Newly Processed Collection: Myer Feldman Personal Papers

by Christina Lehman Fitzpatrick, Processing Archivist





You were far more indispensable than the public knows to John Kennedy’s success as a Senator, candidate and President. He knew it, however; and I know he would want me to express his deep gratitude.”


– Theodore Sorensen to Myer Feldman upon learning that Feldman was leaving the White House, 23 January 1965




We are pleased to announce that the Myer Feldman Personal Papers are open and available for research. This collection provides an in-depth look at the work of one of President Kennedy’s closest advisors, his Deputy Special Counsel. Feldman’s White House Staff Files are also available for research, as well as his 14 oral history interviews.

Myer Feldman earned a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and was serving as counsel to the U.S. Senate Banking and Currency Committee when he first met Theodore C. Sorensen and Senator John F. Kennedy. Feldman joined Kennedy’s staff as Legislative Assistant in 1958. During the 1960 presidential campaign, Feldman was Director of Research for the Democratic ticket. After winning the election, President Kennedy appointed Feldman to the post of Deputy Special Counsel. Feldman served directly under Sorensen, who was Special Counsel to the President. After President Kennedy’s death, President Lyndon B. Johnson retained Feldman and promoted him to Counsel in April 1964. During Johnson’s presidential campaign in 1964, Feldman led the effort to compile information on opponent Barry M. Goldwater. After leaving the White House in February 1965, Feldman returned to private law practice in Washington, D.C.

This collection covers a wide range of topics due to Feldman’s many duties in the White House.  In the memo seen below, he outlined his responsibilities in areas such as agriculture, commerce, aviation, transportation, immigration, and mental health. However, he was most influential as President Kennedy’s liaison to the Jewish community. In his own words, this role included “domestic issues of special interest to the community, our attitude toward Israel, United Nations actions affecting the Near East, [and] political matters.”







Memo from Myer Feldman to Theodore Sorensen listing Feldman’s general responsibilities, 2 Dec 1963.

View the entire folder here.







The following four topics are especially well documented in the Myer Feldman Personal Papers.

Israel and the Middle East: Feldman served as the main White House advisor on matters related to Israel and acted as liaison to the American Jewish community. He helped shape the administration’s strategy on Israel and the Middle East, where tensions ran high. When the President wanted to have direct policy discussions, he often sent Feldman on a secret diplomatic mission to confer with Israeli leaders face-to-face. President Johnson dubbed Feldman his “prime minister” to Israel in recognition of his contributions to important foreign policy decisions.







Excerpt of memo from Myer Feldman to Rep. Emanuel Celler, 12 June 1962. The memo outlined the “essential characteristics of the United States policy toward the Middle East” and identified four main objectives to pursue in the region.

View the entire folder here.






In one of the most controversial matters concerning the Middle East, Feldman advocated the selling of weapons to Israel in order to help defend the country against its enemies in the region. He wrote: “Our policy should be based on a desire to avoid American involvement in hostilities in the Near East. This can best be done by keeping Israeli strength at a high enough level to deter any adventure from the Arabs.” Alaska Senator Ernest Gruening (D) took exception: “Such a move can only serve to give United States approval to the arms race in the Middle East.” Read more about Feldman’s role in selling Hawk missiles to Israel in this oral history interview.





(Left) Memo from Myer Feldman to President Johnson on selling tanks to Israel, 6 Dec 1963. (Right) Letter from Sen. Gruening to President Johnson in response, 21 Dec 1963.

View the entire folder here.






Immigration reform: Soon after his inauguration, President Kennedy asked Feldman to monitor progress on immigration legislation in Congress. The administration was seeking a complete overhaul of existing immigration policies and specifically targeted the national origins quota system for elimination. Many different plans were proposed but an acceptable compromise proved extremely difficult until the Immigration and Nationality Act was signed into law by President Johnson on October 3, 1965. Although Feldman had left the White House by that time, the legislation would not have been possible without his work on the issue over the previous four years.






Memo from Myer Feldman to Jack Valenti on the immigration bill proposed by Congressman Michael A. Feighan, 12 Aug 1964. According to Feldman, the plan “contains none of the essential elements of our bill (elimination of national origins, Asia-Pacific triangle elimination, mandatory distribution of unused quota numbers).”

View the entire folder here.







International trade and tariffs: Feldman was responsible for briefing the President on matters pertaining to trade and tariffs. He traveled to Hanoke, Japan, in November 1961 to attend the conference of the Joint U.S.-Japan Committee on Trade and Economic Affairs. When Congress passed the Trade Expansion Act in 1962, the White House gained an expanded role in negotiating tariffs with foreign countries. Feldman’s papers contain many files on efforts to change import and export rates on a wide range of products, from cotton and steel to shoes and poultry. The next period of international trade negotiations (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT), held from 1964 to 1967, was named the “Kennedy Round” in honor of the deceased president and his administration’s efforts in the field.






(Left) Letter from Secretary of State Dean Rusk asking for Feldman’s thoughts on the Hanoke conference, 9 Dec 1961. (Right) Menu for a luncheon held during the conference.

View the entire folder here.






Transportation: Feldman also handled a variety of matters pertaining to transportation and aviation. One ambitious project under consideration by the administration was a high-speed rail line along the Northeast Corridor. The idea, introduced by Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island in 1962, planned to link Washington, D.C., New York City, and Boston via passenger trains running at speeds of 100 miles per hour or more. Feldman kept tabs on the proposal as the Commerce Department conducted feasibility studies in 1964. Ultimately, Congress passed the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965, which was the first commitment by the federal government to fund and develop high-speed rail service in the United States.







Memorandum from Myer Feldman to President Johnson regarding the Northeast Corridor rail project, 28 May 1964.

View the entire folder here.







Finally, the Myer Feldman Personal Papers provide a perspective on how the assassination of President Kennedy affected his staff (and close friends) and how they adjusted to the different atmosphere of the Johnson Administration. Feldman was on a plane to Japan when he heard the news of President Kennedy’s assassination. In shock, he and the other cabinet members on board promptly returned to Washington. Several days later, Feldman gave a heartfelt eulogy to President Kennedy, saying “Now it is up to us to pick up the torch which he lighted and follow along the way he charted.”






Draft statement written by Myer Feldman for the Jewish community memorial service for John F. Kennedy in Washington, D.C., 25 Nov 1963.

View the entire folder here.



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USIA Director Edward R. Murrow Audio Recordings Digitized and Available Online

by Bill Bjelf, Assistant Digital Archivist for Audiovisual Collections


(Ver traducción española aquí.)

A series of materials from the Kennedy Library’s United States Information Agency Audio Recordings Collection has been digitized and made available in the Library’s digital archives. The Director Edward R. Murrow Recordings, 1961-1965, contains audio recordings of speeches and other public appearances of former United States Information Agency (USIA) Director, Edward R. Murrow. Also included are recorded retrospectives of Murrow’s life and career made following his death in 1965.




JFKWHP-ST-C61-1-61. President John F. Kennedy shakes hands with Edward R. Murrow at Murrow’s swearing-in ceremony as Director of the USIA, 21 March 1961.

[View entire folder here:]




During Director Murrow’s tenure, the USIA acted as an independent foreign affairs agency within the executive branch of the U.S. government. The agency was charged with communicating and promoting U.S. foreign policy and national interests through a wide range of overseas information programs; a key goal was to further mutual understanding between the United States and other nations through educational and cultural activities.

Before joining the USIA, Edward R. Murrow had a long and renowned career as a radio and television broadcast journalist. In one of the earliest recordings in this newly-digitized set—remarks at a luncheon at the National Press Club (USIAAU-002)—Director Murrow makes a humorous reference to his career change:


It is with mingled pleasure and awe that I join you today…pleasure at being again among so many of my former colleagues…awe that I am now the object of those scowling, critical visages among whose array I once sat with my own frowning brow.


The Director Edward R. Murrow Recordings series covers USIA activities, goals, and challenges; communications and media; issues related to the Cold War; and other topics. Recordings of particular interest include:


Please see the collection’s finding aid for more information; we also encourage you to browse the digitized USIA recordings.

Due to copyright concerns, a small number of recordings in this set are not available in our digital archives; please contact our audiovisual reference staff for more information:

More recordings from the United States Information Agency Audio Recordings Collection relating to President Kennedy and his times are currently being digitized and will be available in our digital archives soon.



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Newly Digitized: Civil Rights Materials from the Burke Marshall Personal Papers

by Elyse Edwards, Graduate Student Intern (Simmons College GSLIS)

In times of great struggle and conflict in the South,” Congressman [John] Lewis said, “during the freedom rides of 1961, when young people were being beaten by angry mobs in Montgomery and when fire hoses and dogs were being turned on people in Birmingham, people always said, ‘Call Burke.’”

["Burke Marshall, a Key Strategist Of Civil Rights Policy, Dies at 80," © The New York Times Company, June 3, 2003.]


PX 2006-114


Civil rights-related materials from the Burke Marshall Personal Papers represent the latest addition to the digital archives of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. As Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Burke Marshall oversaw landmark moments in civil rights and was instrumental in developing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The newly-digitized material focuses on civil rights issues such as: desegregation of interstate transportation and travel facilities; school desegregation (including James Meredith’s fight to enter the University of Mississippi); voting rights; and legislation.







A memorandum from Burke Marshall to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy discussing pending civil rights cases, issues, incidents, and Department of Justice actions, 19 November 1962.

[View the entire folder here.]






Burke Marshall was born on October 1, 1922, in Plainfield, New Jersey. He received his undergraduate degree from Yale University before serving as a Japanese translator and cryptanalyst in the United States Army during World War II. After the war, Marshall returned to Yale for his law degree before joining the law firm of Covington and Burling. In 1961, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the post of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, a position he held until 1965. Following his resignation from the Department of Justice, Marshall returned to Covington and Burling before joining I.B.M., where he served as Vice President and General Counsel. In 1970, Marshall accepted a position as Deputy Dean and Professor at Yale, where he taught classes on political and civil rights for over three decades, eventually earning the title of Professor Emeritus.






Note to file by Burke Marshall regarding demonstrations in Jackson, Mississippi, 29 March 1961.

[View the entire folder here.]







As head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, Marshall took immediate action to enforce desegregation in schools and in interstate travel. Never one to send representatives in his stead, he worked directly with affected communities and established relationships within them. In the summer of 1961 Marshall visited every city in the South with schools that were slated for desegregation that fall, speaking with state and local officials and community members to facilitate open dialogue. Marshall preferred to seek resolution through open discourse, a hallmark of his approach to easing racial tensions and encouraging voluntary integration.






A letter from James Meredith to the Justice Department requesting that the federal government step in to enforce integration in public education and protect the rights of all citizens, 7 February 1961.

[View the entire folder here.]





One of the major challenges that Marshall faced was the integration of the University of Mississippi. Marshall spent weeks traveling between Mississippi and Washington, D.C., working with state and local officials to ensure that James Meredith would be admitted peacefully to the school. Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett opposed Meredith’s admission, citing state laws. Despite numerous telephone calls with Marshall and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Governor Barnett refused to uphold the Supreme Court ruling banning segregation in public schools. United States Marshals were sent to the University of Mississippi to maintain peace while the ruling was enforced, leading to a violent confrontation between students and those opposed to the admission of Meredith. Careful preparation and close vigilance by Marshall and RFK, as well as protective details provided by the U.S. Marshals, ensured Meredith’s successful enrollment in the University of Mississippi on October 1, 1962.

Listen to some of the telephone conversations among the President, Attorney General, Governor Barnett, and Burke Marshall here and here.





Transcript of a telephone conversation between Burke Marshall and Governor of Mississippi, Ross Barnett, regarding the admission of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi, 1 October 1962.

[View the entire folder, containing additional transcripts of conversations among the Governor, President Kennedy, and the Attorney General, here.]





Burke Marshall visited the southern states regularly, holding numerous meetings with various leaders including Governor Barnett, Governor George Wallace of Alabama,  as well as mayors, businessmen, and lawyers, to discuss potential solutions for easing racial tensions. The success of civil rights legislation and its implementation was influenced by the tenacious efforts of Marshall and his staff to open up channels of communication and to mediate sharp disagreements within communities. Additionally, Marshall used legal recourse when necessary to enforce civil rights legislation; he and his staff actively applied the rule of law to civil rights cases, a key strategy for enforcing voting rights.





Memorandum from Burke Marshall to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy regarding a letter from NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers about voting rights infringement cases in the South, 15 March 1961.

[View the entire folder here.]











Letter from Burke Marshall to Laura McCray, who was appointed a voting referee in Alabama to ensure fair and lawful registration for all voters, 10 May 1961.

[View the entire folder here.]









At that time, voting restrictions served as a major vehicle of oppression in the South. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and intimidation were mechanisms of discrimination used against African Americans, leaving them unable to exercise their right to vote. The resulting disenfranchisement meant that African Americans were unable to exert any political influence where they lived. To address this problem, Marshall and his team undertook a massive legal effort to guarantee voting rights. To that end, inspections of voting facilities, voting records, and test administrators were conducted in nearly 200 counties to ensure that voting regulations were administered fairly.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, originally proposed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, was the culmination of years of hard work undertaken by Burke Marshall, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and countless others working for, with, and alongside the Department of Justice. Previous civil rights legislation, including the acts of 1957 and 1960, lacked adequate enforcement provisions and their defense relied heavily on the 14th Amendment. Marshall approached civil rights legislation from a different angle, invoking the federal government’s constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce.

As racial tensions grew, the necessity for legislation to protect civil rights activists and civilians and to permit federal intervention became apparent. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a source of heated debate, as many viewed it as a violation of states’ rights. Regardless, it was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964 and was a crowning achievement for those committed to expanding and ensuring equal rights for all Americans. (You can read more about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on our blog and on Tumblr.)

Burke Marshall’s contribution to the field of civil rights is enduring and his role as a consummate public servant was well-recognized. On Marshall’s letter of resignation as Assistant Attorney General, President Lyndon B. Johnson noted, “I have never known any person who rendered a better quality of public service.”

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Newly Processed Collection: Lawrence F. O’Brien Personal Papers

by Abigail Malangone, Processing 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.



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La Biblioteca Kennedy Recuerda Cineasta Robert Drew

por Laurie Austin, Archivera de Referencias Audiovisuales
traducción por David Castillo, Interna en la Biblioteca Presidencial John F. Kennedy


(See English translation here.)

Estamos muy triste saber de la defunción del director de documentales Robert Drew el 30 de julio de 2014. Aunque Drew tenía una carrera larga y distinguida que excedía su connexión con John F. Kennedy, nos detenemos un momento para reconocer la importancia de sus documantales sobre Kennedy: Primary (1960), Adventures on the New Frontier (1961), y Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963).

Al fin de los años cincuenta, Robert Drew desarrolló una nueva technología cinematográfica que cambiaría la producción del cine documental. Su innovación—una cámara portátil que grabó la acción en sincronización con el sonido—hizo possible mirar a los sucesos históricos de nueva manera, segun se iban desarollando. Aunque hoy día este método parece muy normal, en los años cincuenta, fue un avance grande para la technología del cine.

El documental Primary siguió los candidatos John F. Kennedy y Hubert Humphrey durante la elección primaria de Wisconsin en 1960. Era revolucionario con su calidad de inmediatez—un género conocido ahora como cinéma vérité. A continuación, Drew hizo un documental sobre la inauguración de Kennedy y los primeros meses en la Casa Blanca. Esta obra, Adventures on the New Frontier, ofreció una vista franca de las acciones del Presidente en el Despacho Oval.






Memorándum de Robert Drew al presidente-electo Kennedy sobre la logística de rodar la inauguración y transición del Presidente, 30 de diciembre de 1960.






Se puede encontrar la carpeta de documentos digitalizados en:



La inmediatez del cine de Drew llegó a su máxima extensión con Crisis, que trataba de la historia de la integración de la Universidad de Alabama desde las perspectivas de la Casa Blanca y los ciudadanos de Alabama. Al principio, se rechazaron las propuestas de Drew para rodar estos sucesos.







Primera solicitud de Robert Drew a la Casa Blanca sobre el rodaje de Crisis, 2 de mayo de 1963.






Se puede encontrar la carpeta de documentos digitalizados en:








Carta de Secretario de Prensa para la Casa Blanca, Pierre Salinger, a Robert Drew rechazando su propuesta para rodar las acciones del Presidente con respecto al crisis en la Universidad de Alabama, 20 de mayo de 1963.

Se puede encontrar la carpeta de documentos digitalizados en:






No podemos encontrar evidencia escrita que demuestra que el presidente Kennedy tuvo un cambio de opinión sobre el rodaje, pero evidentemente eso ocurrió. Crisis documenta conversaciones importantes y decisiones hechos por el presidente Kennedy durante uno de los conflictos nacionales más intensos de su presidencia.







Borrador del introducción por la Casa Blanca para su próximo documental Crisis, 10 de octubre de 1963.

Se puede encontratr mas narración y transcripsciones de varias partes de la película en:







Tenemos copias de los tres documentales de Robert Drew sobre John F. Kennedy y se puede pedir una cita con el Departamento de Referencias Audiovisuales para verlos. Por favor, manda un correo electrónico a para mas información.




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