Benjamin Everett Jordan papers, 1896-1974 and undated

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Jordan, B. Everett (Benjamin Everett)
Textile manufacturer, politician, and United States Senator from North Caroina (1958-1972). Collection includes Senate office files from Jordan's Washington office consisting mainly of correspondence, committee and legislative files, speeches, memoranda, clippings, photographic negatives, and background materials. Topics include public works projects in North Carolina, especially those related to water resources such as rivers, harbors, beaches, inland navigation, flood control, the B. Everett Jordan Lake, and the New Hope Dam. Other subjects represented in the files are U.S. foreign relations, in particular with the Middle East as well as the Vietnam War; agricultural laws; civil rights; school desegregation and busing; pollution; the National Park Service; transportation and highways; social security; public health; the United Nations; the Senate Rules Committee investigation of Bobby Baker, 1963-1966; labor laws; economic policy; library legislation; and economic conditions in North Carolina.
110 Linear Feet
circa 104,000 items
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

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.

Biographical / historical:
Date Event
1896, Sept. 8
Born, Ramseur, Randolph County, N. C., son of the Rev. Henry Harrison and Annie Elizabeth Sellers Jordan
Attended Trinity College (now Duke University), Durham, N.C.
Served with U.S. Army Tank Corps
Served with U.S. Army occupation forces in Germany
Worked in textile mills in Gastonia, N.C., rising to position of superintendent after four years
Married Katherine McLean of Gastonia
Organized Sellers Manufacturing Company at Saxapahaw, N.C., serving thereafter as Secretary-Treasurer and General Manager, and also as an officer in several other textile manufacturing companies
Worked for the successful gubernatorial campaign of Clyde R. Hoey
Worked for the successful gubernatorial campaign of W. Kerr Scott
Chairman of the North Carolina State Democratic Executive Committee
Served as Democratic National Committeeman from North Carolina
Named Alamance County Man of the Year
1958, Apr. 19
Appointed by Governor Luther Hodges to United States Senate seat left vacant by the death of Senator W. Kerr Scott
1958, Nov.
Elected to U.S. Senate for remainder of Scott's term
Member of Senate Post Office and Civil Service Committee
Member of Senate Public Works Committee
Member of Senate Agriculture and Forestry Committee
Member of Senate Rules and Administration Committee, serving as Chairman 1963-1972
Re-elected to Senate for full six-year term, defeating Republican Kyle Hayes
Awarded honorary LL.D. degree by Elon College
Member of Joint Committee on the Library of Congress, serving alternately as Vice-Chairman and Chairman 1963-1972
Member of Joint Committee on Printing, serving alternately as Chairman and Vice-Chairman, 1970-1972
Member of North Carolina Tercentenary Celebration Commission
As Chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, chaired the televised hearings investigating the financial dealings of former Senate staff member Robert G. (Bobby) Baker and associates
Chairman of Joint Congressional Committee on the Inaugural and master of ceremonies at inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson
Member of Library of Congress Trust Fund Board
Re-elected to the Senate, defeating Republican John Shallcross
1972, June
Defeated in Democratic primary runoff election by Congressman Nick Galifinakis
1973, Jan.
Left office and retired to Saxapahaw
1974, Mar. 16
Died, Saxapahaw, N.C., age 77
Acquisition information:
The papers of Benjamin Everett Jordan (1896-1974), textile manufacturer, politician, and United States Senator, were donated to the Rubenstein Library in 1973 by the Senator. A gift from the Jordan family partially supported the processing of the collection.
Processing information:

Accessions from 1973 and an addition (2008-0076) are described in this finding aid.

The Rubenstein Library received the Jordan Papers in packing cases which, when emptied, filled over 1000 Hollinger archival storage boxes occupying over 440 linear feet of shelf space. Most of the papers were filed in good order in well-labelled folders, but the folders--over 5000 of them--had become badly disarranged in transit. The first step in processing was to re-establish the series that had been set up and maintained in excellent fashion throughout Jordan's Senate tenure by his staff, under the continuous direction of William M. Cochrane. The series that came to Duke seemed remarkably complete; no major obvious gaps were found. It is possible, though, that whole sections of sensitive or personal material, along with appointment calendars, staff files, and possibly other records, were removed before the collection was shipped. Nearly all the series and subseries titles used in Jordan's office have been retained; they are consistent and useful guides to the collection. Contents of the majority of folders were arranged in reverse chronological order; that filing order usually was maintained in processing the collection.

The collection contained much published material, much routine material, and many duplicates which were separated from the collection. Selected printed items were offered to other departments in Perkins Library to be considered for addition to the library's holdings. Other categories which were not retained include the large files of service academy applications, local post office matters, routine thank you letters, get well cards, and congratulatory messages; the requests for souvenirs, tours, jobs, or general information handled by all Congressional offices; and most case files (requests by constituents for the Senator's aid usually in personal matters). The publication Records Management Handbook for U.S. Senators and Their Repositories, by Karen Dawley Paul, issued by the U.S. Senate Historical Office in 1985, provided useful guidance in making separation decisions.

Many of the large files of constituent mail on a variety of topics have been sampled. Material constituting between about ten and thirty percent of these files has been retained to illustrate both the nature of public opinion and Jordan's response to it. Files documenting topics of greatest concern to Jordan, the state of North Carolina, the South, or the era--e.g. agriculture, water projects, and foreign relations (especially Southeast Asia)--have been retained virtually intact. Only duplicates and all but a sample of organized pressure mail have been discarded from these parts of the collection.

Bulky envelopes of clippings received weekly by Jordan's office from clipping services were heavily weeded to reduce duplication (e.g. multiple copies of wire service stories) and to remove inconsequential items. Clippings retained were then photocopied to preserve a chronological outline of Jordan's Senate career, including his electoral campaigns of 1960, 1966, and 1972, which are not documented elsewhere in the collection.

Upon receipt of the Jordan Papers in 1973, Duke University Library agreed to restrict access "to any correspondence or memoranda concerning matters of a personal or private nature of any person" until January 3, 1993. Virtually all of the case files for individuals (dealing with employment, military service, pensions, medical care, parole, and the like) have been removed from the collection and disposed of; it appears therefore that this restriction is no longer applicable.

Processed by Ellen G. Gartrell

Assisted by Andrew Neather, Philip Van Vleck, Shawn Wellons, Sandra Yonkoski

Date Completed: May 24, 1989

Encoded by Alvin Pollock

Updated because of addition in November 2008 by Alice Poffinberger and Noah Huffman

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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The copyright interests in the papers of Benjamin Everett Jordan have not been transferred to Duke University.

Contains sleeved negatives; gloves are required when handling.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Benjamin Everett Jordan Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.