Collection ASM0399 - William C. Baggs papers

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William C. Baggs papers


  • 1950-1968 (Creation)


32 Boxes

Name of creator

Biographical history

William Calhoun “Bill” Baggs was born In Atlanta, Georgia, on September 30, 1920, the son on C.C. Baggs and the former Kate Bush. Baggs declined an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1941, and travelled to Panama where he worked as a stevedore and copy reader with the Panama Star and Herald. During World War II Baggs served as a pilot with the 485th Bomber Group of the 14th Air Force in North Africa and Italy. Baggs married the former Joan Orr of Athens, Georgia, in 1945 and worked for the Greensboro News (North Carolina) before accepting a position as a reporter with the Miami News in 1946. He was promoted to editor in 1957.

Bill Baggs began a daily column in 1949 and soon became an intimate part of the Miami journalism and political landscape. At the request of President John F. Kennedy, Baggs served of the United States Mission that established the Caribbean Organization. Among countless local activities Baggs served on the Citizens Board of the University of Miami, the Metro Community Relations Board, the State Constitution Revision Commission, and the Cuban Refugee Resettlement Commission. He was also director of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

In 1959 Baggs received the Leonard Abess Human Relations award for his editorial campaign to keep Florida schools open when legislators threatened to close schools rather than end segregation. Baggs fought successfully for the establishment of Cape Florida State Park. He also received the Eleanor Roosevelt-Israel Humanities Award for his editorial on behalf of the State of Israel. Baggs was nominated for the Nobel Prize for his efforts to bring peace to Vietnam. He died shortly before the National Conference of Christians and Jews was able to present him with its highest honor, the Brotherhood Medallion.

As Director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Baggs made two trips to Vietnam with State Department approval, in January, 1967, and March, 1968. Baggs and the Center's executive vice president, Harry Ashmore, told of their experiences in a book, Mission to Hanoi: A Chronicle of Double-Dealing in High Places. They returned from Vietnam with the initial aide memoire that set forth North Vietnam position on negotiations with the United States. The memoire was delivered to Ambassador William H. Sullivan in Vientiane, Laos, on April 6, 1968. Baggs wrote and published extensively, in newspapers journals and books. He also appeared frequently on television and traveled the country as a speaker.

Bill Baggs died in Miami Florida, on January 7, 1969, of complications from viral pneumonia.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The William Calhoun “Bill” Baggs Papers includes thirty-one boxes of correspondence, memoranda, clippings, photographs, diaries and other materials relating to the professional career of Baggs, a newspaper journalist, editor, and political commentator from the 1940s until his death in 1969. As a columnist and editor for the Miami Daily News, Baggs developed relationships with many prominent figures. The Baggs Papers, arranged in six series, totals thirteen cubic feet of materials. In addition to incoming correspondence, the files include hundreds of carbon copies of outgoing correspondence from Baggs to a variety of local, regional, state, national, and international politicians, journalists, and others.

System of arrangement

SERIES I: SELECT CORRESPONDENCE, includes letters to and from Baggs and a number of important political figures. Baggs’ correspondents are a “who’s who” of American political and social figures from the 1940s to the 1960s. Significant individuals include: Harry Ashmore, Chester Bowles, Leroy Collins, James M. Cox, Jr., Lloyd Cutler, Louis Hector, J. Edgar Hoover, Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon B, Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Hyman Rickover, George Smathers, Henry King Stanford, Adlai Stevenson, Earl Warren, Philip Wylie and many others.

Correspondence with Ashmore details a wide range of political observations and activities, including aspects of the Baggs-Ashmore trips to Vietnam in 1967 and 1968. The Ashmore files also include the text of remarks delivered at a memorial service for Bill Baggs, on August 10, 1969. Letters with Chester Bowles discuss issues of the 1960 Kennedy presidential campaign in the South and Bowles subsequent work in the State Department and as Ambassador to India. Letters with Leroy Collins, former governor of Florida, include a discussion of Collins as potential keynote speaker at the 1960 Democratic National Convention, impressions of Fidel Castro as a political force (1959), and lengthy descriptions and opinions on issues of racism and segregation in the South. Exchanges with James M. Cox, Jr., involve discussions of editorial policies and practices by the Miami Daily News and other issues related to the newspaper business in Miami. J. Edgar Hoover and Baggs corresponded on issues of crime, communism, and segregation.

Letters with Lloyd Cutler, a long-time friend and associate, focus on political issues in Latin America and other foreign locations. Cutler files also include a letter from Baggs to Norton Cutler, then a student at Andover Academy. In response to a lengthy questionnaire, Baggs offers a detailed four-page reply that outlines his feelings and observations on the Vietnam situation in April, 1967. Correspondence with Louis Hector discusses Baggs’ many editorial writings and Hectors' service on the Civil Aeronautics Board.

Letters with Lyndon Baines Johnson, from his years as senator, vice president and president include brief exchanges relating to political campaigns and speaking engagements. Baggs’ letters with Hubert H. Humphrey also focus on these issues. A series of personal correspondence with John F. Kennedy provides an insight to the relationship these two men shared, as they discussed issues such as international politics, racism and segregation in the United States.

Correspondence between Admiral Hyman G. Rickover and Baggs focused on the issues of atomic energy, nuclear weapons, and United States naval activities. Letters with Senator George Smathers contain remarks on a wide range of political and journalistic subjects, including political campaigns, state government, Cuba, foreign relations and editorial observations.  Letters between Baggs and Henry King Stanford, president of the University of Miami, reveal substantive discussions on topics of education, segregation, and the role of the University of Miami in Dade County. Numerous letters with Adlai Stevenson discuss political campaigns and international politics, befitting Stevenson's role as Democratic candidate for president and subsequent service in the United Nations. Correspondence with literary figure Philip Wylie includes exchanges relating to Wylie's publications, his writing review of the Miami Daily News, and matters of Miami cultural life.

SERIES II: GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, includes letters to and from Baggs and a series of important political, social and community leaders. Correspondence in this series focuses more on issues of local or regional interest, although this is by no means an absolute truth. Important correspondents include: Burdines Department Store, Florida Constitution Revision Commission, William Frye, Theodore Roosevelt Gibson, Florence Mahoney, Metropolitan Miami Municipal Board, and several files under topical headings such as Complaints, Cuba, Cubans, Homosexuals, Segregation and other titles, each with sub-headings that identify issues of concern to readers of the Miami Daily News.

SERIES III: FUND FOR THE REPUBLIC FILES, consists of letters, publications, minutes of meetings, and other documents relating to the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions and the Fund for the Republic, Inc. From its base in Santa Barbara, California, the Center issued various publications, sponsored conferences and meetings, and engaged a broad spectrum of individuals in an “intellectual community” to explore and discuss topics of their choosing. Baggs served on the Board of Directors of the Fund for the Republic, along with Harry Ashmore Robert M. Hutchins and many others.

SERIES IV: VIETNAM FILES, contains Baggs’ letters, notes, diaries, photographs, clippings and other materials relating to his January, 1967 and March, 1968 trips to Vietnam. These files provide unique information, including hand-written notebooks and diaries that illuminate the political and military situation in Vietnam. A copy of a thirty-seven page report, dated April 9, 1968, and forwarded to Averell Harriman, provides an immediate summary of the second trip, which concluded on April 5, 1968.

SERIES V: TOPICAL FILES, consists of a group of files for selected issues and projects of concern to Baggs. Significant files include correspondence and materials relating tot he creation of Cape Florida Sate Park, various environmental issues, and political topics.

SERIES VI: WRITINGS AND MISCELLANEOUS, contains materials including appointment books, awards, and drafts of articles and other writings published in journals, magazines, and books. Unpublished works are also included in this series. Works include such diverse pieces as a political essay entitled “Ho Chi Minh,” and an environmental work entitled “Promise of the Dolphin.”

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

This collection is open for research

Physical access

Items from this collection are kept on-campus and may be requested from the first floor Kislak Center in the Otto G. Richter Library at University of Miami.

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Conditions governing reproduction

© 1994 University of Miami. All rights reserved. Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the Head of Special Collections.

Languages of the material

  • English

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