T. M. Berry Project: 'Stumble upon' Sleuthing

By Laura Laugle

“Hey, look what I found!” I’ve been saying that an awful lot lately. I can’t help it; I keep coming across interesting and sometimes funny items of historical significance. In the past two weeks I’ve found photos of Berry with Martin Luther King, a letter with an authentic signature from W. E. B. DuBois, photographs of Donald Rumsfeld from 1969, and a frankly terrifying copy of Enquirer Magazine from 1972 which contains both an advertisement for a red shag bedspread and a photo of Burt Reynolds lying on a bearskin rug, clad only in a smile and a strategically placed hand. Luckily for me, not all Telegram to Berry from White Housediscoveries are quite so… errr… revealing.

Late yesterday, while looking for something else entirely, I was positively thrilled to come across a large scrapbook containing newspaper clippings and photos from many aspects of Berry’s public life. I was even happier to find that I’d stumbled upon the answer to yet another of the mysteries I wrote about in my blog post, Hmmm… The original 8”X10” photograph of Theodore T.M. Berry at the White HouseBerry with President John F. Kennedy about which I had wondered for so long was finally found and just above it was an invitation to the White House. “Wonderful!” I thought, “I finally have provenance to go with this photo!” It turns out that my original speculation that the photo was taken at the White House on June 23, 1963 during a meeting of civil rights lawyers was wrong – not entirely surprising considering that it was just a guess. What is surprising is that the photo and telegram, Reverse of photothough they were paired in the scrapbook, are not from the same event. Turning the photo over, I discovered that Berry met with JFK on yet another occasion; that makes at least three meetings during Kennedy’s presidency. This time I am certain that I have it figured out; the photo was taken while Berry was at the White House in July of 1961 as a member of the NAACP delegation. I even found President Kennedy’s daily diary entries which mention Berry’s visits on both of these occasions.  Another mystery solved!

Excerpt from Kennedy DiariesNow, if only I could find some photos to go with the telegram inviting Berry to a “stag luncheon at the White House for the President of Senegal on November third” 1963. On second thought, maybe I don’t want to find photos from JFK’s “stag luncheon.” I don’t want another Burt Reynolds-esque surprise! Egads!

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.