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James J. Blanchard papers

Identifier: UA-10.3.422

Scope and Contents

The James J. Blanchard collection consists primarily of material relating to his congressional career, dating between 1974 and 1982. The collection is arranged in thirty-one series, which include Blanchard's personal files; the records of both his Washington and district offices; materials from five key Blanchard staff members; files relating to the Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs, the Chrysler bail-out, and all of Blanchard's campaigns, including the 1982 gubernatorial campaign; and extensive correspondence files. The collection is very strong in materials relating to the day-to-day work of a Congressional office, especially in the materials from the district office and from Blanchard's staff members. The collection is also strong in constituent issue mail expressing a wide range of concerns.

The collection contains some materials pre-dating Blanchard's election to Congress, including correspondence, in both his and Ron Thayer's files, as well as in the campaign files.

In addition, the collection contains several volumes, primarily committee prints and records of hearings related to the auto industry or industry and revitalization. The collection also includes oversized materials and audio visual materials. The audio visual materials include cassette tapes, video and television tapes, reel-to-reel tapes and a scrapbook. A list and brief description of all these materials appears at the end of the container listing.

There are several major gaps in the Blanchard Collection. While Congressman Blanchard was a member of the House Committee on Science and Technology throughout his term in Congress, the collection contains no materials relating to the Committee or its subcommittees. In addition, the materials received from the Blanchard for Congress Committee, which was responsible for three of the re-election campaigns, are incomplete. The collection also lacks significant materials from Shelby Solomon, a member of Blanchard's staff from 1975 and his Administrative Assistant from 1980, though extensive files from other Blanchard staff members were included. Finally, the series Subject Files, an alphabetical series of subject files on issues and legislation, is missing the "F-Z" files.


(1) PERSONAL FILES (6.5 cubic feet). 1968-1982. Congressman Blanchard's personal files consist of correspondence, as well as subject files relating to several of his key concerns in Congress, including the auto industry, energy, revitalization, and sunset legislation.

This series contains two subseries. The first is Campaign Files, which are divided into five groups: 1974 Campaign, 1976 Campaign, 1978 Campaign, 1980 Campaign, and 1982 Campaign. These files consist of subject files and correspondence files. The 1974 campaign files are the most extensive, because the Congressman was more closely involved in that campaign than in the later ones.

The second subseries is the Chrysler Files, 1979-1980. These contain background information about the Chrysler Corporation, proposals for and drafts of aid legislation, correspondence, news clippings, and scattered entries from a journal kept by Blanchard during the Chrysler crisis.

(2) WASHINGTON OFFICE FILES (2.5 cubic feet). 1974-1982. This series consists of five subseries. The first, Administrative Files, includes primarily subject files on personnel, administration of the Washington office, supplies and equipment, and conferences sponsored by Blanchard.

The second subseries is Financial Records, consisting of statements of official expenses, correspondence, and ledger sheets. Routine financial records, including bills, receipts and vouchers, were discarded from this series.

The third subseries, Mailers, contains files of the various informational brochures and newsletters sent out under Blanchard's congressional frank. These mailers were the responsibility of the Washington office.

The fourth subseries, the Scheduling Information Files, consists of invitations which Blanchard accepted. These files were maintained by Celia Gainer, Blanchard's personal secretary, who also organized his schedule. The declined invitations, which were filed separately, have been discarded.

The final subseries is the Schedules, which contain the Congressman's daily schedules. They are complete only for 1977-1982. It is unclear whether the earlier materials are simply missing from the collection, or if they were not maintained prior to 1977.

(3) DISTRICT OFFICE FILES (4 cubic feet). 1974-1982. This series comprises eight subseries. The first, Administration, contains materials relating to the administration of the district office.

The second subseries is the Correspondence Files, containing primarily carbon copies of outgoing correspondence from both the Congressman and staff members in the District Office. These files are complete only for 1977-1980, and it is again unclear whether the materials are missing, or whether these files were not maintained before 1977.

The third subseries, Financial Records, consists of financial records related to the functioning of the District Office.

The fourth subseries is the Office Hours Files, containing correspondence and other materials relating to the appointments Blanchard scheduled with constituents on visits to the district. The District Office handled the scheduling of these appointments.

The Scheduling Information Files, the fifth subseries, contain invitations received through the District Office, rather than the Washington Office. The invitations are generally to events within the District. Information about the invitations was forwarded to the Washington Office, where the Congressman's schedule was set. These invitations often included staff members, especially Ron Thayer and Bill Liebold, as well as the Congressman.

The final three subseries consist of three distinct sets of subject files. It is unclear whether these files were maintained by particular staff members, or whether they were general office files maintained at different times. The first set, Subseries A, includes subject files on Michigan issues and ethnic groups within the district, administrative files, and recommendations. The second set, Subseries B, contains administrative files on office equipment, appointments, and the mobile office van, as well as files on cities within the 18th District. The third set, Subseries C, contains subject files primarily related to legislative issues, such as energy, appropriations, and taxes.

(4) SUSAN E. LAIRD FILES (1 cubic foot). 1968-1980. This series includes two subseries. The first is Laird's Campaign Files, primarily subject files. Laird managed Blanchard's first congressional campaign in 1974, and as his press secretary and later Administrative Assistant in the Washington office, she remained involved in his later campaigns.

The second subseries, Subject Files, reflects Laird's key role in Blanchard's Washington Office. As Administrative Assistant until 1980, she was responsible for the organization and functioning of the office. Her files contain information on the administration of the office, including mail, internships, and newsletters.

(5) RONALD THAYER FILES (2 cubic feet). 1965-1981. Ron Thayer's files consist of three subseries. The first, Fundraising Files, comprises files of fundraisers he organized for Blanchard and his campaign committee, some of which contain only invitations and reservation cards. There are other, more general files on fundraising, however. Thayer's Project Files, the second subseries, relate to specific projects he undertook, including conferences and receptions. The third subseries, the Subject Files, also include projects Thayer worked on, as well as material relating two of the congressional campaigns. In addition, they include material on nominations for the military academies, personal materials, and files on the University of Detroit, of which Thayer was an enthusiastic alumnus. (6) SHELBY SOLOMON FILES (0.5 cubic feet). 1981-1982. These files, for the most part correspondence, relate primarily to the 1982 governor's campaign. They are obviously only a fragment of Solomon's files.

(7) WILLIAM LIEBOLD FILES (1.5 cubic feet). 1976-1982. Bill Liebold's files are divided into three subseries, though the distinction between the three is not always clear. The first subseries consists of 1982 Campaign Files, primarily memoranda between various members of the campaign committee.

The Project Files, the second subseries, contains files on projects assigned to Liebold, including the organization of the Blanchard headquarters for the primary in the 1982 gubernatorial campaign.

The third subseries, the Subject Files, includes materials on projects and administration of the District Office, as well as subject files on the Great Lakes and on Great Lakes programs, one of the legislative areas for which Liebold was responsible.

(8) GREGORY MORRIS FILES (4.5 cubic feet). 1975-1982. This series consists of five subseries. The first, Casework Files, contains the files of cases Morris handled through the District Office. These files are restricted. The second subseries, Academy Files, includes general information about the service academies as well as Blanchard's nominations. The academy applications were primarily Morris's responsibility and were handled through the District Office. The Administrative Files, the third subseries, are in general related to the administration of the District Office, and may have been shared with Bill Liebold. The fourth subseries, the 1982 Campaign Files, reflect Morris's involvement in the 1982 gubernatorial campaign. They include information on campaign organization and strategy, campaign events, and Blanchard's opponents. The projects documented in the Project Files, the final subseries, are in many cases similar to the casework undertaken for individuals. In these projects Morris acted as a liaison and resource person for organizations and municipalities within the 18th District, assisting them in applying for grants, for example. The project files also include other projects assigned to Morris, such as conferences and the hiring of interns; general legislative areas which were his responsibility, including housing and community development; and his own projects, such as his membership in the Michigan Democratic Party.


Congressman Blanchard was assigned to this committee in his first term and remained a member until he left Congress. He served on numerous subcommittees and task forces, and in 1981 was elected chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Stabilization. The committee files include background information on housing, banking and finance, and urban affairs, as well as drafts of legislation and reports of hearings.

This series contains seven subseries and two other groupings, related to the Committee's subcommittees and task forces:

1. Automobile Industry Task Force: background materials, correspondence and memoranda.

2. Housing: information on housing issues and drafts of bills.

3-4. Amendments to the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974: files documenting the annual process of passing these amendments, containing draft legislation, materials from House-Senate conferences, correspondence and memoranda. The third subseries comprises the 1977 Amendments, the fourth the 1978 Amendments.

5. Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy: primarily files of background information.

6. Subcommittee on Economic Stabilization: background information on economic issues and revitalization, memoranda, press releases, and drafts of legislation. The bulk of the material dates from Blanchard's term as chair of the subcommittee (1981-1982).

6A. Subcommittee on Economic Stabilization, Hearings on Revitalization and the U.S. Economy: documents a series of hearings, organized by Blanchard while chair of the subcommittee, to examine the U.S. economy and revitalization.

7. Subcommittee on Housing and Community Development: primarily draft legislation on housing issues.

7A. Subcommittee on Housing and Community Development, Community Investment Task Force: background information on community investment and urban issues.

(10) LEGISLATIVE FILES (2 cubic feet). 1975-1982. This series consists of four subseries. The first, Blanchard Bills, consists of files on bills introduced by Blanchard, including the Great Lakes Protection Act of 1981 and the Defense Industrial Base Revitalization Act of 1982. These bills date only from his last term in Congress. It is unclear whether this subseries is incomplete, or whether these files were not maintained for earlier sessions. The second subseries, Cosponsored Bills, contains files on bills co-sponsored by Blanchard, filed by subject. This subseries covers only the first session of Blanchard's first term (1975). The third series, Legislative Profiles, consists of lists of bills Blanchard sponsored or co-sponsored, organized by session of Congress. The final subseries is Sunset Legislation, documenting one of the key issues of Blanchard's congressional career, and one with which he was closely associated. This subseries contains materials related to Blanchard's various sunset bills, including background materials, correspondence, bill drafts, speeches and testimony.

(11) SUBJECT FILES (1.5 cubic feet). 1975-1982. This series consists of sixteen topical subseries: Agriculture; Animal Welfare; Auto Industry; Banking; Caucuses and Commissions; Child Welfare; Civil Rights; Commerce; Consumer Affairs; Crime and Criminals; Defense; Economy; Education; Environment; Housing; and Senior Citizens. The subseries contain general information on these topics as well as related correspondence and drafts of legislation. These files probably served as reference files on the various subjects.

(12) VOTING RECORDS (2 cubic feet). 1970-1982. This series contains voting records prepared for Congressman Blanchard by the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), and by the Clerk of the House. The reports list each vote which came before the House (with a brief explanation of the issue), how Blanchard voted, and the results of the voting. The reports are complete for all four of Blanchard's congressional terms.

This series also contains three subseries. The first consists of Achievement Lists, which are lists of Blanchard's record on issues such as abortion and the environment. These lists are filed by issue. The second subseries, Issue Votes, is primarily a subject index to Blanchard's voting record, again according to issue. The subseries is divided into four groups by session of Congress: 94th Congress (1975-1976); 95th Congress (1977-1978); 96th Congress (1979-1980); and 97th Congress (1981-1982). The final subseries, Interest Group Ratings, contains ratings of members of Congress by special interest groups such as senior citizens' and women's groups.

(13) COSIGNED LETTERS (1 cubic foot). 1975-1982. This series consists of letters which House members circulated among their fellow representatives with an invitation to cosign (and thus support), in the same way that representatives were invited to co-sponsor bills. Typical letters include letters of support for Soviet dissidents, recommendations, and requests for information or clarification. The letters are arranged chronologically.

(14) CONGRESSIONAL RECORD INSERTS (0.33 cubic feet). 1975-1982. This series contains copies of statements and other materials which Blanchard inserted into the Congressional Record. Many of these are to congratulate or recognize constituent achievements. The inserts are arranged chronologically.

(15) SPEECHES AND TESTIMONY (1 cubic foot). 1975-1982. This series contains speeches given by Blanchard, as well as prepared testimony given in front of Congressional committees. Most of the speeches are typed drafts, though some are merely notes. The speeches are arranged chronologically.

(16) PRESS RELEASES (0.33 cubic foot). 1975-1982. This series consists of press releases issued by Blanchard's offices. The releases are arranged chronologically.

(17) NEWSCLIPPING FILES (2 cubic feet). 1974-1982. This series contains newspaper clippings files about Congressman Blanchard, maintained by his staff. The files are arranged chronologically.

(18) CHRYSLER FILES (1.5 cubic feet). 1979-1984. These files consist primarily of materials related to the 1979 Chrysler Loan Guarantees, including briefing books, drafts of legislation, reports, and correspondence.

(19) ACADEMY NOMINATIONS (0.33 cubic feet). 1976-1982. This series consists of lists of applicants and nominations to the service academies. The series is incomplete; the nominations for 1975-1976 and 1980 are missing.

(20) CAUCUSES AND COMMISSIONS (0.33 cubic feet). 1977-1980. This series contains information on the caucuses and commissions of which Blanchard was a member.

(21) CAMPAIGN FILES (1.33 cubic feet). 1974-1982. This series is comprised of five subseries. The first, the Blanchard for Congress Committee, primarily contains financial records of the Committee, including contributions and expenses. The other four subseries consist of files relating to the re-election campaigns: 1974 Campaign; 1976 Campaign; 1980 Campaign; and 1982 Campaign. These files include campaign materials, information about opponents and Michigan issues, news releases, and correspondence. It is clear that these materials are incomplete. There are no files from the 1978 campaign, and little from the 1976 and 1980 campaigns. These and other Blanchard for Congress Committee records may have remained with Mark Pittman, treasurer of the committee.

(22) CORRESPONDENCE. SERIES A. (3.5 cubic feet). 1975-1976. This series consists of issue mail received by Blanchard, letters from constituents expressing an opinion on an issue or event. Each letter received a response, prepared by staff members and sent under Blanchard's signature. The letters are organized into thirty-six topical subseries.

Correspondence within these subseries is arranged chronologically.

The volume of issue mail received by Congressman Blanchard was very large. Because issue mail often consisted of form letters or postcards, and because Blanchard's staff used stock responses, it was considered unnecessary to retain all the issue mail. This series of issue mail was therefore weeded, retaining 20% of the original material. That is, every fifth letter has been kept, and the other four discarded. Files that originally contained ten or fewer letters were retained in their entirety, and these have been marked on the folder listing and on the folder with a single asterisk (*). Several of the topics in this series represent issues of special concern to Blanchard, such as busing and energy. In these cases 40% of the original material was retained. These files have been marked with a double asterisk on the folder listing (**).

(23) CORRESPONDENCE. SERIES B (3 cubic feet). 1975-1980. This series also consists of issue mail, however it contains the original constituent letter with a copy of Blanchard's response. The correspondence is arranged in the same topical subseries as in Series A. The bulk of this mail dates from 1977-1978. This series was much smaller in volume and was therefore not reduced.

(24) CORRESPONDENCE. SERIES C (3 cubic feet). 1975-1976. This series is comprised of files of carbon copies of Blanchard's outgoing correspondence, arranged alphabetically. The correspondence includes some responses to issue mail as well as more general correspondence.

(25) CORRESPONDENCE. SERIES D. (1.5 cubic feet). 1977-1978. Like Series C, this series contains carbon copies of Blanchard's outgoing correspondence, arranged alphabetically.

(26) DIALCOM MAIL (7.5 cubic feet). 1977-1982. This series consists of issue mail. After 1977 Blanchard's staff used the Dialcom computer system to generate bulk responses for the large volume of issue mail. Incoming letters were given a number when they were received and filed in numerical order. Responses were generated using a "recipe" of numbered stock paragraphs. These files contain only incoming mail. No copies of the actual response letters were kept in the files, though the "recipes," lists of the numbers used to create the response, were frequently noted on the original letter.

NOTE: The volume of this issue mail, received over seven years, was extremely high. It consisted in large part of form letters and postcards from constituents. It was therefore considered unnecessary to retain the bulk of this series. Twenty percent of the original material was retained, with every fifth letter or group of letters retained.

In addition to the files of issue mail, this series contains one subseries, Form Paragraphs, which consists of copies of the stock paragraphs arranged both by subject and by number.

(27) PUBLIC ACTIVITIES (3.33 cubic feet). 1974-1982. This series consists of correspondence which Blanchard's staff defined as "public," rather than issue mail or personal correspondence. The correspondence within this series is organized into broad categories, such as recommendations, thank yous, invitations, and condolences. Within these categories, the letters are arranged chronologically.

NOTE: This series originally included three other types of files, which comprised 3 cubic feet. The correspondence in these files was routine and received form responses from Blanchard's office. These materials have been discarded from the collection:

1. Greetings from Blanchard (Anniversaries, Birthdays, Other), dating 1975-1982. These greetings were form greetings that family members or friends had requested.

2. Requests (Agricultural yearbooks, Bicentennial materials, Biographies of Blanchard, Calendars,Congressional Record Mailing List, Flags, Post Office, Library of Congress, Photos, Other). Blanchard's office supplied these materials with a form response.

3. Visitors (1975-1982). Constituents often contacted Blanchard's office when planning a trip to Washington, and staff members provided information and planned tours.

(28) SUBJECT CLIPPING FILES (2 cubic feet). 1981-1982. This series contains subject files of newspaper clippings, primarily related to Michigan issues. They probably served as resource files in the 1982 gubernatorial campaign.

(29) BOOKS (1 cubic foot). 1975-1982. This series include books relating to the Chrysler Corporation and to hearings before House Subcommittee on Economic Stabilization of the Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs.

(30) OVERSIZE MATERIALS. 1968-1982, undated This series contains maps of cities in Michigan and the 18th district. It also includes an 1980 Michigan House resolution honoring Blanchard.

(31) AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS. 1974, 1982, undated This series includes cassette tapes of Blanchard's speeches, interviews, and advertisements. It also includes television tapes of the campaign ads, a video tape interview and a scrapbook of the Michigan Youth Corps projects.


  • Creation: 1965 - 1984


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Box 6687, Gregory Morris casework files, has restricted access.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Biographical Note

James Johnston Blanchard was born in Ferndale, Michigan, in 1942. He attended public schools in Ferndale before entering Michigan State University (MSU) in 1960. Blanchard showed an early interest in politics, passing out flyers for Adlai Stevenson in 1952, becoming involved in high school government, and working in John Kennedy's presidential campaign during his freshman year at MSU. While majoring in history and political science, he was active in student politics and was twice elected president of class councils. He received his B.A. from MSU in the spring of 1964. Blanchard entered the M.B.A. program that fall and graduated the following spring. In the fall of 1965 he enrolled in law school at the University of Minnesota, where he received his J.D. in 1968, while working as a volunteer for Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign. Blanchard married Paula Parker, whom he had met at MSU, in 1966. The couple later had one son, Jay, born in 1970. After graduation from law school, Blanchard began working as a legal aide for the Election Bureau in the Michigan Secretary of State's office. In 1969, he accepted a position as Assistant Attorney General with State Attorney General Frank Kelley, who assigned him to the Licensing and Regulation Bureau. Kelley, a Democrat who had already served several terms as Attorney General, was becoming a political force in state politics. Blanchard's new job gave him an entree into Michigan politics. In addition to his legal duties with Kelley's office, he organized political events and activities, where he made important contacts with people like Ronald Thayer, described by the Detroit News as "one of the best political fund raisers in the nation." In 1970, Blanchard found a wider scope for political involvement in Sander Levin's gubernatorial campaign against Michigan Governor William Milliken. He began working for the campaign and was soon serving as Levin's "out-state" (outside Detroit) advisor. Levin lost the election, and Blanchard returned to his work for Kelley. It was Levin, now working for Edmund Muskie's presidential campaign, who brought Blanchard his next political challenge, in 1971. Levin, director of Muskie's Michigan campaign, offered Blanchard a position as deputy director. Blanchard accepted, taking a leave of absence from the Attorney General's office. When the Muskie campaign collapsed in 1972, Blanchard transferred to the Attorney General's Detroit office and began working on Frank Kelley's campaign for the U.S. Senate. Kelley lost that election but remained Attorney General; Blanchard remained in the Detroit office. These three campaigns were crucial for him. Though none of his candidates was elected, the campaigns gave him first-hand experience in politics and campaigning on the state and national level. They also gave him important contacts with people across the state and especially in Detroit. In 1972 Blanchard saw an opportunity to put this experience to work for himself. Following the 1970 census, a new Congressional district, the 18th, was created in suburban Detroit's Oakland County, where the Blanchards were living. Though Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the new district, a conservative Republican businessman, Robert Huber, won its first congressional election, primarily on his opposition to busing. Blanchard believed that as a first-term, one-issue Republican from a marginally Democratic district, Huber could be vulnerable in the 1974 campaign. He decided to challenge Huber. Drawing on his political contacts, especially in Oakland County, he put together an efficient campaign committee, including Susan Laird, who had worked with Blanchard on Sander Levin's campaign and who became campaign manager; and Ronald Thayer as chief fundraiser. Blanchard announced his candidacy for Congress in March of 1974. His first challenge was defeating four other Democrats for the primary election. Facing a lack of funds and low name recognition, Blanchard starting a door to door campaign, eventually walking over 500 miles in the 18th District to introduce himself to the voters. This grassroots strategy paid off with a slim victory in the primary. The victory against Huber in November came more easily. Blanchard's campaign portrayed Huber as a do-nothing Congressman and tied him to the Nixon Administration and the Watergate scandal. Blanchard shared Huber's opposition to busing, as did most of the residents of the district, but he presented himself as a moderate compared with Huber's conservative Republican stand. He won the election by over 20,000 votes. James Blanchard was sworn in as a member of the 94th Congress in January, 1975. He was assigned to two committees: the Committee on Banking, Currency and Housing (later Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs) and the Committee on Science and Technology. He was also appointed to several subcommittees, including the Banking Subcommittees on Economic Stabilization and on Domestic Monetary Policy, and the Science Subcommittees on Energy Research and on Environment. As a member of the Banking Committee, Blanchard soon became involved with what would be the key issues of his congressional career. The first was the state of the American auto industry, particularly in Michigan and the Midwest. In February, 1975, he proposed a task force to consider legislation to aid the ailing industry. Banking Committee chair Henry Reuss organized the task force and appointed Blanchard to it. Also in his freshman year, Blanchard introduced his first "sunset" or "zero base budgeting" legislation. His "Truth in Budgeting" bill was designed to force a periodic review and justification of all federal spending programs, and it drew wide support from both parties. The new Congressman made his positions on other issues clear to his constituents. Like many residents of the 18th District, he remained opposed to busing. Though personally opposed to abortion, he believed that it should be legal and the decision of the mother. Blanchard supported the Equal Rights Amendment and was a member of the Congressional Caucus on Women's Issues. He promoted the development of alternative energy sources, especially solar and wind energy. He was also active in promoting the conservation of the Great Lakes and introduced protective legislation. In foreign relations, he was a strong advocate of Israeli interests. He was one of only ten members of Congress appointed to the President's Commission on the Holocaust, and later served on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. He also supported the rights of ethnic minorities, especially Poles, Lithuanians, and other Eastern Europeans in the Soviet bloc. In the fall of 1976, Blanchard faced his first re-election campaign on these and other issues. A "Blanchard for Congress Committee" had been established, with Mark Pittman as treasurer. Ron Thayer put his fundraising talents to work part-time for the campaign as well. Blanchard had no challengers for the Democratic nomination and easily defeated his Republican opponent, Jack Olsen. In the 95th Congress Blanchard kept his committee assignments on Banking and Science and Technology. As a member of the Banking Subcommittee on Housing and Community Development, he was named chair of the subcommittee's Community Investment Task Force. The task force investigated issues important to the representative from suburban Detroit: the decline of urban areas, and the need for investment in America's cities to concentrate on the problems of cities, and of the economy in general, and on the need for the revitalization and rebuilding of America's industries, including the auto industry. Blanchard also became interested in the question of energy research and the development of alternative energy sources, which came under the jurisdiction of the Science and Technology committee. In addition, Blanchard introduced several versions of his "sunset legislation," becoming closely associated with the issue. Also in his second term, Blanchard was elected Democratic Whip of the Michigan congressional delegation, making him a part of the House leadership. His increasing reputation in the House, his work on important issues such as energy and the economy, and his association with sunset legislation brought him two prestigious awards in his second term. In 1977, the Jaycees of Michigan named him one of the "Five Outstanding Young Men of Michigan." They also nominated him for a national award, the "Ten Outstanding Young Men," which he received in 1978. Blanchard faced his second re-election campaign as an established representative with a good reputation on issues important to the 18th District, especially busing, the economy, and the auto industry. He was becoming more prominent in the House through his committee and whip work. Again running unopposed in the Democratic primary, Blanchard easily defeated his Republican opponent, Robert Salloum, to win a third term. His third term, in the 96th Congress, was dominated by the fight to save the Chrysler Corporation from bankruptcy. Early in June, 1979, Blanchard learned that Chrysler would need loan guarantees to survive. Thousands of jobs in Michigan would be lost in a Chrysler bankruptcy, in a state already suffering from the decline of the auto industry. The question of loan guarantees fell under the jurisdiction of the House Banking Committee. When the question came before the committee and its Subcommittee on Economic Stabilization, Blanchard worked quickly to line up support for the guarantees. As the only subcommittee member from Michigan, and one already associated with the auto industry, he played a crucial role in writing the loan guarantee legislation and shepherding it through the mazes of committee and subcommittee. The passage of the Chrysler legislation was a major coup for Blanchard, increasing his reputation and stature in the House. Some referred to him as the "Congressman from Chrysler," but others both in Washington and in the 18th District were impressed with the political skill necessary to get the legislation through Congress. Blanchard easily won his third re-election campaign in 1980, against Republican Betty Suida, a Chrysler employee. When he returned to the House for the 97th Congress, his colleagues elected him chair of the powerful Subcommittee on Economic Stabilization, a recognition of his growing influence and seniority. Under his leadership, the subcommittee held a series of hearings across the country to address the question of revitalization and the U.S. economy. With a secure Congressional seat in the 18th District and a reputation as an able legislator, Blanchard seemed poised to rise through the ranks of the House. A number of factors, however, made him decide not to run for re-election in 1982, but instead to run for governor of Michigan. One factor was the election of Ronald Reagan and a Republican majority in the Senate, which significantly changed the balance of politics in Washington, an unpleasant change for most Democrats. A second factor was his belief that Republican William Milliken, governor since 1969, would be vulnerable in this election year.

Blanchard organized his gubernatorial campaign early. By the time he officially declared his candidacy, he had won endorsements from the United Auto Workers and other unions in Michigan, as well as business leaders and Democratic members of the Michigan delegation. Blanchard campaigned heavily on the issues of jobs and the economy, emphasizing his experience with Chrysler and economic revitalization programs. He defeated six fellow Democrats in the primary, winning almost half the votes, to face Republican Richard Headlee in the November election. Choosing former Congresswoman Martha Griffiths as his running mate, Blanchard continued to emphasize economic issues, his experience and leadership ability. The November election was close, but in the end James Johnston Blanchard was elected the 45th governor of Michigan.


Michigan's 18th Congressional District was created in 1972, in the reapportionment following the 1970 federal census. It was created from sections of Macomb and Oakland Counties, including the cities of Berkley, Clawson, Ferndale, Troy, Huntington Woods, Madison Heights, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak, Oak Park, and Hazel Park; as well as sections of Sterling Heights and Warren. In 1981 the district's population was almost 500,000. It was a diverse area, with ethnic sections of Poles and Italians, heavily black sections, and Jewish and Catholic areas. It also combined white collar and blue collar areas. This diversity meant a wide variety of opinions and positions on issues. One issue, however, united voters across the district: opposition to busing. Congressman Blanchard's 18th District had a short history. Following the 1980 federal census, the district was divided between the 12th, 14th and 17th Districts. The former 19th District is now Michigan's 18th District.


While committee and legislative work occupied much of the Congressman's time, other congressional work kept a large staff in two offices busy. Blanchard's Washington office handled the legislative work and most of the correspondence, and also organized his schedule. His "home office" in the 18th District dealt with constituent problems and opinions, and organized his appearances in the district. Blanchard was the first congressman in Michigan to organize a mobile office, a van which made scheduled trips around the district. Blanchard assembled efficient office staffs, centered around Susan Laird and Ron Thayer. Laird, who managed his first campaign, was his first press secretary. She later became Administrative Assistant in the Washington office, responsible for the running of the office. Ron Thayer worked originally as Executive Secretary in Washington but then took over the District Office as Executive Assistant, Laird's counterpart in the district. He also worked part-time for the Blanchard for Congress Committee. Other key staff members included Thomas Gray, a research assistant and later Legislative Assistant. William Liebold held a variety of positions in both offices, as caseworker, legislative aide, and special assistant. Gregory Morris, a caseworker and special assistant, worked primarily in the District Office. Shelby Solomon started in Washington as an intern from MSU's James Madison College, was later hired as a caseworker, and eventually replaced Susan Laird as Administrative Assistant in the Washington office. Celia Gainer, Blanchard's personal secretary, was another key person in the Washington office. The staff in both offices also included receptionists, typists, research assistants, and caseworkers.

The congressional offices handled a variety of responsibilities. All three offices quickly became involved in large amounts of "casework" for residents of the 18th District. People brought a variety of problems to Blanchard, asking him to use the prestige of a congressional office and its contacts for assistance, often to cut through red tape. Casework might involve the expedition of Social Security or welfare checks, the investigation of complaints, or assistance in dealing with the bureaucracy of government agencies. Casework was time-consuming and labor-intensive, but it was one of the major functions of a congress- ional office, as well as an opportunity to build support among constituents.

The congressional offices were also soon receiving large amounts of "issue mail" from constituents, expressing their views of a wide range of issues. For the first three years, staff members drafted letters, often using stock paragraphs, which were sent out under Blanchard's signature. The volume of issue mail increased over the years, and it was often only a form letter or postcard prepared by interest groups. After 1977 Blanchard's staff used a computer system and canned paragraphs to cope with the flood of mail.

The offices handled a variety of other tasks, including the organization of conferences and programs, Blanchard's annual nominations to the military academies, press relations, the preparation of newsletters and mailers, and the hiring of interns. In addition, the offices handled a large volume of requests from constituents, for flags flown over the Capitol, for information, and for government publications. Staff members also organized tours and provided information for constituents visiting Washington.


64 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



Organized into 31 series. 1. Personal Files. 2. Washington Office Files. 3. District Office Files. 4. Susan E. Laird Files. 5. Ronald Thayer Files. 6. Shelby Solomon Files. 7. William Liebold Files. 8. Gregory Morris Files. 9. Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Files. 10. Legislative Files. 11. Subject Files. 12. Voting Records. 13. Cosigned Letters. 14. Congressional Record Inserts. 15. Speeches and Testimony. 16. Press Releases. 17. Newsclipping Files. 18. Chrysler Files. 19. Academy Nominations. 20. Caucuses and Commissions. 21. Campaign Files. 22-25. Correspondence. 26. Dialcom Mail. 27. Public Activities. 28. Subject Clipping Files. 29. Books. 30. Oversize Materials. 31. Audio-Visual Materials.


Materials stored off-site. Advance notice of 24 hours is required for use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Papers were donated by James J. Blanchard.

Legal Status

Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to Michigan State University but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Copyright restrictions may apply. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Processing Information

Record group changed from 00168 to UA 10.3.422 to reflect Blanchard's connection to Michigan State University. -M. Badgley-Malone, January 2023.

James J. Blanchard Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
L. May
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US