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University of Chicago Library

Guide to the Walter Johnson 1939-1961

© 2006 University of Chicago Library

Descriptive Summary

Title:

Johnson, Walter. Papers

Dates:

1939-1961

Size:

1.5 linear ft. (3 boxes)

Repository:

Special Collections Research Center
University of Chicago Library
1100 East 57th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.

Abstract:

Walter Johnson, politician, historian. The Walter Johnson papers contain correspondence, speeches, campaign literature, newspaper clippings, and press releases. Most of the materials in the collection reflect Johnson's involvement in politics, including his bid to become alderman of the Fifth Ward of Chicago (1943), Paul Douglas's campaign (1939) for alderman of the Fifth Ward, Paul Simon's campaign (1961) for the U.S. Senate, and the Raymond S. McKeough-Benjamin S. Adamowski campaigns (1942) for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Information on Use

Access

No restrictions.

Citation

When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: Johnson, Walter. Papers, [Box #, Folder #], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

Biographical Note

(Thomas) Walter Johnson, 1915-1985

Known more commonly as Walter Johnson he was a noted historian and political organizer and analyst. Specializing in progressive politics, Johnson argued that the problems posed by WWII meant that there could be no division between his academic and political careers. He felt that his generation had a responsibility to democracy and that meant that the academic "ivory tower" could not stay isolated.

Born in Nahant, Mass in Jan 1915, Johnson earned his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth in 1937. He then began a lengthy relationship with the University of Chicago where he received his master's degree in 1938 and his PhD in History in 1941.

Married to Catherine Dunning, Johnson joined the U of C staff in July 1940 before he was finished with his degree. He rose through the ranks until 1950 when he made full professor. Johnson served as the Chairman of the History Department between 1950 and 1961and in that period he assisted in bringing important figures to the University, such as Hannah Gray, a president who prioritized academics at the University and Professor John Hope Franklin, one of the leading African American historians of the time.

In 1943, at the age of 27, Johnson intended to enter the military but failed the physical exams. Determined to serve in some way, he ran for the Alderman post vacated by Paul Douglas when he joined the marines. Johnson stated, "Those of us who in a military fashion cannot join with the rest of the generation, have the duty on the home front of fighting vigorously and continuously for democracy in local, state and national governments." Just as Douglas had done, Johnson ran as an independent candidate for 5th Ward Alderman with the support of U of C professors such Sophonisba Breckinridge, William T. Hutchinson, John U. Nef, and Robert Redfield. He said, "I am an instructor of American History fighting for a decent government against the Kelly-Nash machine," repeatedly pointing out that he was the only candidate in the alderman race to stand against Mayor Kelley. After losing the election Johnson firmly believed that Kelly had purchased the alderman position for Bertrand Moss; revealing that Moss spent $10,000.00 on the election while he spent only $2000.00.

Johnson's involvement in national politics started when he began making unofficial 'stump" speeches for Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. He also assisted in both of Douglas' campaigns for a senate seat in 1942 and 1948, serving as the chairman of Douglas' speakers committee in 1940. Additionally Johnson worked at the Downstate Director of the Independent Voters Committees in Illinois. In 1952 and 1953 Johnson spearheaded the movement to draft Adlai Stevenson as a presidential candidate through his position as the Co-Chairman of the National Stevenson Campaign. Although Stevenson did not win, Johnson published the political guide, How we drafted Adlai Stevenson and edited an eight volume edition of Stevenson's papers.

Johnson spent 1957-1958 as the Vyvan Harmsworth Professor of American History at Oxford which led to the publication of American studies abroad: progress and difficulties in selected countries; a special report by Walter Johnson, while he was a member for United States Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Johnson continued with political organizing in 1961 when he was the Co-Chairman of the Paul Simon For Senator Committee.

The U of C honored Johnson by bestowing the Preston and Sterling Morton Professorship of History upon him in 1963. He continued in that prestigious post until 1966, when he left the University of Chicago for the University of Hawaii in Honolulu from which he retired in 1982.

Although Johnson's dissertation was not published until 1947, as William Allen White's America, it reveals that his early interest in progressive politics, as examined through the actions of William Allen White, led him to his later intellectual and political interests and activities. This interest has been handed down through the publication of books discussing America during WWII and an influential text book, The United States: Experiment in Democracy (with Avery Craven), popular among high school teachers. Additionally, Johnson's study of the presidency, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (1960) developed the concept of the "imperial presidency."

Johnson passed away in Michigan in 1985 and was remembered by his friend and colleague Norton Ginsburg (Professor of Geography at U of C), "He was a genuine compassionate, outgoing, friendly giant of a man who was marvelous with his students."

Scope Note

The Walter Johnson papers contain correspondence, speeches, campaign literature, newspaper clippings, and press releases. Most of the materials in the collection reflect Johnson's involvement in politics, including his bid to become alderman of the Fifth Ward of Chicago (1939), Paul Douglas's campaign (1939) for alderman of the Fifth Ward, Paul Simon's campaign (1961) for the U.S. Senate, and the Raymond S. McKeough-Benjamin S. Adamowski campaigns (1942) for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives respectively.

Related Resources

The following related resources are located in the Department of Special Collections:

http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/spcl/polit.html

Subject Headings

INVENTORY

Series I: 1943 Aldermanic Campaign, 5th Ward, Chicago

Box 1   Folder 1

Correspondence Adams-Asher

Box 1   Folder 2

Correspondence Bergquist-Chave

Box 1   Folder 3

Correspondence Daily-East

Box 1   Folder 4

Correspondence Forbes-Jackson

Box 1   Folder 5

Correspondence Kingsley-Lytle

Box 1   Folder 6

Correspondence KcFarland-Mustis

Box 1   Folder 7

Correspondence Nay-Rosenfels

Box 1   Folder 8

Correspondence Shapiro-Sulzberger

Box 1   Folder 9

Correspondence Taft-Zax and unidentified correspondence

Box 1   Folder 10

Campaign literature-Johnson

Box 1   Folder 11

Expenditures and bills

Box 1   Folder 12

House meetings

Box 1   Folder 13

Memoranda book-January/February 1943

Box 1   Folder 14

Newspaper clippings-pre-election

Box 1   Folder 15

Newspaper clippings-post-election

Box 1   Folder 16

Petitions for candidacy-Johnson

Box 1   Folder 17

Political platform-Johnson

Box 1   Folder 18

Press releases-Johnson

Box 1   Folder 19

Speeches-Johnson

Box 1   Folder 20

Sponsors-Johnson

Box 1   Folder 21

Campaign literature-Bertram B. Moss (Johnson's opponent)

Box 1   Folder 22

Miscellaneous

Box 1   Folder 23

Precincts of 5th Ward-miscellaneous

Box 1   Folder 24

Voters lists-5th Ward precincts and aldermanic petitions

Series II: 1939 Campaign by Paul Douglas for Alderman of the 5th Ward

Box 2   Folder 1

Correspondence Alexandroff - Bishop

Box 2   Folder 2

Correspondence Bliven - Cheney

Box 2   Folder 3

Correspondence Darby - Freehof

Box 2   Folder 4

Correspondence Gorby - Haluska

Box 2   Folder 5

Correspondence Harper - Hymen

Box 2   Folder 6

Correspondence Ickes, Harold - Kletsky

Box 2   Folder 7

Correspondence Lapp - Levin

Box 2   Folder 8

Correspondence Lewis - Mulligan

Box 2   Folder 9

Correspondence N.A.A.C.P. - Rosenthal

Box 2   Folder 10

Correspondence Scott - Swanson

Box 2   Folder 11

Correspondence Utley-Williams and unidentified correspondence

Box 2   Folder 12

Organizational papers

Box 2   Folder 13

Speeches and statements by Douglas

Box 2   Folder 14

Campaign literature

Box 2   Folder 15

Miscellaneous material-1939 aldermanic campaign-5th Ward

Series III: Miscellaneous Political Materials

Box 3   Folder 1

Correspondence and notebook

Box 3   Folder 2

Campaign literature

Box 3   Folder 3

Campaign reports on selected areas of Illinois

Box 3   Folder 4

Speeches and press releases

Box 3   Folder 5

Newspaper clippings

Box 3   Folder 6

Correspondence, Paul Simon, Campaign for US Senate, 1961

Box 3   Folder 7

Simon for Senator Committee papers, 1961

Box 3   Folder 8

Campaign list, Simon for Senate, 1961

Box 3   Folder 9

Press releases, Simon for Senate, 1961

Box 3   Folder 10

Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences, and Professions

Box 3   Folder 11

National Citizens Political Action Committee

Box 3   Folder 12

Unidentified notebook-names, addresses