From his first day as a United States Senator on January 1st 1937 to within four years of his death in office as a United States Representative on May 30, 1989, Claude Pepper kept a detailed personal account of his life as a public servant. During the summer of 2015, the staff of the FSU Digital Library Center undertook the project of scanning each of Senator Pepper’s 48 diaries and uploading them, as well as their accompanying enclosures and transcripts, into the FSU Digital Library hosted in Islandora. Now, researchers worldwide have the ability to search the diaries online and have access to over forty years of commentary on some of the most significant events of the 20th Century.
A perusal of the Senator’s diaries allows researchers to step inside the mind of one of America’s most active politicians and glimpse firsthand his thoughts on topics ranging from the Lend Lease Bill, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Medicare and Medicaid, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Social Security reform in the 1980s and hundreds of interactions between Pepper and the many influential figures of his day from Eleanor Roosevelt to Tip O’Neil. In addition to this excellent electronic resource, the Pepper Diaries are also available to be viewed in person at the Claude Pepper Library, which opens its doors Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
Today we would like to wish a happy 115th Birthday to Senator Claude Denson Pepper. Claude was born on September 8, 1900 in Camp Hill Alabama, to sharecropper parents Joseph and Lena Pepper, to whom he would remain a devoted son. After graduating with his undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama in 1921, Pepper applied and was accepted to the Harvard Law School Class of 1924. From his youth, Pepper nourished a desire to serve in public office, and after a brief stint as a law professor at the University of Arkansas, he moved to Perry, Florida in 1925 where he established his first law practice. 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, Pepper 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. 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.
During the summer of 2015, the Claude Pepper Library and the FSU Digital Library collaborated to bring the Senators personal diaries to researchers’ fingertips. Scanned by the staff of the digital library, Senator Pepper’s 1937 and 1938 diaries and transcripts are now available to view online in the FSU Digital Library. Over the coming months, the Digital Library will continue to add to the diary collection, one that spanned 48 years from 1937 to 1985. The diaries offer unique insight into one of the more active American politicians of the 20th Century and the 1937 and 1938 diaries are especially unique as they chronicle the young Senators first two years in office; the beginnings of a career that would span over 40 years.