Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wisconsin Library Association Conference - Keynote

Today was the beginning of the WLA Annual Conference. I'll blog what I can. For the opening session I could not blog live (there was access, but I did not yet have the password). I do now, and these notes are adapted from what I typed in Word and pasted here. It is not all complete forewarned.

The keynote was delivered by David Maraniss.

He is a writer from a Madison family and grew up in Madison. He was a writer for the Washington Post and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for articles on Bill Clinton, he has been a finalist at other other times.

He notes that he used to start speeches with his connections to librarians, including aunt, uncle, cousin, and sister (Jean Alexander). He said that he has stopped doing that after hearing his sister come back to his home after a DC conference.

A writer’s life is incredibly boring, about 50-60% is just sitting in a chair writing. He has spent thousands of hours in libraries doing research. Started on Clinton when elected. Living in Austin, found Oxonian, an obscure journal for alumni at UT, and found class notes written by Bob Reich (later Secretary of Labor. Also found 1972 Texas campaign info (Clinton was Texas co-chair) on meeting between McGovern and LBJ at LBJ Presidential Library.

To do the Clinton book, spent time in Arkansas. First day in Hope (Ark) found that half the people claimed to be related to Bill. Motel clerk was great-aunt, invited over to house. Had boxes in attic, effects of grandmother on his mother’s side. Included stash of letters from Georgetown U (1964-68) written to grandmother, also a diary. At University of Arkansas in Little Rock were papers including papers from Fulbright and his last senatorial campaign. Documents from 1974 campaign for Congress.

Hard to find governor documents. Kennedy Library is the tightest and of all the Presidential Libraries, Gerald Ford was the most open.

Moved to Green Bay for 4 months in the winter to work on bio of Lombardi. Deeply Catholic person. Trained by the Jesuits at Fordham. Needed to spend time at Brown County Library. Always go there, is a cardinal rule. Needed to live here to write the chapter on the “Ice Bowl.” Local paper did an article which included phone number. Got lots of calls. Some resulted in contacts that would not have been made otherwise.

Fordham Library was incredibly valuable born Sheepshead Bay, lived in Brooklyn, coached in high school, assistant at Army, assistant for NY Giants. Turned legend on its head: big city kid goes to little town. One of “Seven Blocks of Granite.” Fordham has the actual scrap books from that era. Writers who covered Fordham in that era were Damon Runyon and Grantland Rice.

They Marched in to Sunshine

Protest at UW, and then battle in Vietnam. In 1967, first major war protest which resulted in violence. Asked at Washington Post morgue what was going on in Vietnam that day. Found very small story, where battalion on search and destroy mission where 60 killed, 60 wounded of 140 men. Among those killed was Terry Allen (son of a WWII general), Don Howlett(?) (football player recruited to Army by Lombardi). Then went to LBJ Library to read minutes of meetings LBJ attended. At the very moment of the Vietnam battle Johnson turned to McNamara and asked “How are we ever going to win?” [silent moment.] Also in LBJ archives are the reports from the situation room. It was lied about and presented as a US victory. Also was note from Joe Califano (an aide) about the Madison protest.

State Historical Society has the best collections of alternative newspapers in the world. In danger, and archivist just retired, partly in frustration. Also have archive of other materials including a collection on the San Francisco mime troupe which led the students up the hill. Also, military historians keep very good records. Carlisle PA. Fort McNair found the most important. Interviewed all the survivors could find. Can’t always trust memories. Can trust miniscule, but important details. The rest of chronology can be in error. Military investigation done two-three days after including tape recording of survivors. Wrote report, buried by authorities. Wheaton IL archive operated by Col. McCormack. Includes all the medal winners from 1st Infantry Division. Found papers on commander (general) getting silver star.

Roberto Clemente book

Papers of Branch Rickey are in LoC. After Brooklyn (Dodgers), went to Pittsburg where he got Roberto Clemente. Had male secretary who took notes as Branch Rickey talked at baseball games. Clemente died en route to Nicaragua after a devastating earthquake. Found in National Archives and found State Department papers. Looked at relationship with Samoza government. Nixon concern that there not be a revolution, and good health of Howard Hughes.

Clemente tried to get aid because he had been there a few weeks before with a Puerto Rican team.

Lombardi trove from son – water logged boxes.

Clemente book – lawsuit on the plane crash. All the legal documents were missing. Finally found a lawyer in DC who had three cardboard boxes of documents including depositions about the suit.

Next book, coming out next year: World changing in 1960 with the Olympics: race, cold war, women sports (Wilma Rudolph), television, doping scandal, etc. Began right after Gary Powers spy trial. First black African got gold medal as African nations began independence. East and West Germany competed on a combined team. This time able to ask, “How would you like to go to Rome?” Then went to Lausanne Switzerland to Olympic headquarters and archive.

Owe all librarians a debt of gratitude.

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