Jeffery Cohelan Collection


95 cubic feet

portrait of Jeffery Cohelan

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Biographical Sketch of the Creator of the Collection

Democrat Jeffery Cohelan (1914-1999) was born in San Francisco and attended public school and San Mateo Junior College before receiving an A.B. degree from the University of California. He continued his studies there at the Graduate School of Economics and was a Fulbright research scholar at Leeds and Oxford Universities in England in 1953-1954.

Before his election to Congress, Cohelan served in many public capacities. He was elected secretary-treasurer of the Milk Drivers' and Dairy Employees' Local 302, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties in 1942. He served as a consultant to the University of California Institute of Industrial Relations and as a member of the Berkeley Welfare Commission from 1949 to 1953. He was a city councilman in Berkeley from 1955 to1958. Cohelan was also an active member of the San Francisco Council on Foreign Relations, the Commonwealth Club of California, and various fraternal groups.

From 1959-1971, Cohelan served in the U.S. House as the Representative of California's Seventh District. This territory includes Berkeley and northern Oakland, and is conventionally one of the nation's most left-leaning congressional districts. During Cohelan's tenure, he served on the Armed Services, Appropriations, and District of Columbia committees and focused his attention on civil rights, conservation of natural resources, education, foreign affairs, labor, Vietnam, and anti-Vietnam protests, especially those within his district. Important legislation Cohelan sponsored was for the creation of Redwood National Park in northern California and ending the importation of migrant farm labor, the Braceros, from Mexico.

Unable to counter political accusations that he was only a lukewarm opponent of the Vietnam War, Cohelan lost the Democratic primary of 1970 to Ronald V. Dellums, a more militant liberal and former Berkeley councilman. Following the completion of his term, Cohelan remained with his family in the Washington, D.C. area and assumed the executive directorship of the Group Health Association of American until his retirement in 1979.

Scope and Content of the Collection

The Jeffery Cohelan Collection contains 95 cubic feet of documents, all of which are from his congressional office. The material spans the period of 1930-1970, although the bulk of the collection is from 1959-1970, when Cohelan was in office. The collection is divided into seven series: public relations, political, legislative, administrative, personal, topical, and case files.

Detailed Description of the Collection

The following is a detailed description of series, boxes, folders, and documents that can be found in this collection.

Series 1: Public Relations Files, 1958-1970

These files contain documents pertaining to public relations and publicity functions conducted by Cohelan's congressional office. They are arranged alphabetically by type of document, and chronologically within each type. The types include correspondence, newsletters to constituents, press clippings, press releases, questionnaires to constituents, special mailings to constituents and others, speeches and statements, and transcripts of Cohelan's TV and radio appearances. The series begins with a folder of biographical materials about the congressman. While there are materials dating from his entire service in the U.S. Congress (1959-1971), they are least numerous for his last two years in office. Recurring topics include Redwood National Park, migrant farm laborers, the Vietnamese Conflict, Pt. Reyes National Seashore, anti-ballistic missiles, civil rights and voting rights legislation, and urban mass transit. (4.0 cubic feet)

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Series 2: Political Files, 1930-1970 (Bulk: 1958-1966)

These materials concentrate on general political matters and Cohelan's political campaigns. A smaller amount of material from the campaigns of the congressman's opponents is also present. Documents are arranged chronologically with subdivisions under each year for California, district (California's Seventh Congressional District), national, and personal. The few documents available in the Personal category generally address Cohelan's committee assignments and voting records. Documentation is sparse for the period 1967-1970, and there are few files on Cohelan's loss to Ronald V. Dellums in the 1970 Democratic primary. While many of these files contain correspondence with constituents, there is also a number of letters to and from local, state, and national politicians. Of note are the 0.5 cubic feet of materials for the year 1966. These mainly concern the congressman's primary race against Robert (Bob) Scheer and related protests against the Vietnamese Conflict, including activities of the Vietnam Day Committee. (2.0 cubic feet)

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Series 3: Legislative Files, 1957-1971 (Bulk: 1959-1971)

Constituent and VIP correspondence make up the majority of materials in this large series. Also present are congressional documents, outgoing form letters (sometimes called ROBOs), maps, newsletters, newspaper and magazine clippings, publications, speeches, and telegrams. Cohelan regularly corresponded with other members of Congress and with California Governors Edmund G. Brown and Ronald Reagan. The congressman also maintained an extensive correspondence with Professor Paul S. Taylor of the University of California at Berkeley. Most of their letters concern water and water projects, especially the San Luis Dam and Reservoir.

The top-level arrangement of this series is by Congress, beginning with the Eighty-sixth (1959-1960) and continuing through the Ninety-first (1969-1971). Each Congress is further divided alphabetically into congressional committees and by subject within these committees. Documents within each folder are arranged chronologically. The series ends with files on Cohelan's legislation and voting record and some additional materials from the Eighty-sixth Congress that were discovered at a belated point in the processing.

Topics most commonly occurring in this series include animal welfare, anti-ballistic missiles, civil rights, communism, conservation, education, dams, disarmament, foreign aid, immigration and naturalization, labor, migrant farm workers, Office of Education appropriations, pollution, senior citizens, social security, taxes, transportation, and World War I veteran benefits. Controversy over California's Redwood National Park and measures to create the Pt. Reyes National Seashore are also well-documented. (35.5 cubic feet)

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Series 4: Administrative Files, 1950-1970 (Bulk: 1958-1970)

These files document Cohelan's interaction with, or his staff's interest in, the activities of government departments and agencies. They contain correspondence, newspaper and magazine clippings, publications, telegrams, maps, and other documents. The top level arrangement is by year, beginning with 1959 and ending with 1970. Under each year, folders are arranged alphabetically by department or agency name (with federal departments appearing first), then federal independent agencies, judicial files, and State of California files. Folder subarrangement is alphabetical by topic, and documents within topics are generally organized chronologically.

Many topics are discussed in this series. Substantial material exists on migrant farm laborers (braceros), military installations and facilities in California, water projects in California (including dams and reservoirs), nuclear weapons and disarmament, transportation in California (aviation, railroads, highways), housing (low-income and senior citizen) and urban renewal projects in the East Bay area, postal facilities in the East Bay area, radio and TV broadcasting in the San Francisco Bay area (including radio station KPFA), labor issues, Great Society programs (anti-poverty, economic development, employment, training, community action) in the East Bay area, public schools and universities in California (including the University of California at Berkeley and the student movements and protests), mass transit in the Bay Area (including BART), and the Presidio court martials. There are several boxes of material concerning the Vietnamese Conflict, especially protests against it. Constituents and officials with the various departments, agencies, labor unions, and other organizations comprise the majority of correspondence, including that of Jerome R. Waldie, John E. Moss, Robert L. Leggett, Paul S. Taylor, Sargent Shriver, H. G. Rickover, Spurgeon Avakian, George P. Miller, Edmund G. Brown, Wilbur D. Mills, Chester Bowles, Clement Miller, and Governor Ronald Reagan. There are a few documents from or about presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon. (24.25 cubic feet)

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Series 5: Personal Files, 1958-1970 (Bulk: 1959-1970)

This series contains Cohelan's personal documents, with correspondence and schedules constituting the majority of the material. Correspondence files include letters to and from friends and politicians at the local, state, and national level, as well as some correspondence with constituents. Frequent correspondents are Spurgeon Avakian, Chester Bowles, Edmund G. Brown, Hubert H. Humphrey, Howard T. (Bizz) Johnson, Lawrence F. O'Brien, Sargent Shriver, Stewart L. Udall, and Earl Warren. The calendars and invitations files catalog Cohelan's schedules and activities, including trips he made in an official capacity.

Some documents concerning Cohelan's private life are also included, such as car accident and insurance reports, rental housing paperwork, solicitations for membership in organizations, and news clippings about members of his family. Letters to and from his wife and four children are found here as well, many of which address his daughter Pamela's service in the Peace Corps and his son Timothy's service overseas in the Navy.

Other topics covered in this series are Christmas cards, office management, visitors to Washington, D.C., and the Berkeley Salute to Excellence in Youth program. This series also contains the filing schema used by Cohelan's staff to organize all files maintained in the Washington, D.C. office. The top level of arrangement is by year. Subarrangement is alphabetical with the exception of calendars and invitations, which are arranged chronologically. (9.0 cubic feet)

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Series 6: Topical Files, 1947-1970 (Bulk: 1966-1970)

This series contains reference material that was used to inform administrative and legislative decisions. Files are arranged alphabetically by topic, the general categories for which are loosely based on House committees. Topics covered extensively are commerce and the economy; education, including Elementary and Secondary Education Acts, appropriations, and school desegregation; foreign affairs, including a large volume of material about the Vietnamese Conflict; health concerns such as family planning and hunger; judicial issues such as civil disorders and civil rights; farm labor; national security; natural resources, including a large volume of material concerning Redwood National Park; the State of California, especially Oakland; and welfare programs.

Materials in this collection are of diverse types and formats and include newspaper and magazine clippings, government reports and publications, brochures, booklets, and professional journals. Also common are summaries, background information, and chronologies concerning specific issues published by researchers at the Library of Congress legislative reference service. Correspondence with other members of Congress and government officials is also included, along with many of Cohelan's own notes and staff communications. (20.75 cubic feet)

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Series 7: Case Files, 1954-1970 (Bulk: 1959-1970)

This series contains requests from citizens residing in the Seventh Congressional District of California. They are arranged alphabetically by the constituent's last name. The majority of requests fall into two categories: requests for assistance with military courts martial, the majority of which involve conscientious objector status or discharge from service, and claims of racial discrimination involving civilian employees at military stations in the Oakland area. Immigration and eligibility for veterans benefits are other issues addressed here. These materials generally consist of correspondence between Jeffery Cohelan and the constituent, as well as with various government agencies and military officials. (0.75 cubic feet)

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In addition almost 300 photos from Cohelan's political career can be found in the Jeffery Cohelan Photograph Collection. For more information on the archival holdings, please contact the Carl Albert Center.

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