Congress Passes Bill to Facilitate Donation of FDR Papers

On January 13, 2010, the House of Representatives approved a bill (S. 692) to facilitate the donation of the papers of Grace Tully, personal secretary to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to the National Archives. President Obama is expected to sign the bill shortly.

The Grace Tully Archive is a collection of documents and memorabilia pertaining to President Franklin Roosevelt that is comprised of items that were gathered by his personal secretary throughout FDR’s private and public career as Governor of New York and as President. After Tully’s death in 1981, her collection of personal papers passed on through her niece into the hands of private collectors, and finally, to the current owner, Sun Times Media, which bought the collection for $8 million in 2001. Subsequently, Sun Times Media decided to donate the entire collection to the FDR Presidential Library.

In 2004, the National Archives asserted a claim of ownership to certain documents in the collection, arguing that those documents were Presidential records and should have originally been provided to NARA instead of staying with Grace Tully’s collection. Specific statues governing the maintenance and ownership of such records were not enacted until after the death of President Roosevelt.

Due to the Archives’ formal claim, Sun Times Media has been prevented from receiving any type of tax deduction for the donation. The bill removes the legal tax barriers preventing the donation of the papers.