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James Pearson's senatorial papers

Call Number: RH MS 266


The papers of Senator James B. Pearson reflect his official duties and activities while serving Kansas in the United States Senate from 1962 to 1978.


  • Creation: 1962 - 1978


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Those audio visual materials associated with call numbers KC AV 7, KC AV 41, and KC AV 51 are stored in the KU Annex off-site storage area.

All researchers interested in reviewing this material must consult Spencer Research Library Public Services staff (785-864-4334 or, 9-5 M-F CST) before a planned visit; staff will respond within three days, though materials may not be available in that timeframe. Access to audio visual materials may require digitization first. Be advised that drop-in requests for this material cannot be accommodated.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of James Blackwood Pearson (1920-2009)

James Blackwood Pearson was born May 7, 1920 in Nashville, Tennessee. His father, a Methodist minister, later relocated his family to Virginia.

It was during World War II that Pearson had his first close look at Kansas. As a navy pilot he served at the Olathe Naval Air Station, flying planes for the Naval Air Transport Service from 1943 to 1946. He left the service with the rank of Lieutenant. Pearson had attended Duke University and returned to the East to earn his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. He moved back to Johnson County, Kansas in 1950 and opened a law office in Mission.

Within a short period of time, Blackwood was serving as city attorney for both Westwood and Fairway, and in 1952 became the assistant county attorney. Becoming involved in local Republican Party politics, Pearson was elected probate judge in 1954 and state senator in 1956. After a four-year term in the Kansas Senate, he became State Chairman for the Republican Party.

Governor John Anderson, recognizing Pearson's solid political experience, appointed him on January 31, 1962, to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy created by the death of Senator Andrew F. Schoeppel. That November Pearson was elected to serve the remaining four years of Schoeppel's term. In 1966 and 1972 Pearson was re-elected to six-year terms.

During his 17 years in the United State Senate, Pearson served on numerous committees, subcommittees, and commissions. His main committee responsibilities during this time involved the Public Works, Interior, Commerce, Armed Services, and Foreign Relations Committees. He also took part in many international conferences and fact-finding missions. His committee seats and increasing seniority through the years gave Pearson considerable political clout. His independent voting record reinforced this fact by giving him a wide base of respect from both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. Comfortable in the moderate and conservative camps, Pearson nevertheless was not shy in voting with liberal Democrats on issues that were to him a matter of conscience.

In 1978 Pearson surprised many people by choosing not to run again for another six years in the Senate. Upon his retirement, Nancy Landon Kassebaum was elected to his seat.

After his years in the Senate, Pearson was associated with the Washington office of the law firm LaBeouf, Lamb, Lieby and MacRae, in addition to serving on various boards and commissions. He died January 13, 2009, at his home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and was survived by his second wife, Margaret Pearson, and children James, Thomas, William, and Laura from his first marriage to Martha (Mitchell) Pearson.


454.75 Linear Feet (458 boxes + 2 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder, 26 audiovisual items)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The papers of Senator James B. Pearson were given to the Kansas Collection of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas, by Senator Pearson when he retired in 1978. He had served Kansas in the United States Senate from 1962 to 1978, and his papers therefore reflect his official duties and activities during that period. Additional materials were processed into the collection in 2017. These materials were held out of previous processing efforts at the request of the donor until a minimum of ten years had past.

The collection is arranged into the following eight general series: General, Legislation, Kansas Offices, Subject/Issue, Administrative, Press, Column and Newsletters, and Miscellaneous. Within each series are several sub-series. All materials are from the Senator's Washington, D.C. office, except the Kansas Offices series, which includes records from three offices operated by Pearson's staff in Kansas. Additions to the collection, most of which mirror the original series, can be found at both RH MS 1211 and RH MS 1433. Photographic negatives and oversize materials can be found at RH MS-P 1433, RH MS Q328, and RH MS R433. Audio visual materials are available at RH Movie 6 and KC AV 7.

A wide range of materials are included in the collection, including but not limited to constituent mail, copies of legislation sponsored by Senator Pearson, speeches, and statements made by the Senator, his voting record, newsletters, and photographs.

Physical Location

RH MS 266

Physical Location

RH MS 1211

Physical Location

RH MS Q328

Physical Location

RH MS 1433

Physical Location

RH MS-P 1433

Physical Location

RH MS R423

Physical Location


Physical Location

A/V items at Annex (Contact Spencer Library Public Services)

Physical Location


Physical Location

KC AV 41

Physical Location

KC AV 51

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of James B. Pearson upon his retirement in 1978. Gifts, Heather Moore on behalf of the U.S. Senate Historical Office, 2008; H. Edward Flentje, 2015.

Separated Materials

Pearson, James B. "James B. Pearson, United States Senator, Reports to Kansas." Washington, 1965-1978. Located at Spencer Research Library at RH Ser E395.

Processing Information

Papers and A/V materials previously unprocessed were added to the collection description in 2017. These materials were minimally processed and often left in their original folders. Original order was preserved wherever possible.

Some films formerly located at RH Movie 6 are now located at KC AV 51.

Guide to the James Blackwood Pearson Collection
James Pearson's senatorial papers
Collection processed in 1981-1982 by Tom Brown and David Bibb. Finding aid prepared by KSRL Digital Lab, University of Kansas, 2002. Finding aid revised by skt, 2010; lb, 2017; mwh, 2018, 2020, 2021, 2022.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
James Pearson's senatorial papers, RH MS 266, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States