Benjamin Everett Jordan papers, 1896-1974 and undated 110 Linear Feet — circa 104,000 items
The papers of B. Everett Jordan span the years 1936 to 1974, with the bulk of the items dating from his years of service in the United States Senate, 1958 to 1972. The collection consists strictly of files from the Senator's Washington office; there are no personal or business papers or materials documenting his political campaigns, the activities of his Senate offices in North Carolina, or political activities prior to 1958. The few pre-1958 items in the collection include background information on several topics and a few files of Jordan's predecessor Senator W. Kerr Scott.
The papers are organized into ten series, most of which are divided into topical subseries. Consisting largely of correspondence, memoranda, legislative documents, and background materials, the collection confirms Jordan's reputation as a diligent and concerned public servant, who was considered by his colleagues to be reliable, genial, and hard-working.
Beginning his service in the Senate at the age of 62, Jordan quickly demonstrated his political savvy and areas of legislative interest. He labored throughout his Senate career on behalf of the interests of agriculture, education, and manufacturing and was proud of his record of doing "the little things" to help his constituents. He worked particularly to encourage the enhancement of water resources in North Carolina, continuing the efforts of W. Kerr Scott on public works projects. His stance on most issues was conservative to moderate. Although usually in accord with his North Carolina colleague Senator Sam Ervin, Jordan at times took an independent stand, casting votes in opposition not only to Ervin but the bloc of other Southern Senators as well, especially from 1964 on.
The Legislation Files contain a complete or nearly-complete record of bills which Jordan sponsored or co-sponsored or on which he participated in debates. In most years, Jordan fell into the bottom third of Senators in terms of numbers of bills which bore his name as sponsor or co-sponsor, though his activity increased over the years. He was a strong proponent of a broad range of major agriculture bills including nutrition programs, farm credit and insurance, agricultural and forestry research, crop marketing, and especially tobacco programs. In the area of natural resources, the files show Jordan's active support for the creation of the Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras National Seashores in North Carolina. Some of the larger files in the Legislative Series contain extensive constituent correspondence related to particular bills. As in most of the series, correspondence with other senators found here is largely routine in nature. There is considerable overlap of topics among the Legislation, Committee, and Subject series, with related material often located, too, in the Writings and Speeches Series and among the Clippings.
The Committee Files are fullest for the Agriculture and Forestry Committee. Documentation of Rules and Administration Committee activity is somewhat limited during the period of Jordan's chairmanship, at least in part because committee chairmen's files are maintained by the committee or with committee records at the National Archives. As Rules Committee chairman Jordan received the most national exposure of his Senate years--and engendered the greatest partisan controversy--presiding at the televised hearings investigating the financial dealings of Robert G. (Bobby) Baker, the former Senate staff member considered a protege of Lyndon Johnson. Although the material in Jordan's papers about the Baker affair is very limited, substantial records of the investigation are preserved at the National Archives (as part of RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate). The Public Works Committee files are also sparse, and only minimal information survives here about Jordan's minor committee assignments.
The Subject Files are the largest part of the Jordan collection; the bulk of these papers consists of constituent correspondence and examples of Jordan's replies, which were most often handled by form letters. Samples of out-of-state mail were also retained in many subseries. The sections on Agriculture, Foreign Relations, and Public Works contain the fullest documentation of Jordan's activities. Other topics of less central concern to Jordan or files containing many repetitions of Jordan's or constituents' opinions, have been sampled, with ten to thirty percent of the original size of the subseries retained. The Foreign Relations files are overwhelmingly devoted to the war in Southeast Asia in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Jordan's incoming mail on this topic shifted increasingly to anti-war opinions with each passing year, and in June 1970, following the invasion of Cambodia, Jordan became the first Southern senator publicly to renounce the Nixon Administration's military policy. The Public Works Files document, often in considerable political and technical detail, Jordan's efforts on behalf of flood control, navigation, and beach protection projects. Notable among the best-documented projects is the New Hope Dam and Reservoir Project in the Cape Fear River Basin, which in 1973 was renamed Jordan Lake in honor of the Senator. Among the smaller files, the Judiciary Files are important in illustrating major concerns of the period, notably civil rights, civil unrest, gun control, and school prayer. While Jordan took a conservative states' rights position on many of these issues, the papers also show that he supported the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972.
The next two series, U.S. and N.C. Government Branches and Departments, further illustrate the diligent activity of Jordan's well-organized staff on behalf of constituents. Only a very few of the large numbers of case files documenting the problems of individuals as they tried to interact with the government have been kept. The letters in the retained files contain constituents' opinions and questions on local, regional, or national issues, along with the replies from Jordan's office and the government agency to which the letter was referred. The U.S. Government series is by far the larger and more informative set of records.
The Federal Loans and Grants Series contains widely varying amounts of information about projects. Some files hold merely notifications of action taken on grants; others contain documented grant applications, clippings, and correspondence which contribute to understanding the interaction of governments for local and regional development.
Miscellaneous Series (so labelled by Jordan's office) consist mainly of General files (correspondence from constituents covering multiple issues), Legislative files (correspondence about multiple bills), and a small number of Personal files (correspondence from personal friends and political allies, often on multiple topics). The letters in these subseries are largely similar to other constituent correspondence. The Personal files contain letters to and from Jordan in his senatorial role, not private correspondence.
The Writings and Speeches Series appears to be a nearly complete record of Jordan's speeches, statements, newsletters, and press releases. Remarks made on the Senate floor in connection with particular bills are filed in the Legislation series.
The Clippings Series was honed down substantially from the hundreds of envelopes sent to Jordan's office by clipping services. Editorials, major news and feature stories, Jordan's regular column ("Senator Jordan Reports"), and cartoons--nearly all from North Carolina newspapers--were retained; thousands of duplicates, minor news stories, and general background articles on most topics were discarded.
The single folder of oversize material contains several large maps of flood control projects and a full-page campaign advertisement from a newspaper.
The Photographs Series contains negatives for photographs taken of Jordan while he carried out his Senate duties, 1958-1972. Jordan is the primary subject of each photograph, although several photos feature Jordan with others, most often his wife, visitors, or fellow Senate members, including Sen. John Kennedy and Vice-president Lyndon Johnson.
The Jordan papers are useful for documenting Jordan's public career in the Senate and his views on many issues but not his personal life or private thoughts. In addition the extensive incoming correspondence provides an overview of public concerns on many issues of the period and documents the sense of regional and national crisis that was widespread especially in the mid-to-late 1960s. The correspondence throughout the collection includes scattered letters from a number of prominent North Carolina and national politicians, agricultural and business leaders, but these have not been indexed. The Jordan Papers are complemented by the papers of Senator Samuel J. Ervin, which are housed in the Wilson Library, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Ervin's Senate service, from 1954 to 1974, closely paralleled Jordan's; the two collections together extensively document on a regional and national level many of the political, economic, and social concerns of the era.