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The J. William Fulbright Papers

Description from the Special Collections Brochure Series

Portrait of Fulbright

J. William Fulbright presented his papers to the University of Arkansas, his alma mater, in two increments, in 1972 and 1974 (parts of the finding aid are now available online). The papers document his public career as a Congressman and Senator and especially as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during some of the most significant episodes in twentieth-century history. They consist of 1,400 linear feet of correspondence, legislative bills, speeches, and other records of the governmental, political, and diplomatic issues with which he was concerned. Significant portions of the papers document the operation of Congress and its relationship with the other branches of government, the work of the Foreign Relations Committee and others on which Fulbright served, and the censure of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.

The collection includes materials regarding the origin and administration of the Fulbright academic exchange program. It is also a rich resource for Arkansas studies, since the papers often provide unexpected insights into state politics and personalities.

Since the papers were opened for research, scholars have visited the collection from throughout the United States and from England, Israel, Canada, Germany, Japan, and what was then the Soviet Union, among other foreign countries. Most of their work has focused on United States political history and foreign relations in the twentieth century. They have pursued such diverse topics as dissent and the Vietnam war, European federation, and the Cuban missile crisis. However, the papers have also supported research into United States policy in the Middle East and into many other aspects of American politics and foreign policy. The activities of the Fulbright Institute of International Relations provide opportunities for some researchers to pursue their inquiries in the Fulbright papers. Most of the researchers have been academics, ranging from undergraduate students to distinguished professors, but they have also represented journalism, law, and communication.

Education and cultural exchange were major concerns of Senator Fulbright's throughout his career, and his papers include interesting correspondence with American and world cultural leaders. Special Collections is also the repository of other significant collections in this area, the archives of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the records of the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, and the records of NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Together with the Fulbright papers, they form a unique resource for research in international education and cultural exchange.

J. William Fulbright was born in 1905 and was educated at the University of Arkansas from the first grade at the laboratory school until he was awarded the A.B. degree in 1925. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Pembroke College, Oxford, and was awarded the M.A. degree in 1931.

When he returned to the United States he studied law at George Washington University in Washington, and during the 1930s he served in the Justice Department and was an instructor at George Washington University Law School. In 1936 he returned to Arkansas where he was a lecturer in law and, from 1939 to 1941, president of the University of Arkansas.

Fulbright began his first term in Congress in January 1943, and was assigned to the Foreign Affairs Committee. In September of that year the House adopted the Fulbright Resolution supporting an international peace-keeping machinery, wherby he earned national attention. In November 1944 he was elected to the Senate where he served until 1974. In 1946 the Fulbright Scholar Program was established, which has provided opportunities for thousands of scholars in the United States and other countries to participate in what has been called "the largest movement of scholars across the earth since the fall of Constantinople." In 1949 he was assigned to the Foreign Relations Committee and became its chairman in 1959. He held the chair for the remainder of his tenure in the Senate, longer than any other person.

He was a powerful voice in the chaotic times of the war in Vietnam, when he chaired the Senate hearings on the conduct of the war. In 1963 Walter Lippmann wrote of Fulbright: "The role he plays in Washington is an indispensable role. There is no one else who is so powerful and also so wise, and if there were any question of removing him from public life, it would be a national calamity."

Access to the Fulbright papers is open to students, faculty, and others upon application to the staff. To facilitate their work, researchers who wish to use the papers are advised to write or telephone Special Collections in advance.

Special Collections
University of Arkansas Libraries
365 N. McIlroy Avenue
Fayetteville, AR 72701-4002

Telephone: (479) 575-8447
FAX: (479) 575-6656

Biographical information from J. William Fulbright: A Bibliography, compiled by Betty Austin

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