Scope and Contents
The general files make up the largest segment of the James Pearson senatorial papers, comprising approximately one half of the collection. Begun with Pearson's appointment to the Senate in 1962, they were added to daily until he left office in 1979. The general files are largely made up of letters from constituents, with a yellow carbon copy of Pearson's reply attached to each one. The subjects of the letters cover nearly every kind of national, state, local, and personal issue and concern facing Pearson's constituents, and therefore Pearson, between 1962 and 1978.
The organization of this series has been kept as it was used in Pearson's Washington, D.C. office. It's organization, however, was not always consistent. The files are divided by calendar year beginning with 1962. Up through 1970 there are two main divisions in each year's general files: Legislation and Departmental. "Legislation" is somewhat of a misnomer. These letters were not so much concerned with actual bills before the Senate, but expressed concern about a wide general array of subjects. Criticism and praise for Pearson's stand on an issue, requests for information and special help, suggestions, etc. can all be found here. Each letter is filed under the subject with which it deals. The few letters that did not fit under any one subject were filed under a letter (A, B, C, etc.) according to the first letter of the writer's last name. The second division of early General Files, "Departmental," dealt with matters that fit under a specific governmental department or commission, e.g. Treasury-IRS, or HEW-Food and Drug Administration.
The General Files were reorganized in 1971, possibly in response to reflecting the growth and complexity of Pearson's mail from his constituency. A large general issue/concern category was established which basically encompassed much of the old "Legislation" file. It was organized in the same manner as the "Legislation" file. This general category was supplemented by a separate file for "Cases" that included files of individual requests for information and help; or requests that necessitated some form of special research. Arrangement of the departmental files was not changed, but remained an alphabetical sequence, organized by name of department and/or commission. It is worth noting that from year to year the headings on some of the subject folders would change with new government terminology, while other headings would be added, and some would disappear. Thus, two or more files might deal with the same subject (e.g., "Handguns" and "Gun Control").
The series includes some materials of a personal nature, such as congratulations and thank-yous for Senator Pearson; these materials were separated in the early years of Pearson's time as senator and then absorbed into the general issues/concerns material starting in 1970. There are also some files related specifically to the Commerce Committee and to legislation in which Pearson's office was particularly involved in drafting/revising/shepherding through the legislative process.
The best advice for the researcher of a particular issue is to be sure all related subject areas are checked. Also, when many preprinted letters came to Pearson's office from a single-interest group, samples were retained and the rest were usually discarded to save space. The names and addresses of those taking part in the mailing are preserved in Pearson's letters of response.
311.5 Linear Feet (291 boxes)