Documenting a Lifetime of Service: The Papers of Theodore M. Berry Now Available

Theodore M. BerryBy Kevin Grace, UC Archivist and Head of the Archives and Rare Books Library

Theodore M. Berry (1905-2000) was a key figure in American civil rights in the 20th century, a man who marked his life with a formidable sense of justice. From the 1930s, when he graduated from the University of Cincinnati with bachelor’s and law degrees, until his death just before a new century, Berry worked tirelessly to promote racial harmony and served with distinction in President Lyndon Johnson’s programs for civil rights during the 1960s.

Three decades ago, Berry donated his papers to the University of Cincinnati where they are housed in the Archives and Rare Books Library.

Over the years his children have generously added to those materials. Documenting both his personal life and his public career, these papers have been used in various research endeavors, but they had never been sufficiently processed to reveal the full extent of their importance.

In 2010, the University of Cincinnati Libraries received a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission of the National Archives to fully process Theodore Berry’s papers and to create modern finding aids. For the first time, these significant materials would be readily available to scholars, journalists, teachers, and students.

Immediately after the grant was received, a project archivist was hired to process the Berry collection. Laura Laugle, who previously did her MLS internship in the Archives & Rare Books Library, spent the next 12 months sorting, re-boxing, and inventorying the documents, as well as preparing a web exhibit and Encoded Archival Description (EAD) finding aid so information about the collection could be discovered through OhioLINK and the Internet. Laugle also wrote a weekly blog about her findings and experiences, and maintained contact with Theodore N. Berry and Gail Berry West, two of Berry’s three children.

The project to process his papers is now complete and the Theodore Berry Papers are available for use in the Archives and Rare Books Library. To access the finding aid and to learn more about the project and the content of the papers, a web exhibit has been created, or, contact the Archives & Rare Books Library at (513)556-1959 or by e-mail at


Wednesday, February 22, a special event was held celebrating the processing of the Theodore M. Berry Papers.  Hosted by the Office of the President, UC Libraries, UC College of Law, UC Alumni Association, and the UC Foundation, the gathering attracted over one hundred people to recognize the outstanding contributions of civil rights leader Berry to his alma mater, his community, and his nation. More about the event is available online.