All posts by Rob Rubero

Claude Pepper and the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Last week, on July 2nd, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 celebrated its 51st anniversary. Originally pioneered by President John F. Kennedy and called for just a year earlier on June 111963 in his Civil Rights Address, delivered from the oval office. In the wake of President Kennedy’s assassination in late November of 1963, his successor, Lyndon Johnson put his full support behind the passing of the act as not only the needed legislation that it was but also as a eulogy to President Kennedy. President Johnson was aware that the Civil Rights Bill would face resistance in the solidly Democratic South, however, there was one Democrat in the State of Florida with a long history of supporting progressive legislation; Claude Pepper.

Early in his career while a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 1929, Pepper alone, voted against a Florida State Legislature resolution condemning First Lady Lou Henry Hoover’s White House invitation for tea to Mrs. DePriest, the wife of the first black congressman since Reconstruction. 35 years later, Claude would again take a stand that many in his state deemed unpopular, and given that his constituency was well aware of his record, the old statesman was inundated with mail correspondence urging him both toward and away from a vote for the Civil Rights Bill.

These letter excerpts, both for and against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, are great examples of the political currents that flowed through the country during the 1960’s as the initial large scale push for Civil Rights in the United States was reaching its height. The correspondence below is dated mostly from February of 1964, when the voting for the act took place.

Series 309B Box 29 Folder 4
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 4
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 2
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 2
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 9
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 9
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 9
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 9

A firm believer in voting with one’s conscience, Pepper knew that the choice was clear. When the final votes were tallied, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 received zero votes from members from the Deep South and very few from those states on the periphery. The only vote in favor of final passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from Florida was by Claude Pepper. The following year saw the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and ‘yes’ votes from six of Pepper’s colleagues who had voted ‘no’ the previous year. Pepper realized the significance of extending civil rights to all Americans, and consistently supported such legislation throughout his years in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Series 309B Box 29 Folder 9
Series 309B Box 29 Folder 9

For researchers interested in taking a closer look at Claude Pepper and his record on Civil Rights in the United States, please visit the Claude Pepper Library and Museum, Monday through Friday 9AM-5PM.

A Trip to Warm Springs

67 years ago today, Senator Claude Pepper and many of his colleagues in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate along with members of the press and other dignitaries, made their way to Warm Springs, Georgia for the dedication of the Little White House on June 25, 1947.

Pepper and fellow Senators at the Little White House dedication, June 25, 1947.
Pepper and fellow Senators at the Little White House dedication, June 25, 1947.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt built the Little White House in 1932 while still serving as governor of New York, prior to being inaugurated as president in 1933. As a young man, FDR first came to Warm Springs in 1924 hoping to find a cure for the infantile paralysis (later known as polio) that had struck him in 1921. Swimming in the 88-degree, buoyant spring waters did not bring him the miracle cure he sought, but it did bring improvement. During FDR’s presidency and the Great Depression, he developed many New Deal Programs based upon his experiences in this small town. A steadfast proponent of the New Deal and other FDR policies such as the Wage and Hour Bill, Social Security and Lend Lease, Claude was devoted to his commander in chief. When the opportunity to attend the dedication of the now historic site in Warm Springs presented itself, Pepper did not miss the chance. The trip allowed for the attendees to experience a part of the Presidents life that was not widely known to the American public. In an excerpt from a letter to his family written on June 26th 1947, the Senator from Florida wrote of the impactful experience:

“This was one of the most wonderful trips I have ever made. I have never been, you know, to Warm Springs before. About 160 or 170 people went down on a special train. Upon arrival at Warm Springs we were driven to the Warm Springs Foundation area and shown through the Little White House, where the President died, and about the grounds.

Several of us made a trip through many of the wards seeing the patients, talking to the doctors and nurses and seeing the braces which they manufacture for the use of the patients. We also saw the new pool now in the medical area and a few of us went down to see the original pool where the President first began to bathe and where he himself continued to swim until the end.

I wish every citizen could go through this Foundation, not only for the inspiration they would derive from the presence of President Roosevelt that is still felt there but to see the most cheerful, bravest group of people they can see anywhere.”

Little White House dedication event ticket.
Little White House dedication event ticket.
Little White House dedication event schedule.
Little White House dedication event schedule.
Warm Springs Foundation 20th Anniversary booklet.
Warm Springs Foundation 20th Anniversary booklet.

To learn more about Senator Pepper’s time in office or about our related political collections, please visit the Claude Pepper Library website at: https://www.lib.fsu.edu/pepper-library or come in and visit us from Monday through Friday 9am-5pm!

The Claude Pepper Library in Dodd Hall

Last Friday, the Claude Pepper Library at Florida State University celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. Since opening its doors on May 15, 1985 the Pepper Library has provided students and researchers with a place to study and learn, but more importantly, it has provided access to one of the more expansive political collections of the 20th century. In our previous blog post written by Pepper staff member Maria Meade we learned that the original location of the Pepper Library, Dodd Hall, was chosen by both Claude and his wife Mildred for its architectural beauty and the fact that Mildred spent much time there while enrolled as a student at the FSCW when Dodd Hall was the main library on campus having preceded Strozier Library by some 33 years.

From L to R: Frank and Tina Pepper, Senator Claude Pepper and Burt Altman, former FSU Archivist on opening day.
From L to R: Frank and Tina Pepper, Senator Claude Pepper and Burt Altman, former FSU Archivist on opening day.

Interestingly however, the first proposed location for the Pepper Library was indeed the top floor of the Strozier Library Annex. According to the initial proposal for the library, dated June 17, 1977, “material will be housed on a permanent basis in the Strozier Library…A portion of the top floor of the addition [annex] is being planned to house the Pepper Collection. This space will provide storage, study space for students, an office for an archivist as well as space for a replica of the office or offices of Senator Pepper to be arranged to plans formulated with his assistance.” Sadly, Mildred would pass away from esophageal cancer in 1979, and it was during the two year period before her death that the location of the library would be changed from Strozier to Dodd Hall, further honoring Mildred’s time at the university. Thanks to a $475,000 appropriation by the Florida Legislature, Dodd Hall was renovated for its use as the site of the library and museum. The renovations included the restoration of Dodd Hall’s vaulted ceilings, spaces for the Senators recreated House and Senate offices as well as exhibit and research space.

Claude Pepper speaks with the media in the newly opened reading room. Behind him in the distance are his and Mildred's portraits by renowned painter Howard Chandler Christy.
Claude Pepper speaks with the media in the newly opened reading room. Behind him in the distance are his and Mildred’s portraits by renowned painter Howard Chandler Christy.

Dodd Hall would be the home of the Pepper Library for the next eleven years before the collection was moved into storage once more while ground was broken on the site of the new Claude Pepper Center on Call Street. Tune in next week for our post which will give a little history on our current home!

Claude Pepper and the Lend Lease Act of 1941

Committee to Defend America event flyer. Claude Pepper Papers, Series 204D.
Committee to Defend America event flyer. Claude Pepper Papers, Series 204D Box 4 Folder 17.

This year marks the 74th anniversary of the passing of the Lend Lease Bill, which allowed the sale of arms and material to the Allied Nations during the Second World War, aiding the fight against the Axis Nations until American involvement in the war helped to turn the tide fully. The President as well as like-minded Senators such as Pepper and others, knew that American involvement in the war was inevitable and that American Neutrality would last for only so long. It was to this end that President Roosevelt created the Lend Lease Act to “Further promote the defense of the United States” and it was vigorously promoted by Senator Pepper during 1940 and 1941 leading up to the act’s passage into law on March 111941 with aid lasting until September of 1945. In a press release put out on the third anniversary of the passing of Lend Lease on March 111944, Senator Pepper reflected on the benefits of its passage, which provided some $50 billion dollars in aid to Free France, Great Britain, China and the USSR:

“Secretary of War [Henry L.] Stimson has defined Lend Lease as the “program designed to hasten the day of victory by permitting us to put the weapons of victory into the hands of our allies with a flexibility based on strategic considerations.” All over the globe lend lease material and skills supplied by the United States are slowly but surely bringing the enemy to his knees preparatory to the final blow which will forever free the world from the crushing force of aggression. Everywhere that the Nazis and the Japanese are being defeated in battle, lend lease is playing a vital role.” (Claude Pepper Papers, Series 204D Box 4 Folder 17)

Telegram from Pepper to the US Senate urging aid to the Allies. Claude Pepper Papers, Series 431A.
Telegram from Pepper to the US Senate urging aid to the Allies. Claude Pepper Papers, Series 431A Box 14 Folder 18.

Up to this point, 21,000 aircraft had been furnished to the Allies along with 4,700 tanks and tank destroyers, 100,000 sub machine guns and over one million tons of steel and other metals.  Throughout the year of campaigning for the act, the young senator from Florida worked tirelessly for its eventual passage and routinely spoke at events put on by the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. During one such speech given on June 28, 1941, just a few months after the act passed, Pepper called attention to the dire need to continue American support for its allies abroad:

“They [isolationists] are those who said there would be no war in Europe, if Roosevelt did not cause it. They are those who denounced Roosevelt when he said, at Chicago, that the aggressors must be quarantined. They are those who refused to repeal the Arms Embargo and incited Hitler to unloose the dragons of war. They are those who opposed the Selective Service Act; those who fought against the Lend Lease Bill; who have thrown every possible obstacle in the path of the President, the Congress, and the people who have thus far made some contribution to the cause of stopping Hitler.” (Claude Pepper Papers, Series 203 Box 8 Folder 4)

Pepper hung in effigy, August 22, 1940. Image courtesy of the Washington Post.
Pepper hung in effigy, August 22, 1940. Image courtesy of the Washington Post. Claude Pepper Papers, Series 205 Box 1 Folder 15.

This vocal support of Lend Lease as well as the Selective Service Act earned Pepper the dislike of groups such as the Congress of American Mothers, who, fearing that their sons would be called off to fight, gathered in front of the halls of Congress and hung the Senator in effigy. The passing of the Lend Lease Bill is widely regarded as an important piece of legislation with regard to helping shorten the Second World War, which exacted a terrible cost on the world from 1939 to 1945. To learn more about Claude Pepper’s involvement during the War Years and beyond, please visit the Claude Pepper Library online, at our Facebook page or in person from 9 AM-5 PM Monday through Friday.

A Political Odyssey Begins: Claude Pepper’s first month in office

From an early age, Claude Pepper possessed the desire to serve in public office and as a nine year old boy, once carved his name into a tree along with the title ‘U.S. Senator’ underneath. Close to thirty years later, Pepper would realize his lifelong dream after successfully gaining a senate seat during the mid term elections of 1936, where he became and would remain a strong supporter of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies.

CP_US_SENATOR001
From the Claude Pepper Papers; source unknown.

On January 3, 1937, Pepper and his new bride, Mildred arrived in the nation’s capital after spending their honeymoon in Havana, Cuba. That night, the young senator wrote in his diary:

“Mildred and I arrived from our honeymoon 1 A.M. or thereabout and to Wardman Park [hotel] to the bedroom suite we had obtained until our apartment was ready. So here we are, a young bride and groom and young Senator and Senatress in the Capital. We have lots of hard work. No doubt many heartaches ahead of us; but I hope our stay shall be as long as we like it and we shall be able to do a good job and at the same time find our lives here stimulating and challenging. No more thrilling time to be here.”

A newly wed Claude and Mildred Pepper depart Miami for their honeymoon to Havana, Cuba on December 31, 1936.
The Peppers, honeymoon bound on December 31, 1936.

 

Claude would not have to wait long for his predictions to come true. On January 5, 1937, Claude Pepper was officially sworn in for his first term in office alongside fellow Florida Senator Charles O. Andrews.

From left to right, Claude Pepper and Charles O. Andrews are sworn in to office by Vice President John Nance Garner, January 5, 1937.
From left to right, Claude Pepper and Charles O. Andrews are sworn in to office by Vice President John Nance.

The bulk of his first month in office was spent becoming acquainted with his new surroundings on Capital Hill, meeting fellow Senate and House colleagues and moving into more permanent living quarters near DuPont Circle. From his arrival in Washington, Pepper was determined to make a name for himself among his peers and on February 4, 1937 successfully proposed his first of many bills, this one allowing for a harbor dredging project to commence in Port St. Joe, Florida. Just a few weeks later, Claude would break precedent for freshman senators and speak on the senate floor, an act which brought his formidable oratory skills to the attention of President Roosevelt, who would come to lean on Claude to be his mouthpiece for New Deal Legislation in the south. Senator Pepper would also go on to become a strong supporter of the newly created Social Security Act and the chief architect of the Lend Lease Bill, all the while continuing to become one of the more dynamic figures in national politics during the late 1930’s.

Introducing the Claude Pepper Library

The Claude Pepper Library was established in 1985 as the official repository for the Claude Pepper Papers, a unique and multi-faceted collection of manuscripts, photographs, audio/video recordings, and memorabilia documenting the life and career of U.S. Senator and Congressman Claude Pepper (1900-1989).

A campaign card from Claude's 1938 senate bid.
A campaign card from Claude’s 1938 senate bid.

Since that time, the holdings at the Claude Pepper Library, located on West Call Street on the FSU Campus, have grown in size and scope. The Pepper is currently home to 17 collections with varying focuses including the papers of lobbyists, governors, political action groups and those dealing with landmark legal cases.

Our staff consists of Claude Pepper librarian Robert Rubero, archives assistant Mallary Rawls and part time assistant Maria Meade. The mission of the Claude Pepper Library is to support and advance research, teaching and engagement by acquiring, preserving and providing access to collections dealing with the political history of the State of Florida on national and local levels for use by students, faculty and researchers worldwide.

Tallahassee National Organization for Women parade banner ca. 1970's.
Tallahassee National Organization for Women parade banner ca. 1970’s.

At the Pepper Library we also enjoy posting to our Facebook page and enjoy updating our followers through our “Today in Pepper History” posts. More importantly, we offer patrons a firsthand experience with primary source materials from a variety of creators, all giving a glimpse into the political landscape in the State of Florida with a range of over 75 years. The Pepper Library has regularly hosted archives training sessions, class tours and guest lecturers and plans to continue these events in the future. There is also a museum component located in the Pepper Center which chronicles the life of Senator Pepper and is based on his book, Eyewitness to a Century.

Recent projects include the online ingestion of over 6,000 photos from the Pepper Papers, all of which can currently be seen in the FSU Digital Library.

Stay tuned for future blog posts as we bring you more great examples from our collections here at the Pepper Library!

Former Florida governor Spessard Holland during World War I ca. 1918.
Former Florida governor Spessard Holland during World War I ca. 1918.

 

Happy Birthday Claude Pepper!

Claude Pepper speaking before a Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies rally ca. 1940
Claude Pepper speaking before a Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies rally ca. 1940

Born on September 8, 1900 in Camp Hill Alabama, Claude Denson Pepper was a devoted public servant who served the state of Florida for over 40 years as a member of the Florida House of Representatives (1926-27), the US Senate (1936-1950) and the US House of Representatives (1963-1989). During his time in the Senate, he was a proponent of President Roosevelt’s New Deal Legislation and was instrumental in the passing of the Wage and Hour Bill as well as the Lend Lease Act.

In the House of Representatives, he served as an impassioned advocate for elder rights, health care and for strengthening and protecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other government sponsored programs on behalf of millions of Americans. He died in Washington D.C. on May 30, 1989 and was the 26th individual to have lain in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Senator Pepper’s collection resides within the Claude Pepper Library at Florida State University and reflects the many of the challenges and changes that took place in American life throughout his distinguished career. You may see a complete finding aid of the collection here. Topical strengths within the Pepper Collection include aging, Civil Rights, crime and drug prevention, National Health Care, New Deal Legislation, Lend-Lease, McCarthyism, U.S. foreign and domestic policy, welfare and worker’s rights.

The Pepper Library is currently working on re-housing several portions of the Pepper Papers as well as digitizing and making available the Pepper Photograph Collection, portions of which are currently available in the Florida State University Digital Library.

Stay tuned for more posts on the life and papers of Senator Claude Pepper on this blog as we continue to bring more of this great collection to your fingertips. Happy Birthday Senator Pepper!