As this election cycle winds down, I got interested in how politics might have affected leadership of the National Archives.  Turns out the number of Presidents is greater than the number of Archivists of the United States (AOTUS).  The AOTUS is appointed by the President, but the National Archives and Records Administration Act of 1984, as signed by Ronald Reagan, clearly states that, “The Archivist shall be appointed without regard to political affiliations and solely on the basis of the professional qualifications required to perform the duties and responsibilities of the office of Archivist.”  There have been ten AOTUSes since the creation of the National Archives in 1934, listed here with the President who appointed them and their years of service:

  1. Robert D. W. Connor (Franklin D. Roosevelt): 10 October 1934 – 15 September 1941
  2. Solon J. Buck (Franklin D. Roosevelt): 18 September 1941 – 31 May 1948
  3. Wayne C. Grover (Harry S Truman): 2 June 1948 – 6 November 1965
  4. Robert H. Bahmer (Lyndon B. Johnson): 7 November 1965* – 9 March 1968
  5. James B. Rhoads (Lyndon B. Johnson): 10 March 1968** – 31 August 1979
  6. Robert M. Warner (Jimmy Carter): 24 July 1980 – 15 April 1985
  7. Don W. Wilson (Ronald Reagan): 4 December 1987 – 24 March 1993
  8. John W. Carlin (Bill Clinton): 30 May 1995 – 15 February 2005
  9. Allen Weinstein (George W. Bush): 16 February 2005 – 19 December 2008
  10. David S. Ferriero (Barack Obama): 6 November 2009 – present

* Bahmer served first as Acting AOTUS and was officially appointed 16 January 1966

** Rhoads served first as Acting AOTUS and was officially appointed 2 May 1968

There have also been four Acting AOTUSes who were never appointed to serve in the position:

  • James O’Neill (1 September 1979 – 23 July 1980)
  • Frank Burke (16 April 1985 – 4 December 1987)
  • Trudy Huskamp Peterson (25 March 1993 – 29 May 1995)
  • Adrienne Thomas (20 December 2008 – 5 November 2009)

Each of the first six AOTUSes also served as president of the Society of American Archivists (SAA):

  • before being AOTUS: Bahmer, Warner
  • while serving as AOTUS: Buck, Grover, Rhoads
  • after being AOTUS: Connor

In addition, Frank Burke was SAA president after serving as Acting U.S. Archivist, and Trudy Huskamp Peterson was Acting U.S. Archivist after having been SAA president.  Arguably the most infamous involvement of SAA with the appointment of an AOTUS came in 2004 when the organization opposed the appointment of Allen Weinstein.

 

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