Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
California Democratic Council (CDC) Records, 1947-1988
MSS 036  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (165.75 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Organizational History
  • Scope and Content
  • Separated Material
  • Related Material at the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: California Democratic Council (CDC) Records,
    Date (inclusive): 1947-1988
    Collection number: MSS 036
    Creator: California Democratic Council
    Extent: 9 boxes, 3 half-boxes, 24 legal boxes, and 3 legal half-boxes

    12 linear feet
    Repository: Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research
    Los Angeles, CA 90044
    Abstract: The collection contains records from the California Democratic Council (CDC), a statewide organization linking independent Democratic Clubs with the Democratic Party structure. The CDC organized conventions, ran issues conferences, endorsed candidates, and participated in other activities. Materials range from 1947 to 1988 but the bulk of the materials are from the 1960s and 1970s.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Donated to the Library by Emil and Tassia Freed, Saul and Gertrude Reider, Marvin Schachter, and other former CDC officers, members and employees.


    The collection is available for research only at the Library's facility in Los Angeles. The Library is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Researchers are encouraged to call or email the Library indicating the nature of their research query prior to making a visit.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. Researchers may make single copies of any portion of the collection, but publication from the collection will be allowed only with the express written permission of the Library's director. It is not necessary to obtain written permission to quote from a collection. When the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research gives permission for publication, it is as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], California Democratic Council (CDC) Records, Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, Los Angeles, California.

    Organizational History

    The California Democratic Council (CDC) was founded in 1953 by a group of concerned Democrats. They were galvanized by State Senator George Miller, Jr., who called a meeting in Asilomar to discuss "What's wrong with the Democratic Party in California." In the early 1950s, even though the majority of California voters were registered Democrats, there had only been one Democratic Governor in the 20th Century and the Republicans held the majority in both houses of the Legislature, and a total of 111 out of the 162 elective, partisan offices in the state. The CDC was created as a link between the volunteer democratic clubs and district councils, and the official party structure (State and County Central Committees and elected officials). Besides encouraging membership in the local clubs, one of the CDC's primary responsibilities was to arrange for pre-primary endorsements of candidates (which the Central Committees were not allowed to do). This was needed to cut down on problems caused by the cross-filing of Republican candidates in Democratic primaries and divisive primary campaigns that carried over to the general election and allowed the Republican candidate to win the seat.
    The CDC's first convention was held, November 1953, in Fresno. Alan Cranston (later State Controller and then U.S. Senator from California) was elected the first President, serving until 1957. The CDC began seeing improvements immediately, and, by 1958, there were more than 500 local clubs with almost 40,000 members, and even more importantly the Democrats had gained dominance in elected positions, in many cases reversing the 1952 numbers: eleven Democratic to 29 Republican State Senators in 1952 to 28 Democrats and 12 Republicans in 1958. For statewide offices the numbers switched from 2 Democrats and 10 Republicans in 1952 to 10 Democrats and 2 Republicans by 1958.
    In 1957 the CDC organized a Resolutions Committee to increase the grass-roots influence on party platforms and policies and in 1959 held the first "full-blown" issues conference as the center of the annual convention, where small groups "discussed topics ranging from nuclear fission to election reform law." This successful format was repeated in 1960, while the 1961 convention focused on "Organization." Club membership and convention attendance continued to increase into the early 1960s (with 60,000 members and 2300 delegates in 1962); convention attendance began to decrease in the later 1960s.
    The CDC was involved in a number of civil rights issues: promoting Black and Brown Caucuses, pressing the president in 1963 to appoint Mexican-Americans to government positions, calling for the seating of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, and direct and economic support of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers in 1966. The CDC also took a stand on the Vietnam War, calling for a "political settlement" in 1965. After President Johnson failed to remove US troops by September 1967, the CDC held a Special Convention in Long Beach where they decided to run a Peace and Equality Slate. CDC President Joseph Wyatt is credited with being instrumental in convincing Eugene McCarthy to join the 1968 Presidential race. Martin Luther King Jr., graced the 1968 Convention with a speech just three weeks before his assassination. The CDC's Women's Caucus started in 1968 and the CDC was one of the first Democratic groups to recognize a Gay Caucus (1972). In 1969 the board of directors added five positions, giving representation to women, youth, labor, Black and Brown caucuses. However, it was not until 1975 that a woman (Wallace Albertson) was elected CDC President. Albertson served until 1981.
    The CDC has remained active over the years as the progressive voice in Democratic Party politics. In 2001 they honored the memory of their first President Alan Cranston at the annual dinner at the May convention.

    CDC Presidents

    1953-1957 Alan Cranston -- 1st
    1957-1961 Joseph Wyatt -- 2nd (appointed at Cranston's resignation)
    1961-1965 Tom B. Carvey -- 3rd
    1965-1966 Simon (Si) Casady -- 4th
    1966-1969 Gerald Hill -- 5th
    1969-1970 John Burton -- 6th
    1970-1971 Ernie Hartz -- 7th (interim appointee)
    1971-1975 Nathan (Nate) Holden -- 8th
    1975-1981 Wallace Albertson -- 9th
    1981-1985 Lia Triff Belli -- 10th
    1985-1991 Robert W. Farran -- 11th

    Scope and Content

    The California Democratic Council (CDC) Records contain correspondence, minutes, membership, business and subject files, newsletters, flyers, pamphlets, periodicals, photographs, pins and other miscellaneous items representing the activities of the CDC and various local Democratic Clubs. These are not the official records of the organization but they do present a sense of the nature of the organization, its activities, controversies, and constituents.
    The CDC Records have been compiled from materials donated by a number of different donors at various times, mostly without documentation. Saul and Gertrude Reider and Emil and Tassia Freed donated the bulk of the materials. Other possible donors are Gary Alexander, David Seidman, Charlene Daughterty, Marvin Schachter, Wallace Albertson, and Ross Clark. Except for the files that are now the Office Files subseries and the Field Representatives subseries of the Administration Series and the bulk of the Credentials Committee subseries of the Committees/Caucuses Series, the material was mostly unarranged and compiled from more than one donation.
    The bulk of the CDC Records date from the 1960s and 1970s, though some earlier and later material is also available. Incomplete Board of Directors' Minutes exist from 1957-1980, as do files on the 5th through the 32nd Conventions (1957-1984) and the 1959-1972 Issues Conferences. Information on the activities of Local Clubs and Regional Councils range from single flyers or newsletters to the extensive files on the Alta Loma Democratic Club (1963-1983) and the West Beverly Democratic Club (1956-1971), which include minutes, correspondence and other materials.
    Of special note is the text of the March 16, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. speech to the CDC Annual Convention.


    The collection is divided into 8 series: 1. Board of Directors, 2. Administrative Files, 3. Committees and Caucuses, 4. Local Clubs and Regional Councils, 5. Events, 6. Publications, 7. Photographs, and 8. Miscellaneous.

    Separated Material

    A number of periodicals and pamphlets from this collection were added to the Library's Pamphlet and Periodical holdings. See Related Materials for periodicals titles.

    Related Material at the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research

    Year of Decision,
    Date: 1964,
    Physical Description: 16mm film, sound, b&w, 23 hours; 30 minutes,
    Location: Film Collection
    Title: CDC Bulletin,
    Date (inclusive): 1962-1965 (incomplete),
    Location: Periodical Collection
    Title: The California Democrat (Publication of the California Democratic Party),
    Date: Vol. 1, No. 2, February 1960,
    Physical Location: Periodicals Collection
    Physical Description:
    Title: The California Democrat (Publication of the California Democratic Party),
    Date: February 1960,
    Physical Description: Vol. 1, No. 2,
    Physical Location: Periodical Collection
    Title: The California Observer (Official Publication of the California Democratic Council),
    Date: October 1965-April 1966,
    Physical Description: Vol. 1, No. 4-7,
    Physical Location: Periodical Collection
    Title: CDC News,
    Date: 1970,
    Physical Description: Mid-Summer Edition,
    Physical Location: Periodical Collection
    Title: California Democrat (California Democratic Council),
    Date: August 1971,
    Physical Description: Vol. 1, Series 1,
    Physical Location: Periodicals Collection
    Title: Grass-Roots Democrat (California Democratic Council),
    Date: 1972-1984 (incomplete),
    Physical Location: Periodical Collection