Restricted Case Files Shed Light on the Struggles of Tennesseans, 1949-1971

Written by Natalie Goodwin, Assistant Archivist for Political Collections

I have just completed work on the restricted case files in Albert Gore, Sr.’s Senate Papers. The papers include Social Security Case Files, Service Academy Case Files, and Veterans Case Files. The papers are significant for shedding light into the lives of a great many Tennesseans between 1949 and 1971. The dates for the case files overlap between the end of Senator Gore’s time in the House of Representatives, and his first term as Senator.

The Social Security Case Files (1964-1970) include 1,261 case files of correspondence between Albert Gore, Sr. and constituents in Tennessee who requested assistance in receiving social security benefits. The majority of the correspondence covers disability claims, although there are also claims for retirement pension, old-age pension, widow’s and survivor’s benefits, and general inquiries such as how to obtain social security or receive increases in benefits. Within these case files are details of men and women struggling to make ends meet. Some of the cases include senior citizens struggling to make enough from their pension to provide for medical treatment as well as daily expenses. Other correspondence was written by widows trying to receive benefits. They often discussed the struggles of trying to raise children and find work to provide for their family.

The Service Academy Case Files (1949-1971) include 3,033 case files of correspondence from young men requesting nominations to the United States Service Academies including the Military Academy in West Point, New York, the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. The case files include correspondence regarding nomination and examination procedures. The case files also shed light on racial discrimination in the service academies. In 1957, Senator Gore gave nominations to Willie Earl Garrett and Jarrett Smith Boone, two African American students who had applied to the Air Force Academy. Included in these case files is correspondence from constituents both opposed to and supportive of the nominations, as well as copies of the correspondence Senator Gore sent to constituents giving his reasons for nominating the two men, and affirming his support of racial equality.

The Veterans Case Files (1949-1970) include 2,700 case files of correspondence between Senator Gore and former war veterans who requested assistance in obtaining disability benefits, hospitalization, loans, educational benefits, and other benefits through the Veterans’ Administration. These case files are valuable because they provide insight into the difficulties that many veterans had in receiving assistance from the Veterans’ Administration. More specifically, many of the veterans discussed their inability to receive treatment in V.A. hospitals because of overcrowding and long waiting lists.

These case files are useful to researchers who are interested in understanding the social climate between 1949 and 1971, as well as understanding the struggles of Tennesseans and veterans who were trying to make it through their daily lives. In addition, genealogists may be interested in examining these case files to see if their relatives corresponded with Senator Gore. Due to some sensitive information, the case files have a rolling restriction date of fifty years. This means that the case files may be open fifty years from the date the first correspondence was written. Case Files up to 1962 are currently open. For additional information regarding restrictions, please speak with Jim Havron, Archivist, or Dr. Jim Williams, Director.

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