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Guide to the John A. McCone Papers, 1904-1991 (bulk 1978-1989)
BANC MSS 95/20 c  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: John A. McCone papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1904-1991
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1978-1989)
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 95/20 c
    Creator: McCone, John A.
    Extent: 35 cartons, 8 boxes, 4 oversize boxes, 8 volumes, 4 oversize folders
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Abstract: The John A. McCone Papers, 1904-1991 consist primarily of McCone's combined professional and personal office files as well as mail briefs, chronological files, memoranda, and Foundation and Trust records. The papers include writings, speeches, awards, interviews, biographical materials, photographs, negatives, slides, personal and family materials. The bulk of materials date from 1978 to 1989. Notably missing are any official papers and correspondence during the period from 1962 to 1966 when McCone served with the United States Central Intelligence Agency.
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the appropriate curator or the Head of Public Services for forwarding. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and the copyright.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], John A. McCone papers, BANC MSS 95/20 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Materials Catalogued Separately

    Photographs not integral to the collection have been transferred to pictorial collections of The Bancroft Library. Film reels and sound recordings have been transferred to the Microforms Collection of the Bancroft Library.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    McCone, John A. (John Alex), 1902-1991--Archives.
    McCone, John A. (John Alex), 1902-1991--Pictorial works.
    National security--United States.
    Intelligence service--United States.
    Watts Riot, Los Angeles, Calif., 1965.
    Presidents--United States.
    Legislators--United States.
    Public officers.
    Chile--Foreign relations--United States.
    United States--Central Intelligence Agency--Nominations for office.
    United States--Foreign relations--Chile.
    United States--Central Intelligence Agency--Nominations for office.
    United States--Politics and government--1945-1989.
    U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
    Music Center of Los Angeles County.
    International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation.
    University of Southern California.
    Online Archive of California.

    Administrative Information


    The John A. McCone Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by Robert L. Bridges, Executor of the John A. Mccone Estate, on October 11, 1994.

    Biographical Information

    John Alex McCone was born in San Francisco, California on January 4, 1902. He attended public schools in Los Angeles and graduated in 1922 from the University of California at Berkeley with a B.S. Degree in Engineering (Magna cum laude). He married Rosemary Cooper in 1938. Mrs. McCone died in Washington, D.C. in 1961. He then married Mrs. Paul Pigott (Theiline), widow of a Seattle industrialist in 1962. Mrs. Pigott McCone died in 1990.
    McCone began his industrial career in 1922 as a riveter in Los Angeles at Llewellyn Iron Works which merged with Consolidated Steel Corporation in 1929. By 1933 McCone was executive vice president of Consolidated.
    In 1937 he left the steel business to join Stephen D. Bechtel in organizing a new engineering firm and served as the President and Director of the Bechtel-McCone Corporation. The company expanded into shipbuilding and aircraft production during World War II. McCone's other wartime efforts included the formation of the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation for the production of merchant ships. He also assisted in establishing and serving as President and Manager of the California Shipbuilding Corporation (CALSHIP) in Los Angeles, one of the principle wartime shipyards that build a total of 467 ships. He served as Director of both Marinship Corporation and Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation. Through Pacific Tankers and Standard Oil Company he operated an extensive fleet of oil tankers for the U.S. Navy in the Pacific. After the war McCone moved into overseas shipping as President of Joshua Hendy Corporation as well as Chairman of Pacific Far East Line, Inc. a steamship company.
    McCone's official service with the U.S. government dates from 1947 when he was appointed by Harry S. Truman to the Air Policy Commission. The following year he was named a special deputy to James Forrestal, the Secretary of Defense. In May 1950 President Truman appointed McCone as the Under Secretary of the Air Force, where he served until his resignation in October 1951 to return to private business.
    In June 1958 President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated McCone as Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, where he served until his resignation on January 1961. Eights months later on September 1961, McCone was recalled by President John F. Kennedy to serve as the sixth Director of Intelligence and Chairman of the U.S. Intelligence Board. McCone established the Central Intelligence Agency's credibility with the White House by being the first to warn of Soviet plans to build missile bases in Cuba. After Kennedy's assassination, McCone carried on as Director of the CIA under President Lyndon B. Johnson and was against the decision to commit massive military forces to the war in Vietnam. McCone's service as the chief intelligence officer of the nation thus played a role in two of the principal events in United States post-World War II history. When President Johnson refused to increase support to government intelligence efforts under the CIA, McCone resigned in August 1965 and returned to California as chairman of the board of Joshua Hendy Corporation and Hendy International Company.
    In 1965 Governor Edmund G. Brown appointed McCone chairman of the California Governor's Commission on the Los Angeles Riots, often referred to as the "McCone Commission". The riots errupted on August 11, 1965 as a hostile crowd gathered near the Watts district during the arrest by a Caucasian police officer of an African American man charged with driving under the influence. As the racial tensions excellerated, the crowd grew increasingly violent and destructive and resulted in six days of rioting before being subdued. The Commission prepared a chronology of events, description of the disorders and a study of underlying causes, then made recommendations to alleviate conditions in the minority group areas. Besides the Commission report, a tangible result was the construction of the Martin Luther King, Jr. County Hospital and Drew Medical School.
    Throughout his career, McCone served on various corporate boards including California Bank of Los Angeles, International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (ITT), Pacific Car and Foundry Company (PACCAR), Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company of California, Standard Oil Company of California, Trans World Airlines (TWA), United California Bank, and Western Banking Corporation. He also continued to serve in Washington, D.C. on various commissions and special missions through the 1970s and 1980s.
    McCone also participated in a number of civic, philanthropic, educational, and medical associations such as the California Institute of Technology, Don Bosco Technical Institute, House Ear Institute, Jules Stein Eye Institute, Music Center of Los Angeles County, Loyola University of Los Angeles, Monterey Institute of International Studies, Stanford Research Institute, University of Southern California, and the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.
    Among his many awards are the Hoover Medal (1960), the William J. Donovan Medal (1982) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1987) along with his numerous honorary degrees.
    At the age of 89, McCone died of cardiac arrest on February 14, 1991.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The John A. McCone Papers, 1904-1991 consist primarily of McCone's combined professional and personal office files as well as mail briefs, chronological files, memoranda, and Foundation and Trust records. The papers include writings, speeches, awards, interviews, biographical information, photographs, negatives, slides, personal and family materials. The bulk of materials date from 1978 to 1989. Notably missing are any official papers and correspondence during the period from 1962 to 1966 when McCone served with the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
    The office files are McCone's personal files spanning from the 1950s to 1991. They contain correspondence with a number of prominent United States government officials, including Presidents and Vice Presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan, Congressmen, and cabinet members. The papers reflect McCone's service in high positions under four Presidents, including his tenure as chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission from 1958 to 1961 when Eisenhower launched his "Atoms for Peace" initiatives. McCone not only had a long and distinguished government career, but throughout his life he continued to be at the disposal of the nation as Presidents called upon him for assistance. An early example of this is evident in correspondence, scrapbooks, and photographs from 1956 when Eisenhower entrusted McCone to represent him personally as a special envoy at the eightieth birthday ceremony of Pope Pius XII in Rome, Italy. Also included is correspondence with McCone's many leading business associates and related materials gathered throughout his career as a major West Coast industrialist who made his fortune in engineering, shipbuilding, and shipping. He was known to be "even-tempered, sharp, tough, and demanding," qualitites that made him highly effective and a widely respected leader in both government service and private business.
    Conflict of interest concerns resulting from McCone's dual professions in government and business are presented in testimonies from 1974 during the International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT)/CIA/Chile hearings in the United States Senate regarding multinational corporation involvement in foreign policy. Related materials in the collection describe the allegation in which the ITT chairman offered a substantial fund to CIA operatives in Chile to assist the opponent of presidential candidate, Salvador Allende, during the 1970 Chilean presidential election. McCone was questioned regarding these operations and his involvement was undetermined, but eventually this incident led to a proposed Congressional bill that would make it a criminal offense for a United States citizen to make or offer a contribution to a government agency or officer to influence a foreign election or for a government agency or officer to solicit such a contribution.
    Another aspect of McCone's influence in the government and business arena is seen in the numerous plans and schedules for parties hosted by Mr. and Mrs. McCone honoring government leaders, foreign dignitaries, corporate officials, and organizations as well as prominent individuals. McCone's various interests are also apparent in his contributions to a wide variety of organizations related to art, education, the Catholic church, mass media, local Monterey County concerns, science, and medical research, particularly the Jules Stein Eye Institute in which he had a personal interest after being diagnosed in 1980 with an eye disease, macular degeneration. The records of the Music Center Foundation and the Music Center Opera Association where he was both founder and director reflect McCone's special interest in music and his desire to bring superior levels of opera and symphony performances to Los Angeles. McCone was also a member of the Bohemian Club, the G-P Club, and several golfing clubs. His golfing interest also took him to the Bahamas where he was a partner and homeowner along with business associates in the South Eleuthera Properties, Ltd. The collection contains extensive correspondence and business records related to this corporation concerning the development of various resort properties on the island of Eleuthera.
    Mr. and Mrs. McCone divided their time among several residences and coordinated personal and business correspondence and transactions through their staff and secretaries who maintained office files, daily logs of incoming mail, copies of outgoing mail, and kept schedules, itineraries, calendars, and appointment books. McCone's professional activities included writings, speeches, and interviews mainly concerning topics on nuclear power, national security, and issues related to United States intelligence policies. Because of his extensive service with the government and business enterprises as well as civic, philanthropic, and educational interests, he received many awards including the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1987, which is the highest civilian honor given in the United States and recognizes significant contributions to the nation. He also received the Presidential Service Award, the Hoover Medal in 1964, and the Music Center awards in 1972 and 1976 as well as many honoraria from higher education institutions.
    The financial files include records of the McCone Foundation which was formed as a tax-exempt corporation to establish a fund for the purpose of distributing contribution payments to religious, charitable, scientific, literary, educational, and community chest institutions. They also include the John A. McCone Trust which administered personal property, income, and assets.
    McCone's biographical materials illustrate his distinguished careers in both industry and government along with his many accomplishments. The personal and family papers also show McCone corresponded considerably with family members, mainly cousins and stepchildren and often celebrated family occasions with them. Mr. and Mrs. McCone's social activities included gathering with friends and family in the Bahamas or functions related to the opera or symphony in Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Los Angeles. They were often featured in the society pages attending galas and special performances.
    Photograph albums portraying specific events while McCone served with the Atomic Energy Commission and under various Presidents (1958-1965), International Telephone and Telegraph career highlights (1948-1977), and photographs of California Shipbuilding Corporation ship building and launchings (1941-1961), along with miscellaneous photographs and negatives have been transferred to Bancroft's Pictorial Collections and have been described separately from the papers. Photographs, negatives, and slides which are integrally part of the collection have been kept in place with the papers.
    McCone, John A.: Papers, 1958-1961, a collection relating to the period when McCone served as Chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission is located in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas under the accession number A79-9.