MS 159 - Thomas L. Ashley Congressional Papers
|Title||MS 159 - Thomas L. Ashley Congressional Papers|
The Congressional Papers of Thomas Ludlow Ashley, Democratic Congressman from the Ohio Ninth District from 1955-1980, consists of over 215 linear feet of correspondence, subject and committee files, clippings, and press releases covering Ashley's political career, including the period of the Vietnamese Conflict and Watergate.
The collection was donated to the Center for Archival Collections through the cooperation of Thomas Ludlow Ashley on November 24, 1980. No restrictions exist on the use of this collection. Duplication is permitted for the purposes of preservation and research. The preliminary processing and inventory to the collection was prepared by Renate W. Prescott, a graduate student intern, with the final register completed by Marilyn Levinson, Curator of Manuscripts in 1998.
Thomas Ludlow Ashley was born on January 11, 1923 in Toledo, Ohio. Educated in Toledo at the Monroe and Glenwood elementary schools, and also at Kent School, in Kent, Connecticut, Ashley served during World War II in the U.S. Army, with service in the Pacific Theater of Operations from 1943-1945. After the War he graduated from Yale University in 1948, and later, after attending some evening law classes at the University of Toledo Law School, he graduated from Ohio State University Law school in 1951. Admitted to the Bar that same year, he practiced law in Toledo and Whitehouse, Ohio. Ashley came from a family with a tradition of public service, since his great grandfather was James M. Ashley, a Congressman from Toledo during the Civil War and later the first Governor of the Territory of Montana.
During the early part of his career, in 1952, Ashley became associated with Radio Free Europe, working first as co-director of the press section in Europe, and later as assistant director of special projects. After he resigned the position on March 1, 1954, he was elected as a Democrat to the 84th Congress, starting his service on January 3, 1955 and continuing to serve for the next 12 Congresses until January 3, 1981.
During his long career he served on the House Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee, the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, the House Budget Committee, the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Development of the House Banking Committee, the Subcommittee on Economic Stabilization, the Subcommittee on International Trade, the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Urban Growth, and the Ad Hoc Committee on Energy.
In addition, Congressman Ashley also was appointed to serve in President Ford's Economic Summit in 1974, and has served as Vice Chairman of the Democratic Study Group and also the Democratic Steering Committee. Within the Party Structure in the House he also served as Assistant Majority Whip.
With his established interests in areas of housing, banking, finance, the budget, and urban development, he was active in legislation including the Demonstration Cities Act, the Bank Merger Act of 1966, the Export Administration Act of 1969, the Urban Growth and New Community Development Act of 1970, the Export Expansion Finance Act of 1971, the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, the Energy Conservation Act of 1976, the Intergovernmental Coordination Act of 1977, and the Housing and Community Development Act of 1977. In addition, he was involved with the United States Disarmament Agency, the National Flood Insurance Program, the Urban Homesteading Program, and the National Commission on Neighborhoods.
After his career in Congress came to an end, Ashley founded a legal and congressional consulting firm in Washington, D.C.
|Scope and Content|
The Thomas L. Ashley Congressional Papers are an excellent primary resource documenting the political career and activities of Ashley for 25 years of service to the Ninth Congressional District of Ohio. Overlapping to a great extent the same time-frame as the Delbert Latta Congressional Papers from the adjoining Fifth District, the material provides the Democratic counterpoint to that Republican Collection for the crucial period of the Vietnam War.
The correspondence components of the collection are its real strength, allowing a researcher to get some sense of the way in which a Congressman works with his constituents. Working with both the Blues and Legislative files, one finds a myriad of subjects which concerned constituents enough to write to Congressman Ashley. These files, as with the Military files, offer a window into the past. As the years go by, files either "fatten up" or disappear completely. For example, in the years after World War II there were numerous requests for Visas from persons and their sponsors trying to make America their new home. A proposed Lake Erie Canal project became an issue in 1965, and by 1969, the issue was resolved and no further correspondence is listed. Foreign Affairs is another good example. Throughout the late 1960's and into the mid 1970's, Vietnam became a big issue. After the war--1975--the issue changed from involvement to the question of foreign aid. Abortion, which was nonexistent in the early 1960's became a big (and regular) subject of correspondence in the 1970's.
The Military files have a particular richness in tracing the changes in public opinion regarding the war in Vietnam. During the early 1960's, most letters were pro war (though there were already some anti-war letters). As the war escalated, so did the bitterness in these letters. Congressman Ashley's reply was pro involvement in the 1960's, citing the domino effect, and the right for the Vietnamese people to rule themselves as reasons for America's involvement. As the war became progressively unpopular, Ashley began to answer these letters citing a hope for the end of the war as well as a means for a peaceful resolution.
There are letters from servicemen requesting assignment to Vietnam, as well as letters requesting a change of assignment other than Vietnam (some threatened to desert). Most of the correspondence is from wives and parents. Some parents have written to protest a son's second tour in Vietnam; ironically, almost all these men have volunteered for their second tour. Many letters are from wives who have requested hardship reassignments for their husbands closer to home. Some wives have sent letters from doctors, psychiatrists, as well as family members, stating they are emotionally unstable and therefore need their husbands at home--and not in Vietnam. As the Vietnam war escalated, the letters became more desperate.
The military collection is full of rich material, and each group of correspondence tells the story of a serviceman and his family, how they coped with the Vietnam war, and how Congressman Ashley responded to the various requests.
Although minor in nature, the Personal Files present probably the most interesting set of correspondence, with the lively exchange between Congressman Ashley and George Bush. The correspondence is light and humorous, revealing a seemingly close friendship.
Although other files such as his Legislative Correspondence files reveal Congressman Ashley's personality through his concern for his constituents, these personal files are much more rich with vignettes about Ashley's personal life. For example, Ashley was a Foster parent to several children, and the correspondence from these children is included in these files (no correspondence is filed from Ashley to the children, only checks for their support). Filed under Wedding Congratulations are letters of congratulations from friends, family, constituents, as well as his peers in congress when Congressman Ashley married. These files round out the flavor of the Ashley Collection, offering the researcher a look at the private, personal side of Congressman Ashley. Without these files, the total picture would be flawed, and certainly not as rich.
The Case and Subject files, as with the Legislative files, tell the personal story of constituents who needed Congressman Ashley's help, and the majority of the time got it. Ashley passed many private bills to help immigrants obtain visas for entry into the United States, helped to assure a speedier process of justice because of his interest in certain cases, helped in many cases to retain a person's social security or VA benefits, and once he helped a Toledo constituent bypass red tape in order to return the body of a wife who died suddenly in Europe. It is interesting to note that Congressman Ashley was known as the individuals congressman; and these files (as well as the whole collection) certainly attest to that fact.
The researcher will find these files valuable because they tell personal stories of persons who have in one way or another found themselves in trouble; and, through the help of Congressman Ashley, they were able to find solutions. These files tell not only the story of Ashley's constituents, but they also bring to light Congressman Ashley's desire to help as well as empathy for people in trouble.
The files of Press Releases for the early years (1950's) show the majority of the press releases were for radio broadcasts. Later they became newspaper releases. Congressman Ashley made sure that his constituents were kept up to date on bills which would affect their area. He regularly reported grants which were awarded to schools, hospitals, and other public facilities, jobs for youths, conservation measures for the Great Lakes area, and bills as well as awarded contracts which would affect the car industry. They also document the issues which were of concern to the District voters. There are statements which call for Nixon's impeachment, Congressman Ashley's disapproval over the firing of Archibald Cox by President Nixon, and a statement in which Congressman Ashley expressed "relief" over the resignation of Nixon and his support of Gerald Ford as President. Other interesting press releases are included such as Jack Anderson's column in 1980 which cited Congressman Ashley as "one of the ten most respected and effective congressmen in office." The 6th district received numerous contracts for the Kaiser-Jeep plant, grant money for the purchase of land for the Toledo Metro Parks, grant money for a sewer system for the Ottawa Wildlife refuge, grant money for the performing arts for symphonies, as well as the visual arts, and artists in residence.
The Press Release files are important because they reflect the hard work Congressman Ashley performed for his constituents. It is the end result, the final reporting to the people in his district, of the progress and good results he effected for them.
Likewise, the Campaign Files are revealing in that during the early years of his career, there seems to be little campaign activity, compared to later years in which he campaigned harder. This is especially evident during his 1980 campaign, in which Ashley seemed to go "all out" to win.
During the 1968 campaign, there is a file marked "Vietnam" in which there are three letters from constituents questioning the Vietnam war, as well as Congressman Ashley's reply. At first glance it may seem these letters belong with the legislative files, but upon further consideration, because they are in the campaign files, they may signify the stance Congressman Ashley took during this period of the Vietnam war. Therefore, these letters should be kept with the campaign files.
The Campaign Files also contain information which explains the demographic makeup of the 6th district of Toledo - the percentage of Republicans and Democrats, how many persons are registered to vote, and population size during that particular year.
The Campaign Files also contain "thank you" letters of each successful campaign; and lastly, in 1980, letters of thanks to those constituents who supported him in his final 1980 campaign which he lost. In the last box, labeled "miscellaneous" are copies of the congressional record of those congressmen who paid tribute to Congressman Ashley and his long years of service to Congress. The campaign files contain bills which Ashley sponsored and were passed, campaign buttons, flyers, posters, and bumper stickers.
The Nixon Impeachment Files contain correspondence from Congressman Ashley's constituents, newspaper articles, congressional hearings, and a report by the Banking & Currency committee trying to trace laundered money which was used to pay the Watergate conspirators. These files are useful for recounting the chronological events of the Watergate burglary, its subsequent coverup, and the slow if sometimes tedious process of Congress trying to unravel what had happened. The researcher will find these files especially useful because the correspondence contains petitions for and against Nixon, questions as to why the Watergate hearings were aired on television (some people thought it a waste of time), and why it seemed to take so long for Congress to act on these hearings.
The correspondence in this section has Congressman Ashley's reply attached to the letters, some in "form letter" style, while others are "non form letter" style for the purpose of answering particular questions and/or statements made by constituents. These letters stated Congressman Ashley's position on the hearings in which he explained to his constituents that he believed President Nixon was involved with the Watergate break-in and that he should step down from the presidency as a result of his illegal involvement. Most of the letters from Ashley's constituents supported the impeachment of Nixon, and very few wrote in support of Nixon. This ratio seems to be a good representation of the country as a whole as most Americans felt Nixon should be impeached when they learned the depth of his involvement with the Watergate burglary and subsequent coverup.
These files are extremely useful because they contain a good cross section of reports and opinions of what the American people were thinking during this stressful time in our history--elected officials as well as the public. The researcher will be able to read congressional reports, newspaper articles, as well as letters from constituents to get a good representation of the turmoil America went through because of the Watergate break-in.
The section of the collection which actually deals with legislative actions, the Bills and Statement Files contain bills Congressman Ashley introduced to Congress, bills he cosponsored, and statements he made before the Congress concerning these bills or issues of concern. Congressman Ashley was especially concerned with housing and there are many bills and statements concerning housing for the poor. He also showed great concern for Great Lakes management and introduced bills concerning Marine and Fisheries, Coast Guard, and Shoreline Erosion.
The researcher will find these files valuable because in many instances the files contain letters from constituents which started the bill-making process. The statements are congressional records of Congressman Ashley's opinions about matters that not only concerned Ohioans, but there are also statements on national issues such as the Vietnam war, concern over the POW/MIA issue, the Watergate affair, and censure over Congressman Adam Clayton Powell's spending of federal money for extravagant vacations. The bills and statements are varied and therefore are rich for source material about the workings of Congress. The statements especially give a rare insight into the personalities of the congressmen and what issues they deemed important enough to comment or debate over. If the researcher combines the statements with the bills that were enacted, the result is a well-rounded picture of why certain bills passed and why they were introduced.
The Speech files contain speeches, correspondence, and various travel itineraries of Congressman Ashley from 1957 through 1980. Preceding each year is a file titled "Speaking Invites - Yes." These folders contain correspondence from organizations inviting Congressman Ashley to speak before them. For instance, in the 1968 file there is a letter from the Kennedy/King organization outlining their purpose, goals, etc. Attached to this letter are two buttons which read "Kennedy/King." The button is in black and white representing Kennedy as a white, King as a black, signifying the organization's effort to bring about racial harmony in the Ohio area. During most years, Ashley has been invited to and has spoken to the American Architect Institute. These speeches are usually connected with Housing and Urban Development, HUD, and other topics concerning the housing industry.
A particularly noteworthy file is Congressman Ashley's trip to the Far East and Vietnam in November, 1965. This trip was a fact-finding mission for the Merchant Marine Committee concerning the problem of lack of deep water ports in South Vietnam (the only deep water port which could handle incoming ships was in Saigon with Cam Ranh Bay being readied the following year). Ships were waiting as far away as the Philippines, and those that were in Saigon would sit for months waiting to be unloaded, needlessly tying up ships as well as the men. Another significant problem was that of the South Vietnamese stealing supplies coming off the ships, a problem that reached alarming proportions. There are also pictures of Congressman Ashley meeting with soldiers who were from Ohio, attached with letters he wrote to the men's parents. There is also a 8x10 glossy of Congressman Ashley talking with a younger, slimmer looking General William Westmoreland.
These papers are significant because the researcher will be able to not only read the speeches Congressman Ashley made during his career in the House, but also get a sense of the diversity of the groups to whom he talked. He spoke with the Premier of China during his China trip, as well as to Waite High School students who came to Washington with their High School Band to play during the nation's Bicentennial. In the China trip file, there are letters written from the President congratulating him on his important meeting with the Premier as well as newspaper clippings which covered the trip extensively. The Waite High School file contains numerous pictures of Congressman Ashley with the Band members in their uniforms posing on the capitol steps.
The researcher should realize that the Speech Files contain more than just Congressman Ashley's speeches. They contain correspondence, notes from his secretaries, plane ticket stubs, letters from some of the countries he visited, as well as photos and newspaper articles. The variety of the material will give the researcher a well-rounded picture of Congressman Ashley's wide range of interests and involvement in key issues of the day.
There is a separate grouping of Toledo Subject Files, chiefly because Congressman Ashley kept two offices; therefore, issues more pertinent to Toledo as well as those which might have been handled solely in the Toledo office were kept there. The researcher must exercise care and remember to cross reference--particularly with the Subject and General Subject Files. Many subjects are covered in both the Washington and Toledo Office files.
For example: Oak Openings is a project which was developed in the Toledo community; therefore, the researcher should go to the Toledo Office General Subjects Files to find this particular information. The researcher should be careful, too, to look through the Press Release Files and the Departmental Files (HUD) in the Washington Files for further information about this project. Another example might be for the researcher to look in the General Subjects Files and cross reference such listings as "Welfare" with the Departmental Files from the Washington Office.
The Toledo Office Subjects Files contain listings peculiar to the Toledo area such as: "Schools," "Toledo Chamber of Commerce," "NAACP (local)," "Erie Sesquicentennial," "Old West End Association," and "Toledo Metropolitan Housing Authority." The files also contain subjects which may be easily cross-referenced with the Washington Office Files such as: "Welfare," "Immigration," "Legislation," "Health, Education, Welfare," "Defense," and "State Department."
The General Subjects Files are rich with information concerning the Toledo community. These files reflect Congressman Ashley's concern for his district by the many community development projects with which he became involved, and they also give the pulse of the community through the issues people were addressing to Congressman Ashley.
An excellent example of Congressman Ashley's concern for his district is through the many people-oriented projects he developed. He was involved with the needs of the aged, the disabled, through trying to save the Toledo Plus Health Plan, helping to open Community Centers, and a Cancer Center. Congressman Ashley was involved with the Toledo Arts Commission, the Lucas County Bike Trails, as well as school related issues. Congressman Ashley was also active in the Maumee River projects in which the Maumee river was declared a Scenic River, putting it under environmental protection programs.
These Toledo Files are especially important in getting a good overview of what Congressman Ashley did for the district of Toledo. The files reflect concern as well as a genuine interest for the people of the 9th district. Much legislation that he passed were started by letters he received from the people "back home," and he not only took the time to answer their questions, but he addressed their issues for them through pushing bills through Congress that would directly affect them.
The Toledo Project Files are similar to the Subject and General Subject Files. They contain projects in which Congressman Ashley became involved such as: Toledo Metro Health Plan, Toledo EPA Application (for winterizing homes), the North End Coalition, Federal Youth Center, a Senior Citizens Center, and a Halfway House for runaways. These files reflect the depth of involvement of Congressman Ashley with local projects which were begun and supported in order to help his constituents.
The Toledo Office clippings contain information about Congressman Ashley's activities in Washington--The Washington Report, bills he sponsored, as well as both criticism and praise. These clippings may be valuable in that they reflect how the Toledo newspaper reported Congressman Ashley's effectiveness in Congress.
CORRESPONDENCE - BLUES
CORRESPONDENCE - LEGISLATIVE.
CORRESPONDENCE - DEPARTMENTAL
CORRESPONDENCE - COMMITTEE
CORRESPONDENCE - MILITARY
CORRESPONDENCE - PERSONAL
NIXON IMPEACHMENT FILES
PRESS RELEASE FILES
BILLS AND STATEMENTS.
VOTING RECORD BOOKS
DAILY APPOINTMENT BOOKS
GUEST REGISTER BOOK
TOLEDO SUBJECT FILES
GENERAL SUBJECT FILES
TOLEDO PROJECT FILES
APPOINTMENT BOOKS FILES
SCRAPBOOKS AND SCRAPBOOK MATERIALS
BOOKS - GENERAL
BOOKS - BUSH VISIT TO KUWAIT
SOUND RECORDINGS - CASSETTES
SOUND RECORDINGS - OPEN REEL
VIDEO RECORDINGS - BROADCAST TAPE
VIDEO RECORDINGS - VIDEOCASSETTES