Basil Lee Whitener papers, 1889-1968

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Whitener, Basil Lee, 1915-
Basil Lee Whitener (1915-1989) was a U.S. Representative from Gastonia, N.C. Collection includes correspondence between Whitener and his constituents, other congressmen, and government officials, legislative materials, drafts of bills, financial papers, speeches, invitations, printed material, clippings, photographs, and other papers, chiefly from congressional files (1957-1968), relating to issues of national importance during the 1960s, including the Vietnam War, crime legislation, gun control, riots, civil rights legislation, foreign aid, social security, and the Taft-Hartley Act. Correspondents include Sam Ervin, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Sargent Shriver, and Strom Thurmond.
150 Linear Feet
circa 297,300 Items
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Basil Lee Whitener Papers primarily contain the office files of Congressman Whitener when he was the U. S. Representative for the Eleventh District (85th - 87th Congresses) and Tenth District (88th -90th Congresses) of North Carolina. Although the papers span the years 1889-1968, the bulk of the papers covers Whitener's years in office, 1957-1968. Some of the early files from the 81st through the 84th Congresses, are the papers of Woodrow Wilson Jones, Whitener's predecessor in office.

luded in the papers are such Items as correspondence, printed material, invitations, speeches, clippings, financial papers, photographs, as well as legislative materials and drafts of bills. Much of this collection consists of correspondence between Whitener and his constituents, other Congressmen, and government officials.

The papers are divided into the following series:

  • Political
  • Correspondence (General)
  • Correspondence (Legislative)
  • District of Columbia
  • Judiciary
  • Judiciary Committee
  • Speeches
  • Subject
  • Case Files
  • Textile Imports
  • House of Representatives
  • Military and Veterans
  • Military Academy
  • Trips
  • Post Office
  • Grants
  • Invitations
  • General Information
  • Office Files
  • Office Information
  • Personal

By far the largest category is the Correspondence (General), even though it was weeded extensively. The Correspondence (Legislative) Series is also rather large. Both of these series contain extensive correspondence with constituents. Other large series are the Personal Series, which pertains more directly to Whitener's private and unofficial affairs, and the Office Files Series, containing files which seem to have been in active use by Whitener's office staff at the time he left office.

There are information and opinions in the collection on a variety of issues of national importance during the 1960s. Included are the Vietnam War, civil rights legislation, riots, crime legislation, gun control, foreign aid, Social Security, and the Taft-Hartley Act. Other subjects are the U. S. Congress and various bills and laws. There are a variety of letters from prominent persons, such as John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Sargent Shriver, Strom Thurmond, and Sam Ervin.

The views of Whitener on many national and state issues are revealed within the collection. He supported legislation to combat crime and civil disobedience, a strong national defense, and exerting every effort to bring the Vietnamese Conflict to a successful conclusion. The Congressman was opposed to civil rights legislation, deficit spending, foreign aid spending, and the proliferation of domestic and social programs. Concerning North Carolina issues, Whitener wanted restrictions on textile imports in order to protect jobs, and supported the concept of a balanced economy in the state. As a member of the Committee on the District of Columbia, he authored bills to curb the crime rate in the District of Columbia and a bill to establish a modern rail rapid transit system in the District. In general, Whitener seemed to exhibit the views of conservative Southern Democrats.

Specific subjects are noted in more detail in the inventory. There is some overlap of subjects among the series.

Biographical / historical:
Basil Lee Whitener
Date Event
May 14, 1915
Born in York County, South Carolina.
Graduated from Lowell High School.
Graduated from Rutherford Junior College.
1933 - 1935
Student at University of South Carolina.
Received LL. B. degree from Duke University.
Aug., 1937
Admitted to the North Carolina Bar and entered general practice in Gastonia, North Carolina.
Organizer and first President, Gastonia Junior Chamber of Commerce.
1938 - 1940
Instructor of business law at Belmont Abbey College.
1940 - 1941
Vice President, North Carolina Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Member of the North Carolina House of Representatives. Re-nominated in 1942, but resigned to enter the U. S. Navy.
1941 - 1942
President, North Carolina Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Sept. 26, 1942
Married Harriet Priscilla Morgan. Their children are John Morgan (1945), Laura Lee (1950), Basil Lee, Jr. (1952), and Barrett Simpson (1960).
Oct. 5, 1942 - Nov. 6, 1945
Served as gunnery officer in U. S. Navy during World War II, and was separated from service with the rank of Lieutenant USNR.
Member, North Carolina General Statutes Commission.
1946 - 1956
Solicitor of the 14th Solicitorial District.
1946 - 1947
President, Young Democratic Clubs of North Carolina.
1947 - 1949
Member of Commission to Study Improvement of Administration of Justice.
Delegate, Democratic National Convention.
1948 - 1949
Chairman, Speakers' Bureau, Young Democratic Clubs of America.
Nov., 1949
Permanent Chairman, Young Democratic National Convention.
1949 - 1951
Chairman of Advisory Committee of Young Democratic Clubs of America.
President of Gaston County Bar Association.
Chairman of the Board of Regional Directors of the Young Democratic Clubs of America.
1957 - 1968
Elected to the 85th - 87th Congresses as Representative for the Eleventh District of North Carolina, and to the 88th - 90th Congresses as Representative for the Tenth District of North Carolina.
June 4, 1959
Admitted to District of Columbia Bar.
Honorary LL. D. degree from Belmont Abbey College.
Delegate, Democratic National Convention.
Honorary LL. D. degree from Pfeiffer College.
Returned to the practice of law in Gastonia, North Carolina.

Committee Assignments:

Commmittee on Veteran's Affairs (Jan. 3, 1957 - Jan. 16, 1958)

Committee on the District of Columbia (87th Congress, 1st Session, 1961 - 90th Congress, 2nd Session, 1968)

Special Subcommittee on Metropolitan Police Department, Chairman

Special Subcommittee to Study Revenue Procedures in the District of Columbia, Chairman

Special Subcommittee on Traffic, Streets, and Highways, Chairman

Committee on the Judiciary (86th Congress, 1st Session, 1959 - 90th Congress, 2nd Session, 1968)

Special Subcommittee on State Taxation of Interstate Commerce, Appointed in 1961

In addition, Whitener served on several special committees investigating such matters as interstate taxation, the Chinese refugee problem, the International Police organization, and the International Court of Justice.

Acquisition information:
The Whitener Papers were transferred from Belmont Abbey College in 1978.
Processing information:

Processed by: Sharon E. Knapp

Completed December 22, 1983

Encoded by Stephen Douglas Miller


The arrangement of the Whitener Papers has followed the system originally used by the Congressman's office as much as possible. The series were grouped by placing the more significant and larger series in the beginning. The Personal Series was placed at the end. Although the collection was usually left in the structure it had when it came to the library, many of the folders within the series were in various states of disorder. Rearrangement of the order of these folders was often necessary in order to create a logical organization, whether it be chronological, subject, or some other arrangement. Folder titles remain intact whenever possible, except when clarification was necessary.

Although categories do indicate the contents, headings are not always inclusive. For example, there may be information on a Social Security bill in the Correspondence (Legislative) Series. However, information on the same bill may be located in other series, such as the House of Representatives or Judiciary. Such folders were retained in their original files.

Weeding out of certain material was a necessary part of the cataloging process for the collection. Two series were discarded. They were: the File Cards Series, containing only names and addresses with no other notations; and the Appalachian State Graduates Series, including names and addresses of graduates in the Tenth Congressional District. Routine Items were eliminated from the collection, especially in the Correspondence (General) Series, Subject Series, Case Files Series, and Personal Series. Examples of such Items are individual Social Security claims, visa applications, routine correspondence, and duplicates In the Military and Veterans Series only the files for the letter "C" were retained, as well as a few small subject folders. The majority of the folders in the Military Academy Series was discarded because they were individual application materials and academic records of Whitener's appointees. The same procedures as above were followed for the routine Military and Veterans, and Military Academy files contained in the Office Files Series. For more specific information, see the individual descriptions of series in the inventory.

Subject and autograph cards have been prepared for the card catalog, but they are very selective. Subject entries were made for series level topics, and for those of folder headings, if of sufficient importance. Whenever a subject entry was made, other references in other categories are possible because it was not feasible to specifically cite all references to a topic. Autograph cards were made only for outstanding correspondents, especially those in the Correspondence (General) Series.

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Terms of access:

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. Digitized documents are made available by Duke University Libraries for the purpose of research, teaching, and private study. For all other uses, such as commercial uses, researchers must contact the Rubenstein Library to request permission.

Digitized materials from this collection are made available for use in research, teaching and private study. The digital reproductions have been made available through an evaluation of public domain status, permissions from the rights' holders, and authorization under the law including fair use as codified in 17 U.S.C. ยง 107. Although these materials are publicly accessible for these limited purposes, they may not all be in the public domain. Users are responsible for determining if permission for re-use is necessary and for obtaining such permission. Individuals who have concerns about online access to specific content should contact the Rubenstein Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Basil Lee Whitener Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.