All posts by Rob Rubero

Maggie Kuhn, Claude Pepper and the Repeal of Mandatory Retirement

“Some persons dodder at 30, others at 80, and some pass through life without “doddering” at all. Our concern should be with competency, not age, race, sex or religion” – Representative Claude Pepper, 1986

There was a time for many professions in the United States when a person’s 65th birthday signaled the end of their working days. During the 1960’s and 70’s, approximately 40 to 50% of the American workforce were covered by compulsory retirement laws. These laws were amended in 1978 and raised the age to 70, but in February of 1986, legislation was introduced by Claude Pepper (who was 86 at the time) to ensure these policies would no longer endure in the United States. This weekend marked the 34th anniversary of the passage of the Age Discrimination in Employment Amendments. The amendments removed, with very few exceptions, the previously mandated retirement age allowing the majority of Americans to work as long in their chosen career as they were able to.

Maggie Kuhn and Claude Pepper speaking with each other and co-hosts Hugh Downs (left) and Frank Blair (far left) on the television show “Over Easy” in September of 1980. The discussion was titled “Growing Older: The Next 20 Years.”

From the political side of the aisle, Pepper was considered by many to be a champion of the rights of elder Americans. Maggie Kuhn, the founder of the Gray Panthers, was also a champion for those same Americans. It was due in no small part to her lobbying efforts that the retirement age amendments of 1978 were successfully passed. She believed that young and old adults should be integrated in social justice movements, often underscoring this by saying “Every one of us is growing older.” In the 1970’s and 80’s it was not uncommon to see Pepper and Kuhn working together to promote the legislation and ideals that worked toward this integration.

A letter from Mr. & Mrs. Julius Gordon of Miami, Florida to Rep. Pepper. In it, Mrs. Gordon details her following of Pepper and Kuhn in their efforts for elder Americans.

Speaking a few days after the amendments were signed into law on October 31st, Claude Pepper remarked that “this bill means that for millions of elderly Americans, the blessings of a 70th birthday will not become a death sentence against their working lives. This new las is an important step in guaranteeing the elderly of this nation a fundamental civil right – the right to work as long as they are willing and able.”

A cartoon from the 1980’s by artist Jerry Barrett. Pepper was often depicted as a champion of the elderly in popular media.

Solar Energy: A Brief Look Back

In the early 1970’s the United States was in the midst of an energy crisis. Massive oil shortages and high prices made it clear that alternative ideas for energy production were needed and solar power was a clear front runner. The origins of the solar cell in the United States date back to inventor Charles Fritz in the 1880’s, and the first attempts at harvesting solar energy for homes, to the late 1930’s. In 1974, the State of Florida put it’s name in the ring to become the host of the National Solar Energy Research Institute.

Site proposal for the National Solar Energy Research Institute. Claude Pepper Papers S. 301 B. 502 F. 4

With potential build sites in Miami and Cape Canaveral, the latter possessing the added benefit of proximity to NASA, the Florida Solar Energy Task Force, led by Robert Nabors and endorsed by Representative Pepper, felt confident. The state made it to the final rounds of the search before the final location of Golden, Colorado was settled upon, which would open in 1977. Around this same time however (1975), the Florida Solar Energy Center was established at the University of Central Florida. The Claude Pepper Papers contain a wealth of information on Florida’s efforts in the solar energy arena from the onset of the energy crisis, to the late 1980’s.

Carbon copy of correspondence between Claude Pepper and Robert L. Nabors regarding the Cape Canaveral proposed site for the National Solar Research Institute. Claude Pepper Papers S. 301 B. 502 F. 4

Earlier this year, “Tallahassee Solar II”, a new solar energy farm, began operating in Florida’s capitol city.  Located near the Tallahassee International Airport, it provides electricity for more than 9,500 homes in the Leon County area. With the steady gains that the State of Florida continues to make in the area of solar energy expansion, it gets closer to fully realizing its nickname, “the Sunshine State.”

Catastrophic Health Care: A Goal Not Met

In the Summer of 1987, Representative Claude Pepper introduced House Resolution 2654. In it a request was made to establish a 12-member committee charged with providing recommendations to Congress for a comprehensive health care program for all Americans. In October of 1988, Pepper was appointed as the chairperson of the United States Bipartisan Commission on Comprehensive Health Care. The committee’s findings indicated that the majority of Americans were prohibited at some level from obtaining adequate health care due to the high costs associated with medical treatment, particularly for long-term and catastrophic illness.  

Throughout his career, Pepper was uniquely devoted to the idea of comprehensive health care coverage. In 1937, during his first term as Senator, he co-authored legislation establishing the National Cancer Institute. Throughout the remainder of his career, he was instrumental in establishing an additional thirteen National Institutes of Health. Beginning in 1946, Pepper began efforts to muster support for the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill. A proposal to institute a national health care and hospital system intended to ease the hardship that America’s health care system imposed on those least able to afford it, the bill failed to gain traction or support.

For the next thirty years, the possibility of a National Health Care system continued to remain on the forefront of Pepper’s agenda. His last legislative efforts began in 1987. After the Bipartisan Commission, Pepper and his colleagues in the House began to craft what would become the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988. The bill was designed to improve acute care benefits for the elderly and disabled, which was to be phased in from 1989 to 1993.The act was meant to expand Medicare benefits to include outpatient drugs and set a cap on out of pocket medical costs. It was the first bill to significantly expand Medicare benefits since the program’s inception. Although the bill passed easily with initial support, the House and Senate repealed it a year later in response to widespread criticism over projected government costs.

Senator Pepper died in May of 1989, not seeing his goal of a national health care system achieved. Today the work toward that goal continues, and if you are interested to learn more about the history and evolution of the path toward affordable and equitable health care coverage for all Americans, the Pepper Papers, and all of our political collections, are searchable online.

Claude Pepper speaking at the Aging Subcommittee on Health Maintenance and Long Term Care hearing. Claude Pepper Papers Photo B(1397)-01.

Remembering Senator Claude Pepper

Social Security, minimum wage, and the National Institutes of Health. These are just a few of the ways that Claude Denson Pepper left his mark on American politics. He was born in rural Alabama, the eldest of four children to Joseph and Lena Pepper, on September 8, 1900. From these humble beginnings, Pepper would come to serve the people of Florida as a U.S. Senator (1936-1950) and Representative (1963-1989). In his later years as a U.S. Representative, he was a champion of the elderly; crafting and supporting legislation that was geared toward ensuring elder Americans were allowed to age and finish their lives with care and dignity.

Claude Pepper lying in state under the Capitol Rotunda, June 12, 1989. Claude Pepper Papers Photo A(238). [see original object]

This Saturday, May 30, marks the 31st anniversary of Senator Pepper’s passing. When he died on May 30, 1989, Pepper was the eldest sitting member of Congress. He was honored by laying in state under the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for three days before making his way to Tallahassee to be laid to rest next to his wife Mildred. Special Collections & Archives honors the Senator and encourages you to visit our online resources on Pepper, including diaries, photographs and manuscript material, to better acquaint yourself with one of the most active figures of 20th Century American politics.

Congressional Record, May 31, 1989. Senator Bob Graham (D, FL.) eulogized the life and career of Senator Pepper the day after his passing and the occasion was remembered on this specially printed copy of the Congressional Record. Claude Pepper Papers, MSS 1979-01, S.305 B.66 F.8

Remembering the Tallahassee Bus Boycott at 64

Today marks the 64th anniversary of the Tallahassee Bus Boycott. In the spring of 1956, Florida A&M students Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson boarded a Tallahassee bus and took seats of their own choosing. Because these seats were in the “whites only” section of the bus, Jakes and Patterson were arrested by the Tallahassee Police Department, prompting fellow students, citizens and city leaders to take action. The two students were arrested on a Saturday. On Sunday, May 29, the area Ku Klux Klan burned a cross outside of the residence hall where Jakes and Patterson lived. By Monday the 30th, the student body of Florida A&M University convened and voted to boycott the city buses. That evening, a meeting was called by Reverend C.K. Steele to discuss the boycott and seek support from the community, thereby creating the Inter-Civic Council (ICC).

Over the course of the next seven months, the African American community of Tallahassee worked together to support themselves in making their way to work, school and religious services through a carpool service, which was eventually suspended after growing violence over the boycott. On January 1, 1957, Governor LeRoy Collins, himself a Tallahassee native, officially suspended the bus service until segregated seating was removed. However, due to poorly disguised rephrasing of the policy that included seating based on “tranquility and good order”, the bus system in Tallahassee would not truly be desegregated for another year. Those who joined Wilhelmina Jakes, Carrie Patterson and the students of Florida A&M University including Rev. Steele, Daniel Speed, and many others from the then 10,600 African-American residents of Tallahassee, were met with resistance from most white members of the Tallahassee community who felt racial segregation should remain in place.

The voices of many of the participants of the Tallahassee Bus Boycott of 1956 can be accessed through the transcripts available through the FSU Special Collections & Archives department. The Tallahassee Civil Rights Oral History Collection and the Reichelt Oral History Collection provide glimpses into this important moment in Florida, and national history, with researchers being able to read the words of Rev. Speed, King Solomon Dupont, LeRoy Collins, Daniel Speed and others. Though 64 years may feel like a long time, we are not that far removed from the events of the Bus Boycott. With racial tensions still ever present, immersing ourselves in and understanding our history can better help us plan for the future.

An unfortunate reminder of the past. A letter from Edgar S. Anderson urging FSU President Doak S. Campbell to expel any FSU Students involved with the Bus Boycott, 01/21/1957. Office of the President Papers HUA 2018-062 [see original digital object]

A moment on the Equal Rights Amendment

On March 22, 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by the US Senate and sent to the states for ratification. The central idea behind the amendment is simple: all American citizens, regardless of gender, have equal rights before the law. Almost fifty years later, the amendment has still not passed, as only 35 of the 38 states necessary ratified the amendment. In 1923, the initial version of the Equal Rights Amendment was brought before the United States Congress by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman. On January 21,  1943, Senator Claude Pepper spoke before the 78th Congress on behalf of the E.R.A:

            “…I feel, therefore, that the trend toward women enjoying equal rights has progressed until today they are entitled to enjoy all rights equally with all human beings, and that sex is not a sufficient line of demarcation for different rights. There may be instances where there would be a difference in duties, but that will depend upon the ability of the person or persons affected to perform the obligation required, not to their rights equally to share and to enjoy the benefits which are derived from citizenship and equality due to all.

            When the Declaration of Independence was written, and those moving words that “all men are created equal” were incorporated therein, to lift the hopes and the hearts of the oppressed everywhere in the world. I do not believe that Thomas Jefferson was thinking only of mankind which happened to be masculine in sex. I think he spoke about human beings, and therefore that it is in accordance with the principles of the Declaration of Independence to say that women are born equal with men in the rights of citizenship and civil prerogatives.

            I hope, therefore, that this may be the last hurdle which it will be necessary to surmount; that the race to bring equality, complete freedom, independence, and liberty for women shall at long last be won.” – Claude Pepper Papers MSS 1979-01 S. 303A B. 2 F. 8

The hurdles unfortunately continue. Since the introduction of the E.R.A, Senator Pepper’s speech, and the passage of the amendment in the Senate in March of 1972, individuals, and civic action groups such as the National Organization for Women, and the League of Women Voters, and many others have continued to champion the E.R.A.

Pamphlets about the E.R.A. collected by the Tallahassee National Organization for Women, ca. 1970’s-80’s. MSS 2008-033 S. 1 B. 15 F. 1
Illustrated informational handout about the E.R.A., ca. 1970’s. MSS 2008-033 S. 1 B. 16 F. 6

Letter writing campaigns, marches and public awareness raising activities for the E.R.A. are well documented in the Tallahassee N.O.W. and Tallahassee League of Women Voters chapter records. The digitized newsletters of each organization provide week to week updates on the key developments with the E.R.A during the 1970s and 1980s.  On January 15, 2020, Virginia’s General Assembly ratified the amendment, moving the conversation forward once more. While the future remains deeply uncertain, researchers can look to the past for inspiration.

Claude Pepper and the National Institutes of Health

This Tuesday, April 7, was World Health Day, and to celebrate, we’re shining a spotlight on the work of Senator Claude Pepper and his role in expanding the National Institutes of Health. Established in 1887, the primary location of the National Institute of Health is based in Bethesda, Maryland. Originally known as the Hygienic Laboratory, it was re-designated in 1930 to the NIH. Claude Pepper was elected to the United States Senate seven years later. At that time, apart from the National Institute of Health, only the National Cancer Institute functioned as national research institutions for combating infectious disease.

In 1943, the United States was in the midst of a global war against the Axis Powers. In the States, advances in medicine were needed both at home and on the battlefield. That year, the Senate Subcommittee on Wartime Health and Education was formed to address the health and education challenges then facing the United States. Having a keen interest in securing healthcare for all Americans, Pepper would be appointed chair of the Health and Education Subcommittee, and he made it his mission to secure greater funding for and expand the scope of the Institute. Within the year, the National Cancer Institute would become a division of the National Institute, and in 1948, the name was changed once more to the National Institutes of Health.

Pamphlet included in a packet created by the Health and Education Subcommittee on the National Institutes of Health, March 1949. Claude Pepper Papers, MSS 1979-01, S. 431A B. 12 F. 16
Pamphlet included in a packet created by the Health and Education Subcommittee on the National Institutes of Health, March 1949. Claude Pepper Papers, MSS 1979-01, S. 431A B. 12 F. 16

By 1950, Senator Pepper would serve as the chief sponsor for 5 additional Institutes including the National Institutes of:

  • Mental Health
  • Heart, Lungs and Blood
  • Allergy and Infectious Disease
  • Neurological and Communicative Disorders
  • Arthritis, Diabetes, and Digestive & Kidney Diseases

“Background on the Nation’s Health” – a report generated for the Health and Education Subcommittee on the National Institutes of Health prepared in March of 1949. Claude Pepper Papers, MSS 1979-01 S. 431A B. 12 F. 16

With his political career ended for a time in late 1950, Pepper would be out of politics until he ran for and won a US House seat in 1962. This brief period outside of national politics did nothing to slow him down, however. Between 1961 and 1974, there were five more institutes established:

  • Child Health & Human Development
  • General Medical Sciences
  • Environmental Health Services
  • National Eye Institute
  • the National Institute on Aging

In 1967, Pepper was presented with the Albert and Mary Laskin Award. Presented to those individuals who have made major contributions to the field or medical science or to those performing great public service on behalf of medicine, Pepper was awarded for serving as the principal sponsor for all but one National Institute of Health (Dental Research) from 1950 to 1967.

The Albert and Mary Lasker Award, presented to Representative Claude Pepper for his work in promoting public health awareness. November 9, 1967. Claude Pepper Papers, MSS 1979-01

The National Institutes of Health are currently made up of 27 member institutions across the United States, each with a specific research agenda, though all with the same goal of improving the lives of Americans through medical advancement. Currently NIH researchers are engaged in efforts to combat the COVID-19 virus, and their website provides up to date information and helpful tips for keeping safe.

One Giant Leap: Remembering the Apollo 11 Mission 50 years later

The Apollo 11 mission, commissioned by President Kennedy in 1961, sought to “perform a crewed lunar landing and return to earth” (nasa.gov). It was the first mission of its kind and dramatically changed the landscape of the Space Race in the 1960s and 1970s. The Space Race was an ongoing contest between the United States and the Soviet Union, where each country sought to outshine the other. With the Apollo 11 mission, however, the Space Race reached its apex, for on July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 crew landed on the moon and planted the United States Flag on the lunar surface. 

AS 11 Neil Armstrong
Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander, inside the Lunar Module (LM) while the LM rested on the lunar surface. Photo comes from the Spessard Holland Papers, MSS 1976-005.

To commemorate and memorialize this momentous occasion, the Claude Pepper Library will be hosting an exhibit on the Apollo 11 mission from July 16 to December 16, 2019. We will have on display numerous photographs, correspondence, and other materials related to the mission including a large photograph of Astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing next to the American flag planted on the moon’s surface. The exhibit will consist of three thematic parts: earlier space programs in Florida, materials relating to the Apollo 11 landing, and FSU’s reaction to the landing. Sample materials selected include photos of the crew with Florida governors and legislators, the poster for the mission, and additional correspondence about the impact of the mission on Florida’s cultural memory.

AS 11 Buzz Aldrin on moon
Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, walking near the Lunar Module during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity. Photo comes from Spessard Holland Papers, MSS 1976-05.

More importantly, the Apollo 11 mission strikes near to the hearts of many Floridians. Launched from Cape Kennedy in Cape Canaveral, the mission has become a major part of our cultural identity as Floridians and as Americans. Throughout the country this year, festivities and celebrations are occurring to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch. According to nasa.gov, almost 650 million people heard Armstrong utter those famous words “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” And these words have stayed with us, are woven into our cultural fabric. We should be proud of this achievement; on the 50th anniversary of the launch, let us celebrate this momentous occasion in American history.

The images in this post come from the Spessard Holland Collection. To learn more about this collection, please see its finding aid.

The exhibit is available in the Claude Pepper Library which is open Monday-Friday, 9am to 5pm.

NASA AS 11 Photo of Earth
Most of Africa and portions of Europe and Asia can be seen in this spectacular photograph taken from the Apollo 11 spacecraft during its translunar coast toward the moon. Photos comes from Spessard Holland Papers, MSS 1976-05.

What They Fought: Resistance to Integration and the Path to the 1956 Tallahassee Bus Boycott

In the spring of 1956, after students Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson from Florida A&M University, were arrested and jailed for refusing to leave the “whites only” section of a Tallahassee bus, the African-American community of the city rallied together to boycott the city bus service and take a stand for their civil rights and the belief that the color of their skin should not leave them subject to discrimination and fear. Those who participated in the boycott, including Rev. C.K. Steele, Daniel Speed, Jakes and Patterson and many others from the then 10,600 African-American residents of Tallahassee, were met with resistance from bigoted members of the Tallahassee community that felt racial segregation should remain the law of the land. What factors contributed to a mindset that would allow for one group to so poorly treat another?

A new exhibit now open at the Claude Pepper Library seeks to illustrate the kind of resistance that the Bus Boycott participants faced in their endeavors to secure fair and impartial treatment in a city that they too, called home. Guests are invited to visit the Claude Pepper Library and explore the exhibit on the Tallahassee Bus Boycott of 1956 which is open to the public now, through the early fall of 2018. Using primary source documents, ephemera and photographs that provide a deeper context for the events that began to take place in May of 1956, Special Collections & Archives provides a look into the social and political climate in the State of Florida leading during the time of the Bus Boycott. Guests are also able to listen to audio recordings of boycott participants and witnesses, including the Reverend C.K. Steele, Daniel Speed and Governor LeRoy Collins. The Claude Pepper Library and Museum are open Monday through Friday from 9:00AM to 5:00PM, call (850) 644-9217 or email Political Papers Archivist Robert Rubero (rrubero@fsu.edu) with any questions.

Giving more context with artifacts: the Reubin Askew Papers

Often, it is the memorabilia and ephemera of a politician or public figure that offers the most insight into that individual’s life and work. Recently, the staff of the Claude Pepper Library and Museum completed the physical processing of former Governor Reubin Askew’s personal and professional memorabilia, adding a variable trove of new material to the finding aid of the State of Florida’s 33rd governor. From his U.S. Air Force  issue belt and garrison cap(he served from 1951-53), to one of his blue collared shirts which he dutifully wore during his many press conferences as governor, these items add an invaluable layer of context to Askew’s already existing collection of manuscript materials that chronicle his time as governor, U.S. Foreign Trade Representative and runs for president in 1984 and U.S. Senate in 1987. Please visit the Claude Pepper Library and Museum website for further information on our collections and potential opportunities for learning and exploring our political collections!

Askew_pencils
Colored pencils used by Reubin Askew during the Florida Senate reapportionment of 1960.