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Jack Anderson papers

 Collection
Identifier: MS2001
This collection includes articles, correspondence, index cards, book manuscripts, notes, government documents, legal documents, reports, scripts, photographs, drawings, audiovisual recordings, and artifacts that document the professional and, to a lesser extent, personal life of investigative journalist Jack Anderson. Items date from Anderson’s childhood in the 1930s to 2005, the year of his death.

The materials in this collection were used and produced by Jack Anderson during every stage of his writing process, from the reporter’s notes, correspondence, and research materials he gathered while working on a story, to the draft and final articles he produced, to the extensive article index he and his staff maintained. The collection also documents Anderson’s work as a television and radio personality, author, frequent speaker, nonprofit leader, and even occasional cartoonist.

Cultivating sources who provided him with exclusive access to classified information, Anderson reported on an extraordinary range of topics and individuals in his half-century of investigative work. Topics of particular interest represented in Anderson’s columns include: the investigation of corruption by Senator Thomas Dodd, organized crime, the Kennedy assassination, the CIA-Mafia plot to kill Fidel Castro, Chappaquiddick, Watergate (Anderson published leaked grand jury testimony), U.S.-Pakistan relations during the Indo-Pakistani War (for which Anderson received the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1972), fugitive Nazis, the activities of the FBI under Herbert Hoover, the white supremacist group the Liberty Lobby and other far-right organizations, the death of Howard Hughes, the ITT Corporation/Nixon Administration scandal, the ABSCAM public corruption investigation, the investigation into fugitive financier Robert Vesco, the Iran-Contra scandal, and the activities of innumerable Washington agencies, elected officials, and bureaucrats. For a time in 1972, Anderson was himself monitored by the CIA in the so-called "Operation Mudhen." In his columns, Anderson championed the cause of everyday Americans against the intrusions of large, sometimes corrupt institutions, motivated by the principle that (in his own words), “life is not just a struggle between evil and good but between coercion and freedom.”

The collection was donated by the Anderson family in 2005.

Some records in this collection are restricted for 25 years from the date the collection was given to Gelman Library, in 2007. These records include both classified government documents and materials that may reveal sources who wished to remain anonymous. Gelman Library will open the materials beginning in 2032, which may involve having their security classifications reviewed by appropriate government agencies.

Dates

  • 1930-2004
  • Majority of material found within 1969 - 2004

Creator

Restrictions on Access

This series contains some items that are restricted for 25 years from the date the collection was given to Gelman Library, in 2007. Restricted items have been removed from their original files, placed in parallel files, and replaced with a separation sheet. Gelman Library will open the materials beginning in 2032, which may involve having their security classifications reviewed by appropriate government agencies.

Restrictions on Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Extent

248 Linear Feet (450 document boxes, 21 flat boxes, 1 record center box and 1 object)

Abstract

Jack Northman Anderson (1922-2005) was an investigative journalist, author, television personality, and for over 50 years the columnist behind the syndicated political column "Washington Merry-Go-Round." Cultivating sources who provided him with exclusive access to classified information, Anderson became the longest-running political columnist in America, appearing at one point in more than 1,000 American newspapers and claiming 40 million readers. He received the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1972. In addition to his daily column, Anderson maintained a high-profile presence in television, radio, and magazines, and he wrote or co-wrote 17 books.

Historical or Biographical Note

Jack Northman Anderson (1922-2005) was an investigative journalist, author, television personality, and for over 50 years the columnist behind the syndicated column “Washington Merry-Go-Round.”

Anderson was born in Long Beach, CA on October 19, 1922, to Orlando and Agnes Mortensen Anderson, devout Mormons who moved the family to Utah when Jack was two years old. (Many sources, including the New York Times obituary, identify him as Jackson Northman Anderson, but this is incorrect; his given name was Jack.) He was a precocious journalist in small-town Utah. At 12 years old, he began writing the Boy Scout column for local newspaper The Deseret News, and soon graduated to covering local news for The Murray Eagle newspaper. In high school, he edited the school newspaper The Granitian while serving as president of his class.

Anderson briefly enrolled at the University of Utah until, as a practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he undertook a mission through the American south in 1941. Upon his return, he volunteered for the Merchant Marine, first serving as a war correspondent in occupied China until 1945, when he was inducted into the Army, and then serving in the Quartermaster Corps and writing for Stars and Stripes newspaper. At war’s end, a colleague in the Associated Press suggested he go to Washington, D.C. to inquire about a job with Drew Pearson, the investigative journalist who had written the daily “Washington Merry-Go-Round” column since 1932. Pearson hired Anderson in 1947.

Anderson began covering Congress for Pearson, persuading sources to tell him what happened in closed-door meetings and to give him verbatim transcripts and government documents to support his stories. He soon came to believe that government documents were being classified and hidden from the public not for national security purposes but to protect embarrassing or even illegal activity. He intended, as he described it in his autobiography Peace, War, and Politics, “to give the people an alternative to the official version of things, a rival account of reality, a measure for judging the efficacy of rulers and whether the truth is in them.” Anderson ultimately became a full partner in Pearson’s column, and succeeded Pearson as its author upon his death in 1969. He would write the column daily, along with a team of reporters, until 2004.

Cultivating sources who provided him with exclusive access to classified information, Anderson reported on an extraordinary range of topics and individuals in his half-century of investigative work. Topics of particular interest represented in Anderson’s columns include: investigation of corruption by Senator Thomas Dodd, organized crime, the Kennedy assassination, Chappaquiddick, Watergate (Anderson published leaked grand jury testimony), U.S.-Pakistan relations during the Indo-Pakistani War (for which Anderson received the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1972), fugitive Nazis, the activities of the FBI under Herbert Hoover, the white supremacist group the Liberty Lobby and other far-right organizations, the death of Howard Hughes, the ITT Corporation/Nixon Administration scandal, the ABSCAM public corruption investigation, the investigation into fugitive financier Robert Vesco, the CIA-Mafia plot to kill Fidel Castro, the Iran-Contra scandal, and the activities of innumerable Washington agencies, elected officials, and bureaucrats. For a time in 1972, Anderson was himself monitored by the CIA in the so-called "Operation Mudhen." In his columns, Anderson championed the cause of everyday Americans against the intrusions of large, sometimes corrupt institutions, motivated by the principle that (in his own words), “life is not just a struggle between evil and good but between coercion and freedom.”

Day by day for over 50 years, Anderson reported on activities in Washington for the benefit of those far outside of it, breaking scandals and often raising the ire of bureaucrats in order to keep the government accountable to the people. Washington Merry-Go-Round was the longest-running political column in America, appearing at its peak in more than 1,000 American newspapers and claiming 40 million readers.

In addition to his daily column, Anderson maintained a high-profile presence in television, radio, and magazines, and he wrote or co-wrote 17 books, including his autobiography Peace, War, and Politics: An Eyewitness Account (1999). He had a daily syndicated radio show on the Mutual Broadcasting Network, reporting on many of the same topics that appeared in his columns. He was the Washington Bureau Chief of Parade Magazine, frequently contributing stories about Washington for a broad national audience. And he was a featured commentator on Good Morning America for nine years and hosted several television specials including Target: USA (1989) and Who Murdered JFK? (1988). To a generation of readers and viewers, Anderson was a household name.

Not only a journalist, Anderson was also a crusader for causes close to his heart, founding and serving on boards of nonprofit advocacy groups promoting fiscal responsibility and educational reform. Anderson co-founded the think tank and advocacy group Citizens Against Government Waste with J. Peter Grace in 1984 in order to eliminate inefficiency and mismanagement in government. He also founded the Young Astronauts Council by persuading President Ronald Reagan in 1984 to charter an organization to motivate students to focus on math and science in school. In addition, he was among the founders of the Center for the School of the Future at Utah State University.

Jack Anderson died in 2005 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. He is survived by his wife, Olivia, and their nine children.

Arrangement

Collection: Organized into 15 series: Merry-Go-Round columns; Index cards; Other Anderson publications; Research files; Correspondence; Television, radio, and film; Business, charity, and legal; Reporter's notes; Cartoons; Photographs; Audiovisual; Personal; Artifacts; Anderson FBI Files Obtained by National Security Archive; and Daryl Gibson research files from Peace, War, and Politics.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated by the Anderson family in 2005.

Related Archival Materials

The Washington Merry-Go-Round papers of Anderson's longtime collaborator Drew Pearson are held at American University Archives and Special Collections.

The personal papers of Drew Pearson are held at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas.

The personal papers of Jack Anderson's father Orlando Anderson, which document Jack Anderson's youth and family history to some extent, are held at Brigham Young University.

Processing Information note

Because some items in the collection arrived unfoldered and others in folders without clear labels, it was often a challenge to establish the material's provenance and original order. When these were in doubt, archivists relied upon grouping materials by their format, subject, and the activities that they documented.
Title
Guide to the Jack Anderson papers, 1930-2004
Status
completed
Author
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Date
2010
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

Contact:
2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America