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Frank Wheat Papers: Finding Aid
mssWheat papers  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Frank Wheat Papers
    Dates (inclusive): Approximately 1950-2000
    Bulk dates: Approximately 1985-2000
    Collection Number: mssWheat papers
    Creator: Wheat, Frank, 1921-.
    Extent: 154 boxes (64.22 linear feet)
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2129
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection contains the personal and professional papers of California lawyer and political activist Frank Wheat (1921-). The papers chiefly date from the mid 1980s-2005 and cover his work on the California Desert Protection Act; the California Desert Miracle, The Fight for Desert Parks and Wilderness (1999), and other environmental issues, particularly including mining's effect on the environment; the Alliance for Children's Rights, the Center for Law in the Public Interest and Human Rights Watch and his involvement with Ralph M. Parsons Foundation. The collection also contains information on Wheat's legal career, including his presidency of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, his tenure as an SEC Commissioner, his expertise in securities and corporate law, and his involvement with the California Citizens Budget Commission and California Commission on Campaign Financing.
    Language: English.

    Access

    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Frank Wheat Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Provenance

    Gift from Mrs. Nancy W. Wheat, May 10, 2001.

    Biographical Note

    Frank Wheat (1921-), California lawyer and political activist. Born in Los Angeles, California, on February 4, 1921, Francis Millspaugh Wheat graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Pomona College in 1942. During World War II Wheat spent three and a half years on destroyers as a gunnery officer on active duty from 1942-46. He received his law degree cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1948 and joined Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher that year in Los Angeles, becoming a partner in 1955. One of the top securities lawyers in the nation, he was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 to the Securities and Exchange Commission and moved to Washington, D.C., returning to Los Angeles and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in 1969.
    In the late 1960s when activism was thriving on numerous fronts, Wheat was impressed by the work of law students outside the traditional legal world, students who were voluntarily providing legal assistance for those in need, pushing for legislative reforms, opening community clinics, even working with prison inmates. Frank Wheat rode this wave of public interest law (ca. 1970-1980) that blossomed through the efforts of many organizations seeking to address social ills. The spectrum of the public interest would compel Wheat to help found (in 1992) the Alliance for Children’s Rights which provided legal services for disadvantaged children and motivated his pivotal participation (1985- 1999) with the Center for Law in the Public Interest (CLIPI, founded in 1971).
    This native son’s quest for political reform at home made significant headway when he joined the California Commission on Campaign Financing whose studies resulted in voter-approved initiatives in 1988 (Proposition 68) and 1996 (Proposition 208). Wheat easily segued into the California Citizens Budget Commission which utilized his expertise in all things financial and produced reports on healthcare reform and budget reform. He committed his energies to Human Rights Watch, which monitored injustices globally, and the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, which provided financial support for many of these philanthropic groups.
    But in the world of Frank Wheat, the most significant “law in the public interest” was the California Desert Protection Act of 1994. Wheat’s passion stemmed from his exposure to a place where he often renewed his energies, the beautiful but fragile territory where he hiked and explored with his family, and which became the subject of his 1999 book, California Desert Miracle.

    Bibliography

    Lingenfelter, Richard E. Death Valley & the Amargosa – A Land of Illusion. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1986
    Unrau, Harlan D. A History of the Lands Added to Death Valley National Monument by the California Desert Protection Act of 1994 – Special History Study. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1997
    Wheat, Frank. California Desert Miracle - The Fight for Desert Parks and Wilderness. San Diego, Calif.: Sunbelt Publications, 1999

    Scope and Content

    Personal and professional papers of Frank Wheat, with particular emphasis on his political activism and philanthropy. The papers cover his effort for the California Desert Protection Act (CDPA); the work on his California Desert Miracle, The Fight for Desert Parks and Wilderness (1999), and other environmental issues, particularly including mining's effect on the environment; the Alliance for Children's Rights, the Center for Law in the Public Interest and Human Rights Watch and his involvement with Ralph M. Parsons Foundation. The collection also contains information on Wheat's legal career, including his presidency of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, his tenure as an SEC Commissioner, his expertise in securities and corporate law, and his involvement with the California Citizens Budget Commission and California Commission on Campaign Financing.
    The dream of comprehensive legislation to protect California’s desert and its resources was kept alive during the 1980s and 1990s by a congregation of volunteers and their representatives. After twenty years of effort, climaxing with a filibuster in the United States Senate broken by a single vote, a bill that had seen many manifestations was finally enacted in October of 1994, the California Desert Protection Act (CDPA). That is the story of California Desert Miracle, The Fight for Desert Parks and Wilderness, the book Frank Wheat wrote about fostering the act into law. As a result of CDPA’s enactment, approximately 7.7 million acres of Federal lands were designated wilderness and roughly three million acres were added to the National Park system, including lands adjacent to the Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Monuments (designated as National Parks), plus the establishment of Mojave National Preserve. This amounted to roughly one-quarter of the state of California and made Death Valley National Park the largest such park in the lower 48 states.
    Beyond the parameters of the California Desert Protection Act, Wheat investigated many environmental issues. Foremost among these would be mining, which can be found in several areas of the collection. Mining’s effect on the environment, particularly the desert – the irreversible damage from open pit mines - is reflected in documents on the cyanide heap leaching process for mining gold. Other documents discuss the Bureau of Land Management’s position on reclamation measures versus the obligation to foster mining as part of its “multiple use” policy. Of an even greater concern was reform of the U.S. Mining Laws of 1872 (43 CFR 3809). These regulations allow anyone to claim hard- rock minerals on public land, file a plan of operations, and remove valuable minerals without paying a cent to taxpayers; Wheat felt they needed to be substantially revised. In consideration of that reform, he investigated the Glamis Mine in Imperial County, California, for possible litigation purposes. So while Wheat focused his efforts on getting the CDPA enacted, he juggled other important causes.
    While the collection’s main focus is represented in 25 boxes of documentation regarding the Desert Bill crusade, it also includes rich resources about a plethora of environmental organizations, such as the California Desert Protection League – an amalgam of various organizations including several Sierra Club chapters, the Wilderness Society, Desert Survivors, several Audubon chapters and the Izaak Walton League.
    The spectrum of public interest law not only covers the environment, but the social problems addressed by such organizations as the Alliance for Children’s Rights, the Center for Law in the Public Interest and Human Rights Watch, all represented in the Wheat Papers, along with those funding this important work, like the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation.
    Frank Wheat’s penchant for organizations extended to those reflecting his professional life. Foremost among them would be the Los Angeles County Bar Association, which he served as president and who honored him with its Shattuck Price Award in 1985. Due to his expertise in securities and corporate law, Wheat was associated with even more organizations that offered forums and professional engagements for Wheat as a speaker, and drafts of those speeches are found in abundance. Topics include accounting standards and practices, disclosure, regulations, hostile take-overs, accountant-client privilege statutes, tender offers and Arthur Young & Co.
    Wheat’s experience as an SEC commissioner was a considerable attraction for many organizations seeking insight into government regulations and procedures. It also afforded Wheat an insider’s perspective on the way our government works, undoubtedly useful when he became involved with the California Citizens Budget Commission and California Commission on Campaign Financing. These volunteer, blue-ribbon groups of business, legal, education and labor leaders produced comprehensive studies on the state’s most critical problems, offering recommendations and solutions, some of which resulted in initiatives (Propositions 68 and 208). Wheat’s papers about these efforts and the many manifestations of the Desert Bill lend considerable weight to the federal and state legislative portions of the collection.
    In addition to his work on these commissions, Wheat’s activism prompted him to write scores of letters to his representatives and to pivotal players in the government. Some were form letters used in specific campaigns and others more personal in their approach. In Wheat’s push for the California Desert Protection Act, frequent correspondents were Senator Alan Cranston (D-CA), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Congressman Mel Levine (D-CA), Senator and later Governor Pete Wilson (R-CA), Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, Assistant Secretary of the Interior John Garamendi, BLM Director Ed Hastey, Senator Dale L. Bumpers (D-AR), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Congressman Jerry Lewis (R-CA). Environmental activists such as Deborah S. Reames, Elden Hughes, Jim Dodson, Judy Anderson, Norbert Riedy, Jr., political reformers such as Tracy Westen and Robert M. Stern, and other prominent individuals such as former Secretary of State Warren Christopher and writer Neil Morgan appear repeatedly in these files.
    Correspondence is certainly the predominant format of the collection (letters, memos, e- mails), along with versions of his many speeches (handwritten and typescript), transcripts of testimonies from Wheat and others before various governmental committees, promotional materials and press releases from many organizations, manuscripts and notes, reports, publications (books, pamphlets, periodicals, legislative bills, CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] reports), articles and excerpts from magazines, newspapers and newsletters, a few photographs and many maps, particularly of the California desert and surrounding areas.

    Arrangement

    Organized in the following series:
    • Environmental (Boxes 1-63)
      • California Desert Miracle (Box 1-Box 26, Folder 3)
      • Organizations (Box 26, Folder 4-Box 45)
      • Background/Issues (Boxes 46-63)
    • Governmental (Boxes 64-123)
      • Environmental (Boxes 64-90)
      • Non-Environmental (Box 91-Box 109, 7)
      • Legal Profession (Boxes 109, Folder 8 - Box 123, Folder 15)
    • Personal Materials (Boxes 123, Folder 16 - Box 138)
      • Political Organizations (Box 123, Folder 16- Box 125, Folder 11)
      • Other Organizations (Boxes 125, Folder 12 - Box 137, Folder 2)
      • Areas of Interest (Box 137, Folders 3-12)
      • Personal Matters (Box 138)
    • Supplemental Publications (Boxes 139-154)

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  

    Subjects

    Wheat, Frank, 1921- -- Archives.
    California Budget Project.
    California Citizens Budget Commission.
    California Commission on Campaign Financing.
    California Desert Protection League.
    Center for Law in the Public Interest.
    Democratic Party (Calif.)
    Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund.
    Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
    Human Rights Watch/Americas.
    Izaak Walton League of America.
    Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
    League of Conservation Voters.
    Los Angeles County Bar Association.
    National Parks and Conservation Association.
    Ralph M. Parsons Foundation.
    Sierra Club.
    Sierra Club. Legal Defense Fund.
    Trust for Public Land (U.S.)
    United States. Securities and Exchange Commission.
    Wilderness Society (U.S.)
    Campaign funds.
    Cause lawyers -- California -- Archives.
    Desert conservation -- Law and legislation.
    Environmental impact analysis -- Law and legislation.
    Environmental impact statements -- Law and legislation.
    Environmental law -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
    Insider trading in securities -- Law and legislation.
    Lawyers -- California.
    Political activists -- California -- Archives.
    Natural areas -- Law and legislation.
    Public interest law.
    Research natural areas -- Law and legislation. Securities.
    Anza-Borrego Desert (Calif.)
    California -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
    California -- Politics and government -- 20th century -- Sources.
    Death Valley (Calif. and Nev.)
    Mojave Desert.

    Forms/Genres

    Personal papers -- California -- 20th century.
    Professional papers -- California -- 20th century.