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John Culver Papers

Identifier: MsC0810

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Scope and Contents

The papers of John C. Culver encompass his entire political career, starting with his first election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1964 and ending with his last full year in office in the U.S. Senate in 1980. Papers comprise 187.5 linear feet and include legislative subject files, constituent correspondence, speeches, press releases, voting records, daily schedules, campaign/election materials, selected examples of Culver's community development and grant casework, materials relating to his House and Senate committee work, and various administrative files.

Early Senate correspondence is arranged by subject; from 1977 onwards the arrangement is numerical following a Senate-assigned Correspondence Management System. Included with these years are daily and monthly reports that link each correspondence number to the recipient?s name. House correspondence is arranged by subject.

Please Note: The Correspondence Management System was an automated system used for creating similar, but individualized paragraphs of letters of text which were merged with constituent names and addresses. Many Senate offices used the document number as a filing key: the number was composed of the Julian date, the CMS operator number, the type of correspondence (such as high volume, low volume, or manual entry), and a sequence number for a particular operator. Example: 5 (Year) 150 (date) 31 (Operator #) 001 (Type) (Sequence #).

The Culver Papers do not contain the document or paragraph library of form responses that served as indexes to the entire correspondence. Some years contain daily or weekly history reports that index the correspondence by topic, constituent name, or date.

Culver's Senate years are generally much more fully documented than his House terms ? the committee files and legislative subject files for the Senate are much fuller than those from the House, and the bulk of the photographs in the collection are from Culver's Senate career.

The papers in this collection are political in nature; they contain no personal papers of John Culver or his family.


  • Creation: 1965-1981


Conditions Governing Access

A few boxes contain personal financial information and may not be used by researchers without the express permission of John C. Culver. Otherwise, the collection is open for research.

Note on Committee Records: Committee files are part of the official records of the United States Congress and are governed by the rules of the House of Representatives or the Senate and the rules of the particular committee. Under the rules of the House, unpublished records are closed for at least 30 years; under Senate rules, unpublished records are closed for at least 20 years. Both the House and the Senate close for at least fifty years any records concerning national security, committee investigations, and the privacy of living persons. Committee records are not automatically opened at the expiration of the years stated above; instead, they remain close until declared open by the committee with appropriate jurisidiction over the records. To ensure that access to these records is allowed, contact the chief clerk of the appropriate committee.

This collection is stored at an offsite location. When requesting materials, please allow two business days for items to arrive at the Special Collections reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

John Chester Culver was born in Rochester, Minnesota on August 8, 1932. He was raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He graduated from Harvard University with a B.A. in American Government in 1954. His time at Harvard was also made memorable by his notable career as a football fullback, and he was a National Football League draft choice. After Harvard, Culver spent a year at Cambridge University in England, where he pursued graduate scholarship study. From 1955 -- 1958 he served in the United States Marine Corps, and was honorably discharged with the rank of Captain. In 1962 he graduated from Harvard Law School. In 1962 -- 1963 Culver worked in Washington, D.C. as legislative assistant to Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. In 1963 he returned to Iowa, was accepted to the Iowa Bar and began practicing in Cedar Rapids. He ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for Iowa’s 2nd District and was elected in 1964, defeating the incumbent James Bromwell. He won his four subsequent elections, and served in the House from 1965 through January 3, 1975.

During his 5-term tenure in the House, Culver served on two important committees: Foreign Relations and Government Operations. On the Foreign Relations Committee, Culver served on subcommittees dealing with Africa, Inter-American Affairs, and Foreign Economic Policy, which he chaired. On the Government Operations Committee, Culver served on subcommittees dealing with Intergovernmental Operations, and State Department Organization and Foreign Operations. As a liberal, Culver disapproved of many of the actions and methods of the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee, but he also served as a member of that committee as well. In addition, he was a member of the Select Committee on Committees of the House, created to reform House Committee operations and the seniority system. The committee was chaired by Richard Bolling of Missouri. In 1972 Culver was appointed regional whip.

1973 was a particularly significant year for Culver in terms of positions he held. He was made a member of the Democratic Council of Elected Officials and was appointed chairman of the Democratic Study Group. He also became a member of the Trilateral Commission.

In 1974 Culver ran for the U.S. Senate, to replace the retiring Democrat Harold Hughes. Culver defeated Republican David Stanley and served in the Senate until 1981. He was defeated for re-election in 1980 by Republican Congressman Charles Grassley. While in the Senate he served on the following committees: Armed Services, Judiciary, Environment and Public Works, and Select Committee on Small Business. As a member of the Judiciary Committee he chaired the Subcommittee on Administrative Practice and Procedure as well as the Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency. He also was a member of the Criminal Laws and Procedures and the Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittees. On the Armed Services Committee he served as the chairman for two subcommittees – Research and Development, and General Legislation. As well, he acted as a member of the subcommittees dealing with manpower and personnel as well as procurement policy and reprogramming. On the Select Small Business Committee he chaired the Government Regulation and Paperwork Committee and was a member of the Taxation, Financing and Investment Subcommittee. On the Environment and Public Works Committee he was chairman of the Resource Protection Subcommittee, and served on the subcommittees for environmental pollution and for nuclear regulation.

In addition to these standard committee assignments, Culver wrote the Senate Resolution establishing a Temporary Commission on the Operation of the Senate, a citizen’s panel known as the “Culver Commission”. He also served as a member of the President’s Commission on Olympic Sports. He was a congressional observer of the negotiations for the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II).

Culver continues to reside in Washington, D.C., where he practices law, and also retains a home in McGregor, Iowa. He is married to Ann Cooper Culver of Cedar Rapids, and the two have four children – Christina, Rebecca, Catherine and Chester (Chet, Governor of Iowa 2007- present). Culver holds honorary degrees from Loras College in Dubuque, Westmar College in Le Mars, Upper Iowa College in Fayette, and Marycrest College in Davenport. In his retirement from politics, in 2000 he co-authored, with John Hyde, a biography of the liberal Iowa politician Henry Wallace, entitled American Dreamer: A Life of Henry A. Wallace.


184.50 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



U.S. Congressman and Senator from Iowa.

Method of Acquisition

These papers were given to the University of Iowa Libraries by John Culver in 1987. They were processed in 2005-2006. During the processing stage, sampling was performed on the Community Development Casework records, resulting in the destruction of most of the files in those series. What remains is a selection of the most important records in those series.

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Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)