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Highlights Archives

Proxmire Digital Collection Gets Underway


Sen. William Proxmire on the set of the CBS news program, "Face the Nation"
WHI 30141

Thanks to contributions from the late senator's many friends and associates, work has recently begun to create a digital collection devoted to his career. William Proxmire won his first major victory in 1957 in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Senator Joseph McCarthy. He easily won re-election in 1958, 1964, 1970, 1976 and 1982 and became one of Wisconsin's most respected political leaders.

Advocate for Fiscal Responsibility

Proxmire is perhaps best remembered for his opposition to wasteful government spending. In 1971 he led a successful fight against financing the supersonic transport plane. Governmental mismanagement was also the prime target of his books, "Report from Wasteland" (1970), "Uncle Sam: the Last of the Bigtime Spenders" (1972), and "The Fleecing of America" (1980).

In March 1975 he sent out the first of 159 monthly Golden Fleece Awards that called attention to financial mismanagement by government officials. In his last two Senate campaigns, Proxmire refused to take any campaign contributions and spent less than $200 out of his own pocket on each campaign.

Sharing a Legacy

At the time of his death in 2005, Sen. Proxmire's papers totaled more than 300 boxes of biographical material, news clippings, correspondence, speeches, books, articles, case files, recordings, videos and photographs. The digital project that began this summer will select the most important and useful of these and share them online.

The archival materials are just the backdrop to a unique resource — audio interviews conducted recently with 39 of the senator's closest colleagues. These include Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, PBS Newshour commentator Mark Shields, Sen. Alan Simpson, Wisconsin Gov. Patrick Lucey, and members of Proxmire's family and office staff.

The goal of the digital project is to integrate audio of the interviews, typed transcripts, publications, manuscripts and photographs into the Web's richest resource on Sen. Proxmire's life and times. Researchers will be able to search across the entire collection to retrieve information about specific events, individuals and topics. Staff expect it to be ready for public use sometime in 2012.

:: Posted September 6, 2011

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