even after Tom Gaudette founded the Mid-America Institute for Community Development in 1972,
the same year that Alinsky died. Gaudette used the Institute (operated out of his Chicago home) for his work throughout the
country and even Asia as an independent trainer and teacher of community organizers. Monsignor Egan credited Tom Gaudette
with inspiring more community organizers than any other person, many of whom originally worked with him. These included Gail
Cincotta, who was a member of OBA, and later would became one of the more successful organizers in the United States. She,
along with Shel Trapp, founded the National Training and Information Center and National People's Action. Cincotta's most
remarkable accomplishment was her successful campaign for the passage of the Community Reinvestment Act, which the United
States Congress passed in 1976. The Act banned the banking practice of "redlining" poor neighborhoods. Another one of Gaudette's
more important successes has been his work with John Baumann, S.J., and the Pacific Institute for Community Organization,
of Oakland, which stands as one of the more active community organizing networks in the United States today. Gaudette was
also responsible for community organizations in Seattle, Kansas City, and Baltimore, among other places.
On his death in 1998, Tom Gaudette left a considerable legacy to the work of community organizing, attested to by the persons
he trained, as well as by his philosophy of organizing summarized in this eloquent quotation:
- "What is this goal of power? It means this sense of community. Dancing, singing, fighting, taking care of each other, helping
each other out."
The materials in this collection were collected by Thomas Gaudette himself during his long career as an organizer. The textual
materials include newspaper clippings, magazine and journal articles, book reviews, correspondence, conference materials,
community organization flyers, brochures, newsletters, and annual reports. Non-textual holdings consist of photographs, video
tapes, and audiocassettes. The photographs (usually Kodak color) are mainly personal photographs that Thomas Gaudette made
of the organizing meetings he attended and organizers he met. The chronological span of the holdings is from 1938 to 1996,
with the majority of the materials found after 1960. Thomas Gaudette arranged in binders, in chronological sequence by year
and then month, many of the textual materials and photographs. This suggests that he used the binders as a resource and probably
intended that they serve as a record of his activities in community organizing, as well as the movement in general with which
his life was so strongly associated. Correspondence in the holdings indicates that he solicited materials, especially newspaper
articles, from other community organizers for this task, further evidence of his desire to document the history of community
organizing and the community organizers and organizations with which he had worked. After retiring from organizing, Gaudette,
either in 1993 or 1994, gave his holdings to one of his proteges, John Baumann, S. J., of the Pacific Institute for Community
Organization. Father Baumann then transferred them to the CSLA Research Collection in 2000, at the direction of Kathryn Gaudette,
Thomas Gaudette's widow.
This collection has been organized into series based on the arrangement conceived by the material's originator, Thomas Gaudette.
Series 1 consists of the binders documenting the career of Thomas Gaudette, as well as the organizers and community organizations
with which he was associated. Series 2 consists of miscellaneous materials, loose articles and notebooks. Series 3 consists
of video tapes and audio cassette tapes. Specific research strengths and types of materials for each series are noted in its
particular description found below. There are number of reel-to-reel tapes as well, presently unavailable for public use.
This collection has been organized into series based on the original order that the material's originator, Thomas Gaudette,
established. Series 1 consists of the binders documenting the career of Thomas Gaudette, as well as the organizers and community
organizations with which he was associated. Series 2 consists of miscellaneous materials, loose articles and notebooks. Series
3 consists of video tapes and audio cassette tapes. Specific research strengths and types of materials for each series are
noted in its particular description found below.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in
the library's online public access catalog.
Gaudette, Thomas A., 1923-1998 -- Archives
Alinsky, Saul David, 1909-1972
Northwest Community Organization (Chicago, Ill.)
Community organization -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
Community organization -- Illinois -- Chicago -- Sources
Chicago (Ill.) -- History -- 20th century -- Sources