Local History Comes Alive in Archive!
By: Paul Gifford, Archivist
(Click on any photo to enlarge)
The papers of Flint native and UM-Flint graduate Donald W. Riegle, Jr., who served as Congressman and Senator from 1967 to 1994, are now available for research through the library, more specifically through the Archive.
“Riegle was a child and grandchild of Flint people, so it’s appropriate that his papers are in the Genesee Historical Collections Center,” says Paul Gifford, archivist.
Riegle grew up on the east side of Flint and graduated from Central High School in 1956. After a year at Flint Junior College and a year at Western Michigan University, he enrolled as a business administration major in the Flint College of the University of Michigan, from which he graduated in 1960. He received an M.B.A. from Michigan State University the following year, began working for IBM, and began working on a D.B.A. degree from Harvard before entering politics.
In 1966 an opportunity to run for U.S. Congress presented itself, and Riegle, a Republican, solidly defeated the 7th District incumbent. He soon acquired a reputation as a maverick, opposing the war in Vietnam and receiving endorsements from the local UAW and getting support from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action. He wrote a candid book, O Congress (1972), which critics liked. During that campaign year, he actively campaigned against Nixon.
He changed parties in 1973 and the following year initiated formal impeachment proceedings against Nixon. Following Senator Philip Hart’s retirement in 1976, Riegle successfully pursued that office. With his business background, Riegle was appointed to the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, as well as other committees. He was re-elected twice.
Riegle’s chief priority as Senator was to improve economic conditions for his constituents. He championed the Chrysler loan guarantee, took positions that benefitted both auto industry executives and labor, introduced legislation to increase American exports, and fought the North American Free Trade Agreement.
In an investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics into what certain senators had done for the bankrupt owner of a savings and loan company, Riegle was rebuked for the appearance of impropriety in 1991. When his term expired in 1994, he chose not to run.
In addition to the files on the legislation with which Riegle was involved, his papers concern many issues in Flint (such as Urban Development Action Grants) and the 7th District. Riegle maintained many Michigan offices, so there is considerable material relating to Michigan affairs.
In order to make the papers available for research, Gifford and his team of students, especially Jeanette Routhier, had to devise a plan to arrange and order the files, remove extraneous material, and describe it. The large size (164 linear feet, after processing) of the collection meant that it would require considerable time to complete the task.
For more information, see Archives website at:
By: Paul Gifford, Archivist — Thompson Library