by Abigail Malangone, Processing & Reference Archivist
We are pleased to announce that the Lawrence F. O’Brien Personal Papers are open and available for research.
Lawrence “Larry” O’Brien, of Springfield, Massachusetts, was a member of the inner circle of Kennedy aides that came to be known as the “Irish Mafia.” O’Brien began his association with John F. Kennedy in the early 1950s; he worked on Kennedy’s 1952 and 1958 Senate campaigns and was named National Director of Organization for Kennedy’s 1960 presidential run. A widely admired figure for his organizing talent, his “O’Brien Manual” became a highly sought-after volume for anyone wanting to run a campaign and win an election.
O’Brien was named Special Assistant to the President for Congressional Relations and Personnel in 1961. He faced challenges from the outset, including a slender Democratic majority in Congress and a Rules Committee fight. However, he used his skills to build an office and a staff that would strengthen communication between the executive and legislative branches.
Congressional Quarterly “White House Lobby on the Hill.” Excerpt of an article on the O’Brien operation. View the entire folder here.
Following President Kennedy’s assassination, O’Brien continued to serve as a special assistant during the Johnson Administration. He remained in that role even after being appointed Postmaster General—a position that made him a member of President Johnson’s Cabinet. O’Brien took over the reins of the Post Office Department at a critical juncture and began a course of examination and change that led to the modern-day United States Postal Service.
Larry O’Brien resigned from government service in 1968 to join Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign; later, he directed Hubert Humphrey’s presidential run. After a brief hiatus from politics, O’Brien served as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and was charged with bringing back respectability, financial stability, and unity to the Democratic Party.
Excerpt from Chairman O’Brien’s 1972 convention speech. View the entire folder here.
During his tenure as DNC Chairman, O’Brien was a target of the Watergate break-in and fought to have a Special Prosecutor appointed to investigate the event.
O’Brien’s letter to President Nixon following the Watergate break-in. View the entire folder here.
O’Brien wrote about his life in politics in his 1974 book, No Final Victories. The book’s contents mimic those of O’Brien’s personal papers, both of which focus on O’Brien’s political life—from John F. Kennedy to Watergate. Researchers will learn not only about the man, but also about: campaign organization; legislative programs during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations; the Post Office Department’s operations; the workings of the DNC; and much more.