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Guide to the Ernie Renzel Papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing History
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content Summary
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Materials at History San Jose Research Library

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Ernie Renzel Papers
    Date: 1900-2007
    Date (bulk): (1953-2004)
    Collection number: 2008-29
    Creator: Renzel, Ernest H., Jr., 1907-2007
    Extent: 6 boxes
    Repository: History San Jose Research Library.
    San Jose, California 95112-2599
    Abstract: Renzel's personal papers, including diplomas, personal and professional certificates, awards, San Jose City records and Santa Clara County public documents. The bulk of the papers relate to Renzel's term as San Jose City Councilman and Mayor, his role in developing the San Jose International Airport and Kelley Park, and his term as Foreman of the Santa Clara County Grand Jury. The collection also includes several personal objects. The collection contains approx. 82 photographs, a DVD movie and a CD-ROM of digital photographs.
    Physical location: History San Jose Collection Center
    Languages: Collection materials are in English


    The Records are available to the public for research by appointment.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with History San Jose. For permissions to reproduce or to publish, please contact History San Jose Research Library.

    Preferred Citation

    ($BOX_NO}, History San Jose Research Library.

    Acquisition Information

    The collection was donated by Renzel's daughter Jenifer Renzel in January 2008, after Renzel’s death in 2007. It was accessioned April 2008.

    Processing History

    Processed by History San Jose staff, 2008-9. The collection was initially inventoried at collection level and rehoused in original folders; later, in October 2009, the collection was organized and catalogued at folder and item level, and rehoused. The documents in the collection were catalogued at folder and item level; photographs were catalogued individually, and records entered into the archives database.

    Biographical Note

    Ernest (Ernie) H. Renzel, Jr., was born in San Jose on August 7, 1907. His grandfather, Conrad Renzel, was a San Jose baker who expanded his South First Street shop to groceries in the 1860s. Ernie's father, E. H. Renzel, Sr., continued the business, and by the turn of the 20th century was vice president and manager of the Keystone Co., San Jose’s first wholesale grocery firm.
    Renzel attended San Jose State Normal School and graduated from San Jose High School as president of the student body in 1925. As a member of the Crown and Shield Honor society and athlete, he played for two years on the basketball championship team of the northern coast section and won the Peninsular Athletic league tennis singles championship for San Jose High for two years.
    Renzel studied economics and played on the varsity basketball and tennis teams at Stanford University, graduating in 1929. He went on to become President of E. H. Renzel Company Wholesalers. He was married to Emily Hillebrand for 63 years; they had one son and four daughters.
    Renzel entered local politics during WWII. In the early 1940s, San Jose City Hall was being run by taxi-service operator Charlie Bigley, widely viewed as a political boss who could always get a majority elected to the San Jose City Council. As a result of two councilmen going to war, six of the seven council seats were left open in the 1944 election. Bigley opposers formed the Progress Committee, and its campaign manager, lawyer Harvey Miller, persuaded Renzel, Al Ruffo and four others into running. Their victory resulted in Renzel's selection as president of the council in 1945. Renzel served one term as unofficial mayor before turning the job over to Ruffo in 1946; by then, Renzel had gotten "Mayor" accepted as the title.
    One of Renzel's major accomplishments was the San Jose Municipal Airport. Renzel served as Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Aviation Committee that initiated action to purchase the first tract of land for an airport in 1937. Renzel found the land himself, negotiated a price with the ranch land's owners, and the Committee spearheaded a ballot measure to pay for it. In 1940, as mayor, he exercised an option for the City to purchase 484 acres at $300 an acre. By 1946 the first airplanes were using the site, and in 1949 San Jose Municipal Airport was dedicated.
    Renzel continued his airport involvement as Master of Ceremonies at airport dedication events from 1938 to 1977. He served on the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce Special Aviation Committee, and as a Member and Chair of the San Jose Municipal Airport Commission from 1969 to 1977.
    Renzel was honored on several occasions for his work as "Father of the San Jose Airport." On 2nd March, 1994, a bronze bust designed by sculptor Susan Powell was unveiled by Mayor Susan Hammer in the main lobby of San Jose Airport Terminal C following a Rotary Club of San Jose luncheon highlighting Renzel's efforts to establish the airport. The Aero Club of Northern California then passed a resolution on 28 October 2003 to name the airfield at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International airport "Ernie Renzel Field." In 2004, the San Jose City Council adopted this resolution and honored Renzel, age 97, with a ceremony at City Hall.
    Renzel and his wife Emily also loaned money to the City of San Jose in 1951 to buy the land for the existing Kelley Park property, and negotiated the acquisition of the Lewis D. Bohnett collection for the San Jose Historical Museum in 1965. The Chinese Historical and Cultural Project in Kelley Park also benefited from Renzel's benefaction.
    While Renzel continued his wholesale business, he was also actively involved in community affairs. He was a long-time member of the Rotary Club of San Jose, listed under "Groceries, Wholesale," served as thirty-second President in 1945 and later as Director. He was also President of the Community Chest and of Associated Wholesalers. Renzel acted as Santa Clara County grand jury foreman in 1970, and gave his service to YMCA fund drives, chamber of commerce groups, and service clubs. He was on the Board of Directors of the San Jose Hospital, the San Jose Art Museum, and the Community Foundation. Renzel was appointed Historic Landmarks Commissioner from 1967-1970 and served as Commissioner of the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara. As a former college athlete, he was a member of the Stanford Athletic Board and was issued the Distinguished Service Award in 1969.
    Renzel's public service was honored in 1992, when he received the Legacy Medal from San Jose; in 1994 he received the Rotarian of the Year award. In August 2007, just before his death, Renzel was awarded the City of San Jose Commendation by Mayor Chuck Reed.
    Renzel died in San Jose at the age of 100, September 15, 2007.

    Scope and Content Summary

    Renzel's personal papers document his public service to the City of San Jose and Santa Clara County. The records are housed in two manuscript boxes (1-4), two flat boxes (5,6), and one oversized folder.
    The collection is organized into seven series:
    • Series 1. Santa Clara Grand Jury, 1970. 1 folder, 2 items.
    • Series 2. San Jose City Planning, 1944-1965. 1 folder, 2 items.
    • Series 3. San Jose City Records, 1944-1946. 12 folders.
    • Subseries 3.1. San Jose City Council Ordinances, July 1944 – June 1946. 1 folder.
    • Subseries 3.2. City Council Resolutions, 1944-1946. 3 folders.
    • Subseries 3.3. Minutes, 1944-1948. 8 folders.
    • Series 4. San Jose Airport, 1939-2007. 2 folders.
    • Subseries 4.1. Planning and History, 1939-1977. 1 folder.
    • Subseries 4.2. Recognition, 1977-2007. 1 folder, 1 item.
    • Series 5. Kelley Park Development, 1951-1991. 3 folders.
    • Subseries 5.1. Kelley Park General, 1951. 1 folder.
    • Subseries 5.2. Chinese Historical and Cultural Project, 1989-1991. 1 folder.
    • Subseries 5.3. Lewis D. Bohnett Collection Acquisition, 1965. 1 folder.
    • Series 6. Personal History, 1900-2007. 3 folders, 4 items.
    • Series 7. Misc. Ephemera and Objects. 1 folder, 2 oversize, 8 objects.

    Indexing Terms

    The following is a selection of terms that have been used to index the collection in the archives' database.


    Bohnett, Lewis D.
    Campbell, O.W.
    Gitin, Joseph
    Hammer, Susan
    Lynch, John J.
    Mineta, Norman
    Nissen, James N.
    Packard, David
    Powell, Susan
    Reed, Chuck
    Renzel, Ernest H., Jr.
    Ruffo, Albert J.
    Watson, Fred
    Aeronautics -- California -- History.
    Aviation -- Santa Clara Valley
    Chinese Historical and Cultural Project
    City councils--California--San Jose
    Elections--California--San Jose.
    Grand jury--California--Santa Clara County.
    Keystone Company
    Museums -- Acquisitions
    Museums -- San Jose (Calif.)
    Ordinances, Municipal -- California -- San Jose.
    Public records -- San Jose (Calif.)
    Public records --Santa Clara County (Calif.)
    Rotary Club, San Jose, Calif.
    Sainte Claire Club (San Jose, Calif.)
    San Jose (Calif.) -- History -- 20th century.
    San Jose (Calif.) -- City planning
    San Jose (Calif.) -- Politics and government
    San Jose (Calif.) -- Recreational facilities
    San Jose (Calif.). Airport Commission.
    San Jose (Calif.) Historic Landmarks Commission
    San Jose (Calif.) Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.
    Southwest Airways aka Pacific Air Lines (firm)
    Stanford University
    Traffic engineering--California--San Jose.
    United States. Federal Aviation Administration.

    Genres and Forms of Materials

    Administrative records.
    Clippings (information artifacts).
    Color photographs.
    Black-and-white photographs.

    Related Materials at History San Jose Research Library

    • 2004-17: Leonard McKay photograph collection
    • 2008-9: Digital gift of images from Ernie Renzel
    • 2009-16: Images of Rotary Club of San Jose past presidents
    • 74-3822: Scrapbook containing newspaper clippings regarding the development of San Jose, 1946-1947.
    • 1997-366-32: Prussia Store Collection: Papers regarding downtown parking in San Jose.
    • 1997-368: Frank Brown Collection
    • 1997-373-72: Map of San Jose Airport with development plans marked; distributed to campaign for Measure "F".
    • 2006-49-4: Gift of Patricia Loomis: Photocopy of speech pamphlet for "The New Metropolis: San Jose between 1942 and 1972" given by George Starbird to the San Jose Rotary Club on March 1, 1972.
    • 2008-131: American Institute of Architects Santa Clara Valley Chapter
    • 1994-87: Bust of Ernie Renzel, Jr. Wax model for Bronze installed at the San Jose international Airport. Artist: Susan Powell.
    • 1995-111-5a: 60 Years of Flight in Santa Clara County. Written and directed by David Elliot, Produced by Alex Zanini - Explores flight from Montgomery (controlled flight innovator) at Santa Clara University to the opening of the new terminal at the San Jose Municipal Airport in 1965.
    • 1996-130: Peninsula Times Tribune photographic collection
    • 1997-208: History San Jose Photographic Collection
    • 1997-237-198: Book, “San Jose International Airport” by Patricia Loomis
    • 1997-373: History San Jose Map Collection
    • 1997-342-125A: San Jose Historical Museum 25th Anniversary, September 1996. Camera 1 raw video. VHS format.
    • 1979-1026: Manuscripts and Small Collections: Special Report created by William C. Brown, Chief of Police, submitted to the San Jose City Manager and City Council. Circa early 1945 (based on information contained within the report).
    • 1986-139-12a: City of San Jose City Council, City Planning Commn. and Administrative Officials: "San Jose: Design for Tomorrow," 1957.