Scope and Contents

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The papers of Senator John J. Williams span the dates 1946- 1988, with the bulk of the collection representing the years of his career in the U.S. Senate, 1947-1970. The collection consists of nearly 150 linear feet of papers and also includes scrapbooks, books, photographs, and film and sound recordings. For the most part, the arrangement of the collection reflects the original filing series of Senator Williams's office. The collection is divided into 25 series which are organized under four record subgroups. The first three subgroups--Legislative Staff/Office Files, Constituent Correspondence and Cases, and Administrative and Personal Office Files--consist of series that document the work performed in office by Senator Williams and his staff. The subgroups reflect the functions of the Senator's work and include series typical of a congressional collection.

Duties reflected in the Legislative Staff/Office Files include committee, legislative, and investigative work. The Constituent Correspondence and Cases subgroup includes materials created in response to the concerns and interests of constituents, and those filed on receipt of issue-related opinions from the general public. The Administrative and Personal Office Files reflect the management of the office and the Senator's personal schedule.

The fourth subgroup, Personal, includes series of files and other formats that document the personal activities and opinions of Senator Williams. The material in these files supplements information about his Senate career in the first three subgroups. There is also material from the 1970s and about Mrs. Williams and Senator Williams's family life.


When Senator Williams retired from the Senate in 1971, he returned to Millsboro and set up an office. Eleanor Lenhart, his executive secretary throughout his 24 years in office, also returned to Millsboro and continued to work for Senator Williams. In Millsboro, they reassembled the files and integrated older files which had been removed for storage into each series. When the Williams Papers were given to the University, the reassembled files arrived in 45 filing cabinets from the Millsboro office.

The original order of the files has been preserved as closely as possible in the processing of this collection. For the most part, the arrangement of the collection reflects the original filing series of Senator Williams's office. The series have been presented in this collection in four artificial subgroups; the purpose of the subgroups is to provide thematic structure to the collection. As described in the scope note, three of the subgroups of series reflect congressional functions and the fourth subgroup of series concerns more personal aspects of the Senator's career.

The order of files within most series generally follows office alphabetical subject sequences, but some series are arranged with other appropriate sequences such as alphabetical by state or chronological. Two significant chronological series are Bills of Legislation and Speeches. The most common filing sequence, alphabetical by subject, department, or agency is used in three key series: JJW:ERL Subject files, Executive Correspondence, and Legislative Correspondence. Finding specific topics in the files requires a certain amount of creativity on the part of the researcher. Material related to any one topic may be found in several places according to use of the information, jurisdiction of an agency or department over certain aspects of a topic, the history of agency or department name changes, or the filing practices of different office staff members.

For example, information about "poultry," an issue of primary concern to many of Senator Williams's constituents, may be found in all of the following areas:

To plan a search strategy for a specific topic, researchers may also want to consult the "Correspondence Management System (CMS) Topic/Subtopic Listing" appendix in Karen Paul's Records Management Handbook for United States Senator and their Repositories. CMS is an automated office management system which came into use much later than Senator Williams's tenure in office, but the CMS topics are similar to ones used in the past. The topic listing does not include all of the subjects, departments, and agencies found in the series in the Williams papers, but the CMS list is a very useful guide to the topical jurisdiction of government bureaucracy.

Some of the series, especially those in the subgroup of Personal files, had no significant original order. The contents of these series have been arranged either topically, chronologically, or by format as explained in the descriptions which precede each series list in this finding aid.

The usual filing practice in the office was to place contents of folders in reverse chronological order, i.e. latest correspondence was filed in the front of the folder. Similarly, the order of folders in the files (when there were annual folders for a certain topic) is also in reverse chronological order, i.e. the folder from the latest year is filed before earlier years: 1970, 1969, 1968, etc. Exceptions to the reverse chronological order of files and folder contents are described in arrangement notes in each series description.


A Guide to the Papers of Senator John J. Williams of Delaware is a published summary guide to the collection. The guide includes a lengthy biographical note, a chronology of the Senator's career, and brief notes on the series in the collection. This finding aid is a hierarchical list of the contents of each series. The lists are mostly at the folder level, but a few of the series contents (Bills of legislation, Speeches, Photographs, Audio-visual materials, Books) are listed at the item level.

Headings on the actual file folders reflect the hierarchical office filing system and each folder includes the entire heading, for example:

The series contents lists in this finding aid are structured to reflect the hierarchical filing system without repeating non- unique information:
Box    Contents
           Commodities Credit Corporation (CCC)
             Grain Storage, 1949 [1]
             Poultry, 1953 [2]
           Cotton Prices, 1965 [3]

The series lists also include box and folder numbers. Folder numbers follow the unique entries on the list and are enclosed in brackets. Folder numbers begin a new sequence with each new series. A series description precedes each series contents list and includes dates of the series, extent of the series, statement of contents, arrangement note, and description. The series description should be read before consulting the contents list.


The Papers of Senator John J. Williams, with the exception of a small amount of material, are open for research. One investigative report from the Delaware State Senate has been restricted for privacy reasons according to Delaware law, and several classified government documents have been restricted pending clearance from the declassification unit of the National Archives. The declassified documents will be returned to the Williams Papers as they are made available. A list of the classified material submitted to the National Archives for declassification may be found in an appendix at the end of the finding aid.

A Note on Sampling

The original extent of the Williams Papers was substantially reduced in processing. The original files included many items suitable for simple appraisal decisions: mailing envelopes, carbons of office correspondence, duplicates of speeches, and government publications. For example, thirty-eight linear feet of copies of the Congressional Record, a publication available in the government documents section in Morris Library, were discarded.

As with many voluminous congressional collections, sampling techniques were also used in processing the Williams Papers. Only representative samples of the contents of some files were saved, particularly in series in the Constituent Correspondence and Cases subgroup. Senator Williams often received large quantities of single-issue mail (such as 300 letters, each unique but all expressing opposition to the president's invasion of Cambodia) or multiple copies of form letters from constituents (such as 200 printed postcards supporting a proposed social security bill). In response, Senator Williams sent a form letter to all constituents. The form letter, know as a "robo" or "dura," expressed the Senator's point of view in general terms appropriate for a large number of correspondents.

The volume of the constituent correspondence series was substantially reduced by sampling. The original extent of each file was recorded before a sample was made, and this record was retained in the front of each file. Generally, twenty percent of the correspondence was saved in the case of large volume, single- issue mail. In the case of petitions, constituent form letters, or multiple copies of the same postal cards, a count of the constituent mail received was recorded and saved with a copy of the correspondence and a copy of the Senator's robo response.