By Laura Laugle
I have lately been going through a variety of files marked “T. M. Berry Biography.” A few are from the Theodore M. Berry collection and one came here to Archives and Rare Books rather serendipitously when Public Information was cleaning out alumni biography files. As a result, I have learned a great deal about Berry’s life as a whole, what he did before and after his public life, who he was as person and how that influenced his political career. One of my first finds in these files, and possibly my favorite of the entire collection thus far, was an envelope stuffed with old photographs. I can now say, with absolute certainty, two things which would never have occurred to me previously: Ted Berry made an adorable little cowboy and fedoras and spats are definite style “dos.”
The photos from Berry’s biography files are wonderful and had me smiling from ear to ear. However, much of what I’ve read this week has come from some twenty odd obituaries and written memorials – bittersweet anecdotes and tales in remembrance of a beloved father, friend and statesman recently lost. My favorite story is one that I’d read about before, though never with as much detail. In the May 19, 2006 article below, Dan Hurley of the Cincinnati Post (no longer in print) tells of a trip he and Berry once took to Woodward High School and how Berry became that school’s first black valedictorian. In most cases, I would have summarized an article of this length, but this time, I just don’t believe that I could do it justice, so I must implore my readers to read Hurley’s account for themselves.
Obituaries state that over 700 people signed the guestbook as Berry’s coffin lay in state in City Hall and many more paid respects but did not sign. The attendants were described as a “rainbow coalition,” reflecting all races, creeds and economic backgrounds, bound together because Berry had made a difference in the lives of each of them. These stories, though perhaps difficult to read (even for someone who never actually knew him), make it plain that Cincinnatians of all kinds recognized Berry’s worth during his life and mourned the world’s loss at his passing.
In 2010, the University of Cincinnati Libraries received a $61,287 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission of the Archives and Records Administration to fully process the Theodore M. Berry Collection in the Archives & Rare Books Library. All information and opinions published on the Berry project website and in the blog entries are those of the individuals involved in the grant project and do not reflect those of the National Archives and Records Administration. We gratefully acknowledge the support of NARA.