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In the Public papers, the Topical subseries includes material on the issues and legislation coming before Congress. These files tend to include memos, reports, bill language, notes for floor or committee remarks, and, particularly, extensive clippings which Spence read and annotated as part of his work on such issues. Clippings have been photocopied. There is little correspondence to or from constituents, with the exception of a library of form letters generated by Spence‘s office to be sent in reply to constituent issue mail. Documents printed on thermal fax paper were generally faded beyond legibility and were photocopied or scanned where possible.

Because of the extremely complex nature of the Topical material, particularly in the field of Armed Services, researchers should consider that relevant material may be found in several different areas within the subseries. For example, the budget process in any given year includes ample information on the legislative authorization, administration, and progress of various programs and projects being considered for funding. Material on National Security includes information on other countries‘ military power, debates on the direction of geopolitics during and after the Cold War, and assessments of nuclear and other weaponry.

More than half of the Topical subseries is made up of files relating to national defense and military operations and readiness. Files on the Navy and on each year‘s military budget process document Spence‘s earlier work on the Seapower Subcommittee and his rise to increasing power on the HASC. In addition, there is extensive documentation of Spence‘s service as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and his efforts to shore up military spending and Congressional support.

Of particular note are Spence‘s reports on readiness, mainly issued as part of his role as HASC chairman. He also wrote and spoke extensively on the subject. Undated speech notes, circa 1999, state "My highest priority as an American, a Member of Congress and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is to ensure that our nation is properly defended. My goal: Change DoD [Department of Defense] to Department of Offense....We face more threats than ever—more varied. We are unprepared to deal with them. Most people are unaware of both of these facts." Spence seemed to see the decline of the military as indicative of an overall decline in American strength and values. An ever-present theme in his speeches and notes on the subject is the need to show leadership on the world stage, to "show rest of world we‘re still same kind of people our forefathers were." One of Spence‘s particular issues of interest, documented in numerous files, was the potential construction of a ballistic missile defense system for the United States.

One of the most important issues facing Spence in the early part of his Congressional career was the preservation of the Congaree Swamp, located in his district. The area was and is one of the last remaining examples of an old-growth floodplain forest in the Southeast United States. Concerned about private owners cutting timber from the land, conservation groups began a national campaign to protect the land as a federal preserve, asking Spence to introduce legislation to that effect. He declined to do so, citing the need for more studies to be conducted. As a result, he became one of the main targets for letter-writing campaigns and public criticism by environmentalists. Several clippings assert that this was the issue on which Spence had received the most constituent mail since coming to Congress, and the files include a sampling of correspondence both to and from constituents and lobbying groups. In a 6 October 1975 response to Dr. Edmund Taylor of Columbia, Spence wrote, "While you were very kind to suggest that everything depends on me, as I stated in the press a few days ago, I cannot get a bill through Congress by myself. My objective is to make an honest determination of what should be done and I do not believe I can do this without the benefit of recommendations from state and local officials and agencies, as well as an updated study by the National Park Service." Also included in the files on the issue are information on the taking of private property by the government, studies of the swamp and the comparable Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, air quality reports, and maps. After much controversy, a portion of the swamp was established as a national monument in 1976. Despite this designation, there were ongoing calls for increased federal protections for the area, which finally resulted in the land being granted national park status in 2003.

Also of interest are files relating to the House Ethics Committee, formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. Spence‘s tenure on the committee included the investigations into the Abscam bribery scandal and the "Koreagate" scandal of the late 1970s.

Files created and named by Spence are listed in the box list in quotes and italics.

The Administrative series contains a limited amount of correspondence with constituents, mainly regarding appearances and assistance given by Spence. There are also files pertaining to Spence‘s Congressional staff and their responsibilities and work. Spence in his Rayburn Building office with HASC colleagues Duncan Hunter and Saxby Chambliss.

Schedules files contain copies of daily schedules prepared by staff, as well as requests for meetings and background information.

Contacts consist of index card files (called "Good Little Cards" by Spence and his staff) and loose business cards, mostly annotated, documenting Spence‘s personal and professional contacts. The earliest cards date from his time in the South Carolina Senate; many were created or updated as late as 2001. The cards include such information as where Spence met someone, mutual acquaintances, addresses and phone numbers, and names of family members. They also document campaign contributions or volunteer service, issue mail or casework requests sent to Spence‘s office, and social exchanges. Many include comments such as "helped FDS form Lexington County Historical Society" or "was 'water boy‘ at USC when FDS ran track."

Public Relations includes articles written by Spence, notes and talking points provided by staff for interviews and television appearances, and newsletters and questionnaires sent to constituents. Of particular note is an article Spence wrote for Brown University‘s Journal of World Affairs in 1996, "What to Fight For? American Interests and the Use of Force," as well as a warm tribute to fellow Congressman and Veterans‘ Affairs Chairman Sonny Montgomery, who was instrumental in facilitating Spence‘s lung transplant surgery in his home state of Mississippi.


  • 1928 - 2007


Library use only


From the Collection: 75 Linear Feet


Repository Details

Part of the South Carolina Political Collections Repository

Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA