Ambassador Jones’ Gift Enables Digital Archives at OU’s Carl Albert Center
Mike Seals - February 3, 2021 11:30 pm
The former U.S. congressman and ambassador to Mexico has donated a transformational $1 million gift to endow an archival web platform, digitize his papers and other artifacts spanning a lengthy political career, and fund an accompanying graduate fellowship.
NORMAN, OKLA. – The Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center at the University of Oklahoma is the permanent home to a vast archive encompassing decades of public service by former U.S. Congressman and Ambassador James R. Jones. Ambassador Jones has now given a major endowment gift of $1 million to be used for digitizing the materials, hosting his and other collections on one central platform — The James R. Jones Digital Political Archive — and establishing a permanent graduate fellowship to curate the contents.
“These archives celebrate Ambassador Jones’ extraordinary career, which was marked by his decades-long commitment to our state and nation,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “We are honored that the university was chosen to be the steward of such important documents, and we are humbled by the trust that has been placed in us to protect and conserve them. They will be a permanent and revered centerpiece of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center.”
Jones was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and would become one of the state’s most influential political figures. He began his career as a legislative assistant for Congressman Ed Edmondson, then transitioned to the White House in 1965 as deputy chief of staff. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson tapped Jones to serve as his White House chief of staff. At 28, Jones was the youngest person to hold the position.
Jones was elected to represent Oklahoma’s 1st Congressional District in 1972 and was re-elected six times, serving for four years as the chairman of the House Budget Committee. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Jones to serve as U.S. ambassador to Mexico, a role he filled until 1997.
A member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, Jones now resides in Tulsa and Washington, D.C., where he serves as chairman of Monarch Global Strategies, a firm that helps U.S.-based companies open markets in Mexico and Latin America. He earned a bachelor’s degree from OU before pursuing his law degree at Georgetown University.
“The Carl Albert Center at OU is recognized as one of the most important in the nation for the study of Congress,” Jones said. “I hope that my gift will make it one of the most accessible so that student and the public at large can better understand how our remarkable system of democracy works.”
Digitizing Jones’ collection, which is composed of 407 boxes of text, photographs and audio-video mixed media, to the standards necessary for preservation and scholarly access will be a lengthy procedure. The digitization process for each item is methodically planned to preserve the documents and digital materials for long-term accessibility and storage. Once digitization is completed, the collected materials will be accessible via Preservica, a web-based platform that will allow access to students and scholars both remotely and at the Carl Albert Center on the OU campus.
“This gift allows the center to remain a leader amongst Congressional archives,” said Michael Crespin, director and curator of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center and professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma. “Having permanent funds for a web-based archival platform like Preservica will transform the way patrons can access our digitized and born-digital collections.”
Typically, standard digitization practices restrict selected materials due to resource constraints. However, Jones’ generous financial gift will allow OU to digitize the entire collection, a feat largely unheard of among congressional collections of this size. Digitizing the James R. Jones collection will allow universal access to these historical treasures forever.
Jones’ gift will also establish the James R. Jones Graduate Fellowship to hire a digital asset specialist to help maintain and properly preserve and conserve the Jones’ archive and other collections for digital viewing, oversee exhibitions at the Carl Albert Center and other related purposes.