Register to the Senatorial Papers of Claiborne Pell

Creator: Claiborne Pell
Title: Senatorial Papers of Claiborne Pell
Dates: 1960-1997
Quantity: 2,500 box(es) (2,500 linear feet)
Abstract: The Senatorial Papers of Claiborne deBorda Pell consists of the records of the Senator and his staff. These files cover the 36 years Pell served as a United States Senator from Rhode Island beginning in 1960 and ending in 1996.
Identification: Mss. Gr. 71
Language: The records are in English.
Repository: University of Rhode Island Library, Special Collections and Archives Unit 15 Lippitt Road Kingston, RI 02881-2011

Biographical or Historical Information

Claiborne deBorda Pell was born on November 22, 1918 in New York City to Matilda Bigelow Pell and Herbert Claiborne Pell. The Pell family lineage includes five members of Congress and George Mifflin Dallas, who was Vice President to President James Polk, 1845-1849. Senator Pell’s father served as a United States Congressman from New York, 1919-1921, as well as Minister to Portugal, 1937-1941, Minister to Hungary, 1941-1942, and a United States Representative to the United Nations War Crimes Commission 1943-1945.

Senator Pell attended St. Georges High School in Middletown, Rhode Island, graduated from Princeton University in 1940, and received a Masters degree from Columbia University in 1946. He joined the United States Coast Guard four months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the start of World War II. Senator Pell continued his service after the war and attained the rank of Senior Captain in 1978.

After graduating from Columbia University, Pell participated in the San Francisco Conference that culminated in the creation of the United Nations and established the United States Consulate General in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia after the communists seized control of that nation. Senator Pell then served as a State Department Foreign Service Officer stationed in Eastern Europe and Italy for seven years.

After leaving the Foreign Service, Pell served as Vice President for the International Rescue Committee. He was stationed in Austria and assumed responsibility for assisting refugees from the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. During this time, Pell was arrested and placed in jail by agents from three fascist governments and three communist governments. In 1959, President Eisenhower appointed Pell to the delegation meeting on the International Maritime Consultative Organization. Senator Pell has received more than 20 decorations for his service including the Presidential Citizens Medal.

In 1960, Senator Pell was elected to the United States Senate and served for the next six terms as the Senator from Rhode Island until his retirement in 1996. He won his first Senate race by the largest plurality of that time and is the longest serving Senator in Rhode Island’s history. He has served as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Education. Senator Pell also served as ranking member on the Labor and Welfare Committee, Rules and Administration Committee, Executive Committee on the Environment and Energy Study, as well as the Special Committee on Aging, and the Joint Congressional Committee on Libraries and Museums.

Senator Pell’s appointments included being Senate Advisor to the United States delegation to the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, delegate to the 25th United Nations General Assembly (1970), Senate Advisor to the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT), and a member of the Commission on Improving the Effectiveness of the United Nations. Senator Pell also played a principle role in outlawing the placement of weapons of massive destruction on the seabed and to ensure international cooperation in protection of the environment.

Senator Pell was the principal sponsor of the 1965 legislation creating the National Endowment for Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He authored the National Sea Grant College and Program Act of 1966 which provides annual funding for oceanographic studies. He is also the author of the Basic Educational Opportunity Grants (renamed Pell Grants in 1980), that eliminate financial barriers to higher education. He was a driving force in the Senate to establish the International Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty aimed at reducing nuclear weapons, in addition to authoring legislation banning the manufacture and use of biological weapons.

Senator Pell also served as a member of the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving and was the original Senate advocate for tougher penalties against those caught driving while intoxicated. He also authored the High Speed Ground Transportation Act aimed at improving rail service including the establishment of a continuous electrification infrastructure between Washington, D.C., New York, and Boston.

Senator Pell passed away on January 1, 2009. In addition to his wife Nuala, Senator Pell is survived by his son, Christopher T. H. Pell of Newport, his daughter Dallas Pell of New York, his five grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

A televised biograpraphy of Senator Pell’s life and career can be viewed here.

Return to the top of the page

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains constituent correspondence, Senate Education Sub-Committee files, Senate Foreign Relations Committee records, and records from the 87th through 101st congressional sessions (1960-1996). The records include speeches, correspondence, memorandum, reports, articles, press statements, audio tape, audiovisual materials, photographs, and realia.

The collection also contains pre-senate records consisting of correspondence, memorandum, and personal papers that cover the years from 1937 through the 1959. These records document the period when Senator Pell was a student at Princeton University and as an officer in the United States Coast Guard during World War II. They also his career as a Foreign Service Officer in Eastern Europe; his appointed as a delegate to the signing of the original United Nations charter in 1945; his campaign work with the Democratic National Committee throughout 1950’s; and his time as Vice President of the International Rescue Committee.

Other records include “Pell Family Papers” (1890-1996) consisting of correspondence, drawings, and photographs from Senator Pell’s immediate family, relatives, friends, and colleagues. The series also contain records from Pell’s childhood as well correspondence between members of his mother’s family dating back to the late nineteenth century.

Return to the top of the page


The collection is arranged by subject and date within each series.

See index page for sub-group and series lists.

Return to the top of the page


Open for research.

Terms governing use and reproduction: Photocopying and scanning of materials is a fee based service available in the repository and is allowed at the discretion of the Archivist when in compliance to the Unit’s policy on copyright and publication.

Return to the top of the page

Index Terms

These records are indexed under the following headings in the HELIN catalog. Researchers wishing to find related materials should search the catalog under these index terms.

Return to the top of the page

Related Material

The materials related to this collection can be found in the Pell Family Papers and Pre-Senate subgroups.

The records contained in Subseries I-VII were transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) under Senate Standing Rule XXVI Committee Procedure, paragraph 10. The series contained 100 linear feet of records covering the years 1958-1990. The Education Subcommittee is a subcommittee of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare in the United States Senate. Senator Pell was Chairman of the committee from 1969-1981, and 1987-1994.

The records were processed by the archivist before being transferred to NARA. The finding aids to these records are linked in the Subseries titles below. The records in were reboxed for shipping puroposes before being transferred to NARA. Therefore, the box numbers for these records will not correspond with the boxes that were transferred to NARA but the original folder title order was retained.

Education Amendments of 1972, S. 659, consists of the records of the Senate Education Sub-Committee. Subjects include the Education Amendments of 1972, S. 659 which was authored by Pell and would become Public Law 92318. The bill contained a wide range of initiatives including higher education grants, desegregation policies, Indian education, United States foreign service grants, and vocational education. The records consist of Senate legislation but also include House versions of this legislation and House proposals.

The series consists of twelve subseries, which are listed below, containing memoranda, correspondence, speeches, press releases, news clippings, reports, handwritten draft of memoranda and legislation, printed drafts of legislation, bills, amendments, and proposals. Also included are clippings taken from the Congressional Record regarding debates on S.659, and printer’s draft legislative material consisting of clipped legislation pasted on sheets of paper containing instructions and corrections for the final copy of the bill.

Return to the top of the page

Administrative Information

Custodial History

The records were kept in Senator Pell’s Washington and Providence offices before being transferred to the University of Rhode Island.

Preferred Citation

Senatorial Papers of Claiborne Pell, Mss. Gr. 71, University of Rhode Island Special Collections

Acquisitions Information

The Senatorial Papers of Claiborne Pell were deposited at the University of Rhode Island by Senator Pell from 1976-2002. The Senatorial Papers of Claiborne Pell were gifted by Mrs. Pell in April 2012.

Processing Information

The records were processed from 2006-2008.

Finding aid prepared by Mark J. Dionne.

Finding aid encoded by Mark J. Dionne on 2008 February 15

Return to the top of the page


Think Big We Do

Copyright © 2024 University of Rhode Island.