Lyndon Johnson Library

The Lyndon Johnson library website hosts numerous fully transcribed and searchable oral history interviews. Topics span Johnson’s full political career, including his time in the House and Senate, as vice president to John Kennedy and as president. Some interviewees themselves had long political careers as civil servants and elected officials. Therefore, researchers interested in regulatory politics of the entire post-war period should search the LBJ library for relevant content.

Unlike some other presidential library oral history projects (see for example the summary of the Carter library), regulation is not a focal point of the LBJ library interviews. Consequently, relevant discussions are scattered throughout the interviews and are often only incidental to any given interview’s general themes.

Nevertheless, some themes of interest do emerge. Interviews that focus on LBJ’s Congressional career include topics pertaining to energy policy and the challenges and opportunities these posed for Johnson as a delegate from Texas. Oil and gas regulation, particularly pertaining to the 1956 “Bill to Amend the Natural Gas Act,” receive attention for its importance of LBJ’s career trajectory and establishment of his position as a national figure. Great Society and Civil Rights legislation, hallmarks of the LBJ administration, also contained regulatory provisions. The follow is a partial list, roughly in descending order of prevalence, of regulatory topics addressed in the transcribed and searchable LBJ library interviews.

  • Oil and Natural Gas (Texas Railroad Commission (in the context of energy policy))
  • Antitrust enforcement though the Justice Department (especially during the Kennedy administration)
  • Regulation of the outdoor advertising industry
  • Lobbying by interest groups and influence on regulatory policy making
  • Kennedy-era attempts to reorganize regulatory agencies
  • Route assignments by the Civil Aeronautics Board
  • Regulatory commission appointments
  • FDA response to the thalidomide tragedy
  • USPS regulations
  • Interviews pertaining to the institution of Medicare and Medicaid and certain provisions of the Civil Rights Act may also have content pertaining to regulation

This list is not exhaustive. It only reflects topics that emerged in an initial survey.  See suggested search strategies for ideas on how to more thoroughly explore this archive’s offerings.

Summary by:  Elizabeth Brake

John F. Kennedy Library

The John F. Kennedy Library provides access to over a thousand fully transcribed and searchable interviews. These interviews are also categorized by subject term, and an initial survey of relevant subject terms revealed 10 interviews with significant regulatory content. There are likely more.

These interviews are most useful for understanding public/private partnerships in utilities markets, especially electrical power and emerging commercial satellite communications. In the realm of environmental regulation, policies under the purview of the Department of Interior such as mining and mine safety, forest management and fire responses, and the use of federal lands and resources to generate and transmit electrical power garner the most attention. Rural electrification and the structure of power “wheeling” agreements in the west receive much discussion.

Researchers interested in the regulation of the communications industries will also find interviews of interest. Some interviews provide extensive discussion of the FCC, the State Department and the development of the Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT) to provide and regulate multinational commercial satellite communications, as well as the development and regulation of cable television.

Other interviews examine the workings of the Federal Trade Commission and the role of the Council of Economic Advisors is shaping economic policy during the Kennedy Administration.

Summary by:  Elizabeth Brake

Jimmy Carter Library

The Jimmy Carter Library and Museum website hosts an inventory of oral histories created by multiple research projects, and housed in several repositories, pertaining to the Carter Administration and Carter’s post-presidential diplomatic and humanitarian career. Selected interviews have transcripts available online.  The Carter Library’s full inventory of oral histories is available at their website.

A sampling of transcribed interviews identified materials from the Carter Library’s “Exit Interview Project” and the University of Virginia’s Miller Center “Carter Project” (also cataloged at the Carter library) containing significant content of interest to scholars of regulation. These interviews are especially useful for those interested in deregulation and in consumer protection.

National Archives personnel conducted exit interviews with Carter Administration staffers at all levels as they completed their terms in office. The bulk of these interviews occurred during and immediately following the transition between the Carter and Regan administrations. They focus primarily on administrative and legislative process, although they do offer some assessments of the administration’s overall accomplishments. The Miller Center’s interviews took place in the 1980s, and interviewees were high-ranking officials rather than lower-level staffers. These interviews focus on assessments of the administration’s work as well as economic and ideological approaches to regulatory policy.

Interviews pertaining to deregulation cover legislative and administrative processes during the Carter Administration as well as the political and ideological impetus behind the deregulation movement that characterized Carter’s legislative agenda. Topics include the deregulation of the trucking and airline industries.  Interviews, especially those from the Exit Interview collection, place heavy emphasis on the actions of the White House’s Office of Domestic Policy in achieving deregulatory goals. The details surrounding the passage of legislation deregulating the trucking and airline industries receive particular attention.

The Cater years also saw the defeat of a bill that would have created a cabinet-level consumer protection agency within the federal government. Interviews with officials associated with the Office of Consumer Affairs detail the failed attempt to pass the Consumer Protection Act, including negotiations with Congress, the degree to which the Carter Administration supported the bill. Also of interest are interviews that detail the administrative efforts of the Office of Consumer Affairs staff to increase the office’s standing to weigh in on behalf of consumers in the regulatory policy development of other agencies.

Other topics, which received less coverage, include the accident at Three Mile Island, the EPA, FDA, and OSHA.

Suggested Keywords:  Deregulation; Domestic Policy Office; ICC; FCC; Consumer Protection Act; Office of Consumer Affairs; Three Mile Island; NRC; EPA; Clean Air Act; Federal Energy Administration; OSHA

Summary by:  Elizabeth Brake

Gerald Ford Library

The Ford Library houses several oral history projects including the Gerald Ford Library Oral History Project, 1981-Present. These interviews are not sufficiently described online to determine if they have significant regulation-related content.  Interviewees include the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Transportation, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, the Secretary of the Interior, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Commerce. These interviews likely include discussions relevant to regulation.

Within the manuscript collections, the John Robson Papers, 1970-93, contains an interview transcript entitled “The Move to Airline Deregulation: Perspective of Former CAB Chairman John E. Robson.” The William E. Simon microfiche of papers, 1972-1977, housed at the Lafayette College Library but linked from the Ford Library, include an extensive oral history interview (1000+ pages) with the former Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the US Treasury. Neither of these transcripts are available online.

Summary by:  Elizabeth Brake

Dwight Eisenhower Library

The website of the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas, is an access portal for oral histories of the administration that are available through multiple institutions, primarily the Eisenhower Library, the Columbia University Oral History Project, as well as other libraries with smaller collections. The library website provides detailed abstracts of linked interviews, but in most cases researchers must visit the repositories to access transcripts for audio files. (A limited number of transcripts are available online.) The full list of interviews is available at the Eisenhower library’s oral history page.

An initial survey reveals nineteen interviews with abstracts or transcripts available through the Eisenhower library that contain significant content pertaining to regulatory issues. These interviews provide a window on the evolution of the post-war American regulatory state, with particular attention to global contexts, including the Cold War, the Korean war, the development of the European Common Market, and advancements in and proliferation of nuclear energy technologies and weapons. The Atomic Energy Commission, the Federal Reserve, and the agricultural commodities trade (esp. sugar) receive particular attention in these geopolitical contexts. Domestically, post-war economic growth fostered renewed political debate over the federal government’s role in the economy and the continued utility of regulatory policies first instituted during the New Deal. Several interviews discuss the establishment of the Federal Aviation Agency (precursor to the Federal Aviation Administration) and the growth of the airline industry. Changes to the policy structures for the regulation of agricultural commodities are also a prominent themes. Many interviews cover issues related to  U.S. fiscal and economic policies and regulations. Several discuss the activities and internal politics of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors. Others discuss appointments, staffing, and regulatory actions by the Securities and Exchange commission and enforcement of anti-trust policy by the Justice Department.

Summary by:  Elizabeth Brake

IEEE History Center Oral History Program

Repository description: The IEEE Global History Network has collected almost 500 oral history interviews, principally with electrical engineers.

Regulatory significance: A private organization, IEEE is one of the most significant standard setting bodies for electrical technology in the world. Most of the oral histories focus on the development of computers and other highly technical electrical innovations, but some projects will be of particular interest to researchers interested in private regulation and standard setting. Many of these also discuss government’s role in influencing these standards. Relevant projects include interviews with past presidents, discussion of the merger of AIEE and IRE to form the IEEE in 1963, and dozens of interviews focused on standardization.

Dates: Late 1960s – present

Digital access: Selections, if not full transcripts, of most interviews are available online.

Physical access: Researchers should contact the IEEE History Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

URL: http://www.ieeeghn.org/wiki/index.php/Special:OralHistories

National Institutes of Health Oral Histories

Project description: The National Institutes of Health have conducted more than 100 interviews, some conducted by the History Associates and some conducted by oral historians on staff at the Office of NIH History.

Regulatory significance: Many of the interviews are highly technical discussions of medical techniques and research, but some of them discuss the evolution of safety regulations for hospitals, medical devices, and diseases like HIV/AIDS.

Interview dates: ~1964-2009

Digital access: Transcripts of many of the interviews are available online.

Physical access: Researchers will need to call or email to make an appointment to visit the Office of NIH History in Bethesda, Maryland.

Linkhttp://history.nih.gov/archives/oral_histories.html

Food and Drug Administration Oral History Program

Collection description: The FDA began its oral history program in the mid 1970s, interviewing staff members towards the end of their careers. Per the oral history program’s description, “Though the program’s early focus was on agency staff directly connected to enforcement work, the History Office today collects oral histories from staff at all levels and across the agency.” More detailed information on the program can be found here.

Regulatory significance: This is a rich collection that explores in great detail the regulatory process from frontline monitoring to higher level rule-making.

Dates: 1974 – present

Digital access: Partial and full transcripts of many of these interviews can be found on the FDA website.

Physical access: Tapes and transcripts of the oral histories are deposited in the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine, in Bethesda, Maryland.

Interviewees: ~150

EPA History Program

Collection description: According to EPA Order 1000.27 the “EPA History Program” dated March 1992, the EPA must conduct an Oral History Program. Michael H. Gorn and Dennis Williams served as the first historians of the EPA, and conducted the five oral history interviews with administrators and a deputy administrator.

Regulatory significance: Though few in number, the interviews provide rich details on the early history of the EPA and its structural dynamics. Many interviews include comments on the EPA’s relationship with the White House, Congress, OMB, regulated industries, public interest groups, and state and local government. They also include insightful discussions of regulatory conflicts over pesticides, industry emissions, crises like Love Canal, and scientific determinations.

Dates: 1992 – 1995

Digital access: Only interviews with five former agency heads are available online, with William RuckelshausRussell TrainAlvin AlmWilliam K. Reilly, and Douglas M. Costle.

Chemical Heritage Foundation Oral History Program

Repository description: The Chemical Heritage Foundation has collected over 425 oral history interviews with leading figures in chemistry and related fields at its Center for Oral History. Projects include the chemical history of electronics, the chemical industry, polymers, and women in science.

Regulatory significance: At least one project is explicitly focused on the creation and implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act. A few other interviews appear to speak to public and private regulation of chemicals.

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Dates: 1981 – Present

Digital access: Most digital transcripts are only available for a $5 fee.

URL: http://www.chemheritage.org/discover/collections/oral-histories/index.aspx

Forest History Society Oral History Collection

Repository description: The Forest History Society’s oral history collection includes over 250 interviews with individuals involved in forest management and timber industries. Interviews were first recorded in the 1940s and the project is on-going.

Regulatory significance: At least 16 of these interviews directly address topics of forestry regulation and the impact of other environmental regulations on the practice of forest management by the Forest Service. The impact of the 1911 Mills Act and the 1960 Multiple-Use Forestry Act receives particular attention in multiple interviews. Other topics include public regulation of privately owned forests, uses of public land and timber, and the effects of the Clean Air Act, the clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species act on the activities of the Forest Service. Also of interest is the process through which interest groups, such as the Sierra Club and Chambers of Commerce participate in the policy making process.

Location: Durham, North Carolina

Dates: 1940s – Present

Digital access: Some transcripts available online, some only summarized, and interview compilations available for purchase

URL:  http://foresthistory.org/Research/ohiguide.html

Washington State Oral History Program

Collection description: The Washington State Legislature maintains an oral history program that collects interviews with influential legislators, from the 1930s onward. Most of the interviews are conducted in a biographically oriented life history style, and are extremely long, running to more than 500 pages as transcripts. Interviewees address their experience in the Washington State Legislature as well as other experiences in the private sector and federal office.

Regulatory significance: These interviews cover a gamut of regulatory issues at the state level, including labor regulation, environmental regulation, and the role of lobbyists.

Location: Washington State Legislature in Olympia, Washington

Dates: 1983 – present

Access: Open to the public

Digital access: Transcripts for all but the most recent interviews are available online, as well as other digital material including photos and biographies.

URL: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/oralhistory/

Interviewees: ~24

Houston Library

Collective description: The Houston Library has produced several hundred oral histories that range from interviews with ordinary citizens to conversations with former U.S. President George H.W. Bush. Most interviews appear to be conducted by community volunteers and library staff since around 2007, and most interviewees are elderly community members whose recollections center on changes in Houston particularly during the 1960s-1980s.

Regulatory significance: The most promising collection of oral histories related to regulation is the library’s project commissioned by former mayor Bill White. Those interviews center on major events and the political and business history of Houston. Users can browse interviews by subject, and relevant subjects include: community development, conservation of the environment, environment, legislators, oil and gas industry, and politics and government.

Relevant projects:
Mayor Bill White Collection

Digital access: Yes. Audio or video as well as transcripts of almost all interviews are available on-line through links in the finding aid.

Physical access: Researchers interested in the original audio may visit the Houston Library.

Link: http://digital.houstonlibrary.org/cdm/

University of California – Los Angeles

Repository description: UCLA’s Center for Oral History Research collects oral history interviews related primarily to the history of Southern California and the Los Angeles metropolitan region.

Regulatory significance: These interviews are particularly relevant to local regulatory issues involving Los Angeles as well as broader regional efforts to regulate land use and environmental resources, particularly water. See the complete list of projects.

Relevant projects:
Water for Los Angeles and California Water Resources Development
Seven Decades of Planning and Development in the Los Angeles Region
Environmental Activism in Los Angeles

Digital access: Transcripts are available for many of the oral histories. Audio availability is more limited.

Physical access: Interview transcripts and recordings can be accessed in person at UCLA’s Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections. Transcripts, but no recordings, of interviews conducted before 2006 are also available in the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.

Link: http://oralhistory.library.ucla.edu/index.html

California State Archives

Repository description: The California State Archives houses interviews with over 400 people in their combined Governmental History and State Government Oral History programs. The interview production effort began in 1969 with the Earl Warren Era Oral History Project. In 1985, the California State legislature established the State Government Oral History Program “to provide through the use of oral history a continuing documentation of state policy development as reflected in California’s legislative and executive history.” The website lists brief descriptions (a single paragraph) of each interview, but no further detail.

Regulatory significance: Many of these interviews promise to be of regulatory significance, though mostly from the legislative and executive level point of view rather than from any on the ground perspective.

Relevant projects: The subject index suggests that this is a fruitful cache on environmental policy (including water resources, air quality, and even an interview related to fish and game regulation), agriculture, consumer education/consumer protection, labor policy, health insurance, public health, and the role of lobbyists.

Digital access: No online access of these transcripts is available.

Physical access: Transcripts are available for a stated fee or through UC Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office. Complete transcripts are also available at UCLA and the California State Archives in Sacramento. Microfilmed transcripts are available through ILL.

Linkshttp://www.sos.ca.gov/archives/oral-history/introduction.htm