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Libraries speaker to discuss historical value of politicians' records, Tues. April 8th

President Gerald Ford signs the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), Labor Day 1974. Photo credit: The White House, official photograph. Source of photo: The Harrison A. Williams Jr. Papers, Special Collections and University Libraries, Rutgers University Libraries.

Author James A. Wooten, who has written extensively on Federal legislation and public policy, will deliver the 23rd annual Rutgers University Libraries' Louis Faugères Bishop III Lecture on Tuesday, April 8th. Wooten, a Professor of Law at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York, will speak on the topic: "Tracking history in the making: The research value of political papers."

The lecture will begin at 5 p.m. in the Scholarly Communication Center, on the fourth floor of the Alexander Library, 169 College Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ. The event is free and open to the public and a reception will follow the lecture. To RSVP, call 732-932-7505 or send an email to

In his talk for the Libraries, Wooten will reflect on the ways in which collections of political papers serve as rich sources for researchers. His remarks are informed by his work in numerous archives of former Congressional leaders, including those of Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield in Montana, Speaker of the House Carl Albert in Oklahoma, Senator Jacob Javits, and of Senator Harrison A. Williams, Jr. found in Rutgers University's Special Collections and University Archives in New Brunswick. Wooten's presentation will be of interest to all those seeking insight into the legislative process, including journalists, policy analysts, political scientists, historians, and public policy advocates.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974: A Political History-Wooten's 2004 account of the contentious passage of the landmark pension reform bill known as ERISA-was greeted by reviewers as "thorough," "definitive," and "interesting, detailed, and, at times, passionate reading." ERISA created a Federal regulatory structure for private pension plans aimed to ensure that American retirees receive the benefits promised them by their employers. As reviewer and Boston University law professor Maria O'Brien Hylton commented, "Wooten makes a persuasive case" in our time of "pervasive cynicism about the legislative process" that the dominant force behind ERISA was the effort of lawmakers to do the right thing in securing worker pensions, rather than the influence of "special interests."

Wooten earned his law degree from Yale University in 1989, and clerked for Federal District Judge William Wayne Justice of the Eastern District of Texas. He joined the faculty of the University at Buffalo Law School in 1995, where he currently teaches courses on Pension and Employee Benefit Law, Federal Income Taxation, and Federal Tax Policy. Wooten received his Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University in 2003. Wooten is the recipient of several awards recognizing his scholarship, teaching, and service, including University at Buffalo Law School's 2003 Faculty Award. Among other positions, Wooten is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance and a Fellow of the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

The Louis Faugères Bishop III Lecture is named in memory of the son of Louis F. Bishop, Jr., a prominent cardiologist and book lover who helped build one of the most respected New York private libraries, at the New York Racquet Club. With close family ties to Rutgers University, Dr. Bishop endowed a lecture series to focus on diverse topics relating to the collection and research use of books and archival papers. The 2008 lecture will be the 23rd in the series.

Often linked to the strengths of material held by Rutgers University Libraries, this year's Bishop Lecture topic highlights the multitude of political papers found in Rutgers's Special Collections and University Archives. These collections date from the era of New Jersey's colonial governor Lewis Morris to the present, with particular strengths in the second half of the twentieth century. In addition to the papers of Harrison A. Williams, Rutgers holds those of Governor Brendan T. Byrne, Senator Clifford P. Case, Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick, Ambassador and Congressman William Hughes, Congressman James Florio, and several other prominent former New Jersey politicians. These collections provide a wealth of information on subjects ranging from international affairs-such as the Vietnam War and Middle East conflicts-to concerns centered on New Jersey including the ongoing tension between development and preservation of the state's land and water resources, support of the agricultural, pharmaceutical, and other core industries, and renewal of New Jersey's urban centers.

Posted February 28, 2008; March 11, 2008