Presidential Libraries

In the past, presidential papers were considered to be the president's personal property.  Many presidents took their documents with them when they left office; sadly, many presidents destroyed them.  Many documents have scattered over the years and are in the hands of countless collectors across the country.

In 1939, Franklin Roosevelt reversed that trend when he donated all his personal and presidential papers to the federal government, along with part of his New York estate, to establish a library and museum.  His successors (and immediate predecessor) followed his lead and did the same.

Congress then passed the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 to create a system of libraries to be established privately but maintained federally.  The Presidential Records Act of 1978 declared that the records that document the constitutional, statutory, and ceremonial duties of the president are property of the United States Government and are to be maintained by the presidential library system managed by the National Archives and Records Administration.  The Presidential Libraries Act of 1986 requires private endowments to be established for use by the NARA to offset a portion of the cost to maintain the library.

There are many museums across the country that have declared themselves to be "presidential libraries" but the only ones officially recognized as such by the federal government are those in the presidential library system managed by the NARA.  I have visited all thirteen:

31st President - Herbert Hoover - West Branch, Iowa - visited in 1976

32nd President - Franklin Roosevelt - Hyde Park, NY - visited in 2000, 2001, and 2014

33rd President - Harry Truman - Independence, Missouri - visited in 1976 and 1977



34th President - Dwight Eisenhower - Abilene, Kansas - visited in 1976

(our photos from the library have been lost)

35th President - John Kennedy - Boston, Massachusetts - visited in 1981

36th President - Lyndon Johnson - Austin, Texas - visited in 1977, 2008, and 2015

37th President - Richard Nixon - Yorba Linda, California - visited in 2000 and 2004


38th President - Gerald Ford - Grand Rapids, Michigan - visited in 1982

39th President - Jimmy Carter - Atlanta, Georgia - visited in 2003

40th President - Ronald Reagan - Simi Valley, California - visited in 2000 and 2004

41st President - George HW Bush - College Station, Texas - visited 2015

42nd President - Bill Clinton - Little Rock, Arkansas - visited 2015

43rd President - George W Bush - Dallas, Texas - visited 2015

44th President - Barack Obama - ??????

It is still not known where President Obama will choose to build his presidential library.  Some think it will be in the city where he was born, Honolulu, on the campus of the University of Hawaii.  Others think that he'll choose his alma mater, Columbia University, in New York City.  However, I think that he'll choose to build his library in his adopted home state of Illinois, on the campus where he taught constitutional law, the University of Chicago.  A year ago, the university razed several buildings that they had recently purchased, including ironically an old apartment building where Ronald Reagan's family lived for a short time when he was four years old.  Could it be that they were clearing a spot for the future Obama library?  Stay tuned... the president plans to announce his selection for the site in April 2015.

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