Nelson, Richard J. Papers, 1959-1966 | Illinois History and Lincoln Collections
This collection contains the files of Richard J. Nelson relating to his work as chair of the Illinois Committee for Fair Employment Practices (F.E.P.). The Committee was instrumental in assuring the passage of the Illinois Fair Employment Practices Act of 1961.
Nelson was an executive of the Inland Steel Corporation in Chicago. Before joining Inland Steel in 1952, he served as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Illinois and as an administrative assistant for Governor Adlai E. Stevenson. He left Inland Steel in 1971 to become President of Northern Illinois University.
The collection mainly consists of carbon copies of Nelson's sizable correspondence regarding F.E.P. issues, including incoming correspondence, internal memoranda and notes, and handouts, articles, and other information disseminated by Nelson and the F.E.P. Committee, and by similar organizations. Some of the correspondence is from the unsuccessful 1959 legislative campaign, when Nelson was a member of the Illinois Committee for Equal Job Opportunity, but most of the materials date from the F.E.P.'s successful 1961 campaign. The collection also contains two scrapbooks, one for the 1959 campaign and the other for the 1961 campaign, together with an extensive accumulation of newspaper clippings from around the state, providing the historical context and chronology of the passage of the Illinois F.E.P. Act.
The collection also documents the efforts of Nelson and the F.E.P. Committee in rallying popular support for F.E.P. legislation among the leaders and constituencies of Illinois' business, labor, civic, and religious communities as well as the public at large. It not only reveals the internal and external workings of the F.E.P., but also illuminates the committee's approach and tactics with state legislators and government officials. In addition, the collection reflects the conflict within the business community over the issue of forced integration of the work force and reveals the understanding of early F.E.P. supporters about the nature of affirmative action as an individual merit-based concept.
Nelson, a 1940 graduate of the University of Illinois, deposited his F.E.P. files in the University's Labor and Industrial Relations Library. In 1995, they were transferred to the Illinois Historical Survey (now the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections).
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