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RG 30/101 - Erwin Nathaniel Griswold (1904-1994)
Scope and Content

The papers of Erwin N. Griswold cover the term of Griswold's service on the Oberlin College Board of Trustees from 1936 to 1992. Griswold served on the Board until 1980, and remained an Honorary Trustee until his death in 1994. The more extensive archive relating to Griswold's service as a professor of law and Dean of the Harvard University Law School (1946-67) is held by the Harvard University Law School Library. Records pertaining to Griswold's service (1967-73) as U. S. Solicitor General are located at the National Archives and Records Service.

The Griswold papers are arranged into six record series: I. General Correspondence, II. Committee Files, III. Writings and Interview Transcripts, IV. Miscellaneous Materials, V. Awards and Degrees, and VI. Photographs. Within series, files are typically arranged alphabetically by topic or type of material. The file headings employed by Erwin Griswold and by the archivist in 1977 are largely maintained in the present arrangement.

During the 55-year period from 1936 to 1992 covered in these papers, decisions were made which transformed the "old" or nineteenth-century Oberlin College into the modern institution it remains. The general correspondence of Erwin Griswold offers an especially useful overview of the role he and other members of the Board of Trustees played during this time. The years encompass the administrations of six college presidents: Ernest Hatch Wilkins (1927-46), William Edwards Stevenson (1946-59), Robert Kenneth Carr (1960-70), Robert Works Fuller (1970-74), Emil Charles Danenberg (1975-82), and S. Frederick Starr (1983-94). Topics covered in the correspondence include tenure decisions and other personnel actions, including the controversial Orville C. Jones termination in 1945, faculty vs. administrative control, development and alumni affairs, budget and investment decisions, the closing of the Graduate School of Theology, building construction, admissions procedures, and financial aid policies. Griswold's correspondence with Starr is especially voluminous, covering a range of topics from the college's finances and administration to Eastern European affairs.

Closely related thematically to the correspondence are the committee files located in series II. These files, containing both correspondence and attached and related materials, document the work of the various committees of the Board and other college committees on which Griswold sat as a member or as committee chair. Board of Trustee committees represented in these papers are the Executive, Appointments, Investment, Legal Questions and By-Laws, Nomination of Trustees, Pension, Personnel, and Trustee-Faculty Conference committees. Of special interest are files relating to the formation in 1945 of the Committee on the Presidency and those relating to the work of the Presidential Search Committee (1973-75). Correspondence bearing on the search which led to the appointment of President Stevenson in 1945 and President Carr in 1959 is located in the records of the Board of Trustees (RG 1).

Two biographical items extant in this collection include a special issue of the Harvard Law Review (June, 1973), and an oral history interview transcript prepared by the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1989. The editors of the Harvard Law Review dedicated an issue to Erwin Griswold on the occasion of his retirement as Solicitor General. Contents include recollections and tributes by colleagues and friends. The interview covers Griswold's childhood in Cleveland, his years at Oberlin College and Harvard Law School, his early European travels, his professional legal career, and his views on legal education, American legal history, and various Supreme Court justices. This interview should be supplemented by a 1984 oral history interview conducted by Oberlin history professor Geoffrey Blodgett, focusing on Griswold's Oberlin experience, in Record Group 43.

Griswold's legal scholarship is not well represented in these papers. A complete bibliography of his books, articles, and opinions is not yet assembled; however, a partial bibliography can be compiled with reference to Current Law Index, Index to Legal Periodicals, and the "Lexis" legal research database. The typescript manuscript of Griswold's 1925 Oberlin College M.A. thesis, "The Doctrine of Judicial Review", is available in the Oberlin College Library Special Collections Department, together with various reprints, extracts from periodicals, and select publications.

Series Descriptions

Series I. General Correspondence, 1936-92 (5.4 l.f.)

General correspondence of Erwin Griswold, organized as originally maintained, alphabetically by name or subject and thereunder chronologically.

Series II. Committee Files, 1936-83 (2.8 l.f.)

Correspondence filed with attachments, including official memoranda, reports and printed materials, relating to Oberlin College Board of Trustees committees and other committees. Arranged alphabetically by committee name.

Series III. Writings and Interviews, 1973-77, 1987-88 (0.2 l.f.)

Oral history interview transcript (copy), aural transcription of a talk, and several reprints. Arranged alphabetically by type of material.

Series IV. Miscellaneous Materials, 1921-24, 1973 (0.4 l.f.)

This series includes three items: a special issue of the Harvard Law Review (June, 1973) dedicated to Griswold; an "Official Report of the Republican National Convention, 1924," edited and signed by local national student chairman Ralph M. Andrews '25; and scrapbook, 1921-24. The scrapbook, assembled by Griswold when he was an Oberlin undergraduate, contains photographs, programs, dance cards, correspondence, and other miscellany.

Series V. Awards and Degrees, 1917-1982 (1.0 l.f.)

Graduation certificates, degrees, honorary degrees, and certificates of appreciation awarded to Erwin N. Griswold are included.

Series VI. Photographs, 1998, n.d. (1.5 l.f.)

Photography studio portraits, Nixon campaign photographs, and snapshots of Erwin N. Griswold and others, undated. Also in this series are installation photographs documenting an exhibit on Griswold in Stevenson Hall in 1998.

The Oberlin College files of Erwin Griswold were received in separate shipments in 1977, 1978, 1986, 1997, and from the Harvard University Law School Library and from the Washington law office of Jones, Day, Reavis, and Pogue. In 1960, Griswold sent to Donald M. Love, secretary of Oberlin College, materials relating to the presidential search committees that recommended Presidents Stevenson and Carr. A copy of the talk “Academic Responsibility was received in 2003 [Acc. 2003/003]. In 2012 an unmarked box of Griswold portraits and exhibit materials from 1998 were accessioned, including oversize studio portraits shipped to archivist Roland Baumann by Griswold's son William E. Griswold, Oberlin Class of 1959.
Related Materials
In the Oberlin College Archives, consult Erwin Griswold's staff file and those of his parents (RG 28) for further biographical information. Record Group 43 contains transcripts and tapes of oral history interviews conducted with Griswold in February 1984 by Oberlin College Professor of History, Geoffrey Blodgett. Several collections contain correspondence of Erwin N. Griswold. These include the papers of presidents Ernest Hatch Wilkins (RG 2/7), William Edwards Stevenson (RG 2/8), Robert Kenneth Carr (RG 2/9), Robert W. Fuller (RG 2/10), and S. Frederick Starr (RG 2/12). Other personal papers collections containing correspondence from Griswold are: Kemper Fullerton (RG 30/38), Thomas Le Duc (RG 30/99), George E. Simpson (RG 30/64), and Charles E. Mosher (RG 30/153). Also consult the records of the Board of Trustees (RG 1/1) and the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs (RG 26). For additional records of committees on which Griswold sat, consult Record Group 33.
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