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Sen. William Proxmire's Papers Go Online

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

When Sen. William Proxmire (1915-2005) retired in 1988, he and his staff donated more than 200 boxes of office files to the Wisconsin Historical Society. A generous selection from those has just been released on the Society's website. It includes books and articles that he wrote, official press releases, newsletters sent home to constituents, campaign strategy notes and advertising literature, and a wide variety of other materials from his archives. The transcripts of 40 interviews conducted with his colleagues, friends and family between 2008 and 2011 complement the core collection.

Proxmire's Legacy

Senator Proxmire was a key player in the revitalization of the Wisconsin Democratic Party in the early 1950s and represented our state in Washington for three tumultous decades. He is remembered today as a political maverick who championed honest government while opposing federal waste and corruption. "He was 100 percent always on the side of the little guy," recalled Democratic colleague, Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, now retired. "He hated government waste, and he hated abuse of power." He is also remembered for his personal integrity, self-discipline and willingness to take unpopular stands.

The office files total about 4,000 pages and are searchable by keyword. They have also been indexed and tagged by Society staff to easily retrieve documents about any topic, event or person. Proxmire's well-known Golden Fleece Awards, which exposed waste or corruption by federal agencies, are included as well.

The oral history interviews complement the office files by revealing Sen. Proxmire's personality and telling dozens of stories about his personal and professional life. Conducted by professionl interviewer Anita Hecht of Life History Services, they discuss Proxmire's relations with Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan. But they also share incidents that shine a light on his character. For example, the interviews recall the time he faced down a mugger while jogging home from his Capitol office and reflect on how his famous penny-pinching applied to his personal life as well as government spending.

The digital collection was made possible through the generosity of Sen. Proxmire's family and friends, who contributed time, materials and financial support to ensure the preservation of his legacy.

Peruse the Proxmire Papers Online

:: Posted February 16, 2012

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