Happy Birthday, Leon: Reflecting on the Leon Jaworski Collection and the Call to Service

By Benna Vaughan, Special Collections and Manuscripts Archivist, The Texas Collection

In honor of Leon Jaworski’s birthday (September 19th, 1905) I was asked to write a blog post focusing on some aspect of Jaworski’s collection here at Baylor. It seems fitting, considering events transpiring in Washington today, that the choice of topic reflects a time when Mr. Jaworski service to our country took front and center in a national period of uncertainty and questioning of our own government and its leaders.

The Leon Jaworski collection consists of 368 boxes of archival material encompassing Jaworski’s career. The finding aid for the collection can be accessed here: https://baylorarchives.cuadra.com/cgi-bin/starfetch.exe?BN@lBxCP9H16pLVuy0oEnfKoEnYlWtoVwcfb.D0.k8ThhX9NyCsimCale8U1Vnvddi.UIpwLsZQwJBO6EbaodAUahJwFQIKmwzglHlASSEQ/000afi.xml. Divided into eleven series, they chronicle Jaworski’s time as a practicing lawyer, his literary career, military career, special cases and commissions, organizations and affiliations, and other important events and milestones. The Watergate Series of his collection represents a time in Jaworski’s life when he accepted the responsibilities of White House Special Prosecutor to head up the Watergate Special Prosecutor Force, investigating the involvement of Richard Nixon and the Presidency in the events surrounding Watergate.

Leon Jaworski’s Special Prosecutor Badge and Identification Credentials. (Leon Jaworski papers, #2442, Box 267, Folder 11)
Leon Jaworski’s Special Prosecutor Badge and Identification Credentials. (Leon Jaworski papers, #2442, Box 267, Folder 11)

Leon Jaworski was already a well-known and respected figure prior to Watergate, serving as prosecutor for military war crime trials, an attorney for Lyndon Baines Johnson during LBJ’s 1960 election, as Special Assistant Attorney General in the US vs. Ross Barnett case, and as a member of the Warren Commission after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He was a noted author and popular speaker. His service in numerous organizations and important committees is long and chronicled within his papers, and taken together with the rest of the material, reflect a man of purpose, principle, and profound faith. Throughout the Watergate series, you come to learn a lot about Leon Jaworski and his struggle with the responsibilities and duties this important appointment imposed.

The Watergate materials cover the period between 1972 and 1976 and contain a broad and comprehensive overview of his involvement in the process, including correspondence, official appointment documents, records of phone calls, requests, memoranda, reports, transcripts of court proceeding, articles, notes, daily summaries, interviews, documents on Jaworski’s resignation from the Special Prosecutor’s position, news clippings, and much more. Just going through the list included in the 26 boxes of Watergate material shows the attention to detail and determined focus that he placed on his duties and responsibilities. The correspondence itself, containing letters to and from his family, give one a sense of the man as a person and helps to reinforce the feelings of respect and confidence that people placed in him to perform this important role. Letters of support from friends and colleagues echo those feelings and help to reinforce the knowledge that Mr. Jaworski was the right man for the job.

As a Waco native, Baylor graduate, and Baylor Law School professor, Jaworski’s legacy at Baylor is well established. This is perhaps no better reflected than in this letter from Baylor Student President Jack Fields, in November 1973:

Letter from Jack Fields, Baylor Student Body President, November 1973 (Leon Jaworski papers, #2442, Box 267, Folder 14)

When times dictate, great men step up to the challenges placed before them. Leon Jaworski was a man who embodied the characteristics of such men, and one whose collection – and legacy – at Baylor will continue to inform, inspire, and instruct research into the workings of the law, politics, and the deeds of great men.

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