James G. O'Hara papers, 1958-1987 (majority within 1958-1976)
Using These Materials
- The collection is open for research.
- O'Hara, James G.
- Democratic congressman from Michigan, member of the House committees on Education and Labor, Interior and Insular Affairs, Budget, and the Joint Committee on Congressional Operations; and chairman of the Democratic Study Group, 1967-1968, and chairman of the Democratic Party Commission on Rules, 1969-1972. Congressional files, political files, Democratic Party materials; photographs; and post-congressional materials.
53.5 linear feet
2 oversize volumes
- Call Number:
- 85342 Aa 2 AC
- Finding aid prepared by: Gregory Kinney
- Scope and Content:
The James G. O'Hara Papers, 1958-1987, comprise 53.5 linear feet of material documenting his career as a member of Congress, his 1976 campaign for the Senate nomination, his service on various commissions and committees of the national Democratic Party, and his various activities and interests after leaving the House of Representatives. The collection has been organized in two subgroups: Congressional Papers and Post-Congressional Activities with most of the papers accumulated during his years in Congress. The papers include correspondence, staff memoranda and background papers, speeches, press releases, campaign brochures and literature, texts of bills sponsored or co-sponsored by O'Hara, transcripts of hearings and minutes of meetings, a diary kept by O'Hara from April to August 1969, newspaper clippings, photographs, audio and video tapes, and scrapbooks.
- Biographical / Historical:
James O'Hara was a Democratic congressman from the 7th and 12th districts of Michigan from 1959 to 1976. As a member of the Education and Labor Committee O'Hara was involved in shaping much of the major labor and education legislation enacted during the period. He came to be regarded as one of the principal spokesmen for organized labor in the House and was recognized as an expert on House rules and legislative tactics. O'Hara was an active participant in reform movements within the House and in the national Democratic Party. He was a founding member of the House Democratic Study Group and chaired the Democratic National Committee's Commission on Rules, 1969-1972. O'Hara gave up his seat in the House of Representatives to run for the United States Senate in 1976.
James Grant O'Hara was born November 8. 1925 in Washington, DC His family moved to Detroit when he was fourteen and O'Hara graduated from Detroit University High School in 1943. O'Hara then enlisted in the army, serving with Company B, 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division. He saw combat action as a paratrooper in the Pacific theater. After his discharge from the army in April 1946, O'Hara enrolled in the University of Michigan. He received his bachelor degree in 1954 and a law degree in 1955. O'Hara married Susan Puskas in 1953 and is the father of seven children. From 1955 to 1958 O'Hara practiced law in Detroit.
O'Hara made his first bid for elective office in 1958. He secured the Democratic Party nomination for Congress from the 7th district by winning a narrow victory in the primary election. O'Hara then won the general election in the traditionally Republican district by a margin of 2768 votes. O'Hara was reelected in 1960 by a margin of 18,000 votes. Thereafter his electoral victories were generally by margins of two or three to one. The sole exception was the 1972 campaign when the effects of redistricting, a weak Democratic national ticket, and the divisive busing issue resulted in a victory margin of less than 3000 votes.
The 7th congressional district, which O'Hara represented from 1959-1962, consisted of Macomb, Huron, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac and Tuscola counties. In the redistricting of 1962 a new 12th district was consisting of Macomb County and a small part of Wayne County. O'Hara elected to establish his residence in the 12th district and represented the area from 1963-1976. The 12th district was enlarged in 1972 to include all of Macomb County except Sterling Heights and part of Warren City, St. Clair County, Avon township in Oakland County, and Buell, Fremont, and Worth townships in Sanilac County.
In his freshman term O'Hara was assigned to the Education and Labor Committee and played a significant role in the attempts to soften the anti-labor features of the Landrum-Griffin bill. He served on the Education and Labor Committee for his entire congressional career, eventually becoming one of the ranking Democratic members. He chaired a special subcommittee on migrant labor, 1971-1972, and the Special Subcommittee on Higher Education, 1973-1976. As chair of the latter subcommittee O'Hara received national attention for his work on revision of the student financial assistance programs and the control of college tuition costs.
O'Hara also served on the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, 1967-1974, and on the Joint Committee on Congressional Operations, 1973-1974. In 1973 O'Hara was appointed to the special "Hansen Committee" on reorganization of the House. Among its other recommendations, the Hansen Committee called for the creation of a House Budget Committee and the establishment of the Congressional Budget Office. In the 94th Congress O'Hara gave up his seat on the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee to accept a position on the new Budget Committee.
During his second term in Congress, O'Hara was elected to serve as regional Democratic whip for Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. He held that position throughout his career and came to be recognized as one of the Democrat's most skilled floor leaders and legislative strategists. O'Hara was one of the leaders of the group of younger, generally liberal congressmen who led the fight to revive and reform the House Democratic caucus and to challenge the absolute authority of committee chairmen under the seniority system. In 1971 O'Hara waged an unsuccessful campaign for majority leader of the House.
A founding member of the Democratic Study Group in 1959, O'Hara served as vice chairman of the liberal reform group in 1965-1966 and as chairman in 1967-1968. O'Hara also participated in the Conference of Great Lakes Congressmen and was elected to succeed John Blatnik as chairman of the group in the 94th Congress.
O'Hara served on a number of national Democratic Party committees and commissions. He was frequently a delegate to the party's national convention and served on the credentials committee of the 1968 convention. After the disruptions of the 1968 convention, O'Hara was appointed by the Democratic National Committee to head a Commission on Party Rules. The Commission, which held hearings and meetings from 1969-1972, was charged with making recommendations for the rules and procedures for the 1972 Democratic convention. O'Hara was chairman of the 1972 Convention Rules Committee and also acted as parliamentarian for the convention.
Following the 1972 convention O'Hara was appointed to the Democratic Party Charter Commission headed by Terry Sanford. He was also a member of the Commission on the Selection of Vice Presidential Candidates. Though not a member of the Mikulski Commission on Delegate Selection, O'Hara worked closely with it and later served on the Compliance Review Commission charged with enforcing the Mikulski Commission's delegate selection guidelines for the 1976 party convention.
O'Hara was a charter member and national co-chairman of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority. This organization of "regular Democrats" was formed in the aftermath of the landslide defeat the Democratic party suffered in 1972. It was opposed to the "new politics" represented by the McGovern faction of the party and sought to revise the reforms instituted after the 1968 convention.
In 1976 O'Hara sought the Democratic Party nomination for United States senator to succeed the retiring Phil Hart. O'Hara lost the primary election to Donald Riegle and Richard Austin. After finishing out his term in the 94th Congress O'Hara returned to the practice of law. He died March 13, 1989.
- Acquisition Information:
- The bulk of the papers were received in 1978 from Congressman O'Hara (donor no. 5939 ). Additional materials were received in 1990 and 1992.
- Appraisal Information:
The size of the O'Hara collection has been significantly reduced during the course of processing the papers. Duplicate items and most government publications were removed, accounting for about one-third of the bulk reduction. Several series were eliminated completely. The largest of these was an "Alphabetical File" consisting of second carbons of responses to constituent mail. Largely eliminated were the "Departmental" and "Case Files" series. These consisted mainly of routine communications, announcements, etc. from federal departments and agencies, requests from constituents for assistance or information on matters such as social security, naturalization, military discharges and draft deferments. Also largely eliminated were extensive files on post office job openings and construction, local government grant applications, and the administration of public works projects in O'Hara's district.
Selected items from some of the eliminated series were retained and interfiled in the legislative subject file. The legislative file itself was weeded to eliminate much extraneous material of limited informational value or outside the area of O'Hara's activities and interests. Particularly voluminous, but essentially repetitive, files of constituent correspondence on issues such as abortion, gun control, and busing were reduced by a non-systematic selection process. The bulk of pre-printed cards and form letters were also eliminated.
The processing and weeding of the O'Hara papers have focused the collection on those activities, events, and issues most significant in James O'Hara's career as a congressman and Democratic Party official.
- Physical Location:
- Offsite storage; prior notification required for access.
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Education -- United States.
Labor laws and legislation -- United States.
Migrant agricultural laborers -- United States.
Politics and government -- 1961-1970.
Politics and government -- 1971-1980.
Coalition for a Democratic Majority.
Democratic Party (Mich.)
Democratic Party (U.S.). Charter Commission.
Democratic Party (U.S.). Commission on Rules.
United States. Congress. House.
United States. Congress. House. Committee on Education and Labor.
United States. Congress. House. Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs.
United States. Congress. House. Committee on the Budget.
United States. Congress. Joint Committee on Congressional Operations.
Democratic Party (U.S.)
Democratic National Convention (1972 : Miami Beach, Fla.)
O'Hara, James G.
Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978.
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973.
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Mich.)
United States -- Congress -- Elections, 1976.
United States -- Economic policy.
United States -- Politics and government -- 1945-1989.
Using These Materials
The collection is open for research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
item, folder title, box no., James G. O'Hara Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan