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University Archives, University of Illinois
The University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign is the proud home of the James B. Reston Papers, managed by the University Archives. This important collection chronicles the distinguished career of a man whose writing changed the face of American journalism and who was twice honored with the Pulitzer Prize. It represents a fitting legacy for one of the nation's foremost political journalists, and its availability serves as a valuable resource for Library users.
The collection consists of a variety of items that relate to Reston's career with the Associated Press (1934-1939) and The New York Times (1939-1989). These items include publications, manuscripts, correspondence, speeches, interview transcripts, and photographs. They provide a wealth of historical information regarding World War II, the development of American journalism, elections and presidential administrations, the origins and growth of the United Nations, U.S. Cold War diplomacy, the Vietnam War, and The New York Times. Professor William Maher, University archivist, describes the collection as, "a treasure for all who want to understand U.S. political and foreign affairs for the second half of the twentieth century."
James "Scotty" Reston (1909-1995) graduated from the University of Illinois in 1932 with a bachelor of science degree in journalism. Thereafter, he worked in Ohio as a sportswriter for the Springfield Daily News and in the area of sports publicity for The Ohio State University and the Cincinnati Reds. In 1934, the Associated Press hired him and three years later sent him on assignment to London. As a result of this experience, he joined the London bureau of The New York Times in 1939. Thus began his rise to eminence as a political reporter in national and international affairs.
Reston's tenure with The New York Times included service as a reporter (1939-89), chief correspondent for the Washington bureau (1953-64), associate editor (1964-68), executive editor (1968-69), vice president (1969-74), and columnist (1974-89). His skills included a talent for obtaining confidential information from government leaders, which was facilitated by his intellect and charisma. Through his analytic style of writing, he revolutionized the Times and the course of American journalism. His brilliance garnered two Pulitzer Prizes: one for his work in obtaining classified information about the development of the United Nations in 1944 and the second for his coverage of the presidential election of 1956. His autobiography, Deadline: A Memoir, provides a detailed account of his experiences and many of the great political events of the twentieth century.
Throughout his career, Reston remained loyal to the University of Illinois. He and his wife Sally, who also attended the University and graduated in 1934, met when they were undergraduate students. "My new life really began at the [University], for it was there at the beginning of the 1930s that I met Sally Fulton, the love and companion of my life," Reston wrote in his autobiography. As a result of his appreciation for the role the University played in his personal and professional success, Reston decided to donate his papers to his alma mater. Sally and their three sons, Richard, James Jr., and Thomas, concurred with this decision.
Undoubtedly, Reston's influence on American journalism will continue to thrive through his special contribution to the University Archives at the University of Illinois Library. An overview of the collection and supplementary finding aids (box and folder listings), including an alphabetical listing of topics and names, can be accessed through the University Archives website at http://archives.library.illinois.edu/.