The Jacob K. Javits Collection at Stony Brook University

A Landmark Collection

“It is my hope that this collection will be a source of creativity in human and governmental endeavors.” – Senator Jacob K. Javits

Established in 1981, the Senator Jacob K. Javits Collection at Stony Brook University is a historically significant trove for scholars and students studying 20th century history and politics. Today, nearly 40 years after it was received, the 1.8 million-item collection remains one of Special Collections’ most frequently consulted archives by researchers from around the world. This is testament to Senator Javits’ incomparable impact and influence.

With support from The Jacob K. and Marian B. Javits Foundation, Stony Brook University Libraries has developed a digital collection and a multimedia online exhibition to showcase the Senator’s accomplishments, and to articulate and illustrate the significance of his legacy. An interactive timeline highlights Senator Javits’ monumental career achievements in public service including the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, the War Powers Act of 1973, and civil rights legislation.

The Senator’s long public service career spanned some of the most turbulent and formative years of the United States. The whole period represents the post-World War II sweep of history, including the reconstruction of devastated Western Europe, the establishment of the USSR as an empire behind the Iron Curtain, and the liquidation of the colonial empires of the United States and its Western European allies. It also marked the emergence of the Pacific Basin as a critical force and the advent of the atomic weapon as a major threat to the very survival of mankind. Senator Javits’ papers include correspondence of other major historical figures such as Henry Ford, Henry Kissinger, John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy. Audiotapes and videotapes of his debates, hearings, news conferences, and television appearances are part of the collection, as are newspaper editorial cartoons by artists such as Rube Goldberg and Herblock.  

The Senator was a dynamic orator, and hearing him speak to the issues of the day is compelling, and evokes appreciation and respect for his service and efforts on behalf of the country and beyond. History unfolds by watching a film of Senator Javits advocating passionately for bipartisanship endeavors to forge coalitions and agreements across political party lines, listening to dynamic campaign speeches in his own voice, and viewing original photographs of him with Martin Luther King, Jr. upon signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Lifelong Advocate of Social Justice

Senator Javits served longer in the U.S. Senate than any other New York Representative. His varied career in the House of Representatives and the Senate spanned the administration of seven presidents.

Javits grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and graduated from New York University Law School. He served in World War II as lieutenant-colonel in the U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Service. Javits was active in Mayor LaGuardia’s reform movement, and in 1946, he was elected to the United States Congress -- the first New York Republican in 23 years -- and served four terms. Javits defeated Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. in the campaign for New York State Attorney General in 1954.

In 1956, he was elected to the United States Senate, defeating Robert Wagner Jr., carrying all but four New York counties. He was re-elected three times, serving as senator until 1980. Javits’ seniority on Senate committees is unmatched by any New York senator in modern times. He was ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, Labor and Human Resources, and Joint Economic Committees. He championed a wide range of domestic legislation, most notably in Civil Rights, and the Pension Reform Act known as ERISA. In foreign affairs, Senator Javits played important roles in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as economic parliamentarian, as well as in the United Nations, and was a leading architect of the War Powers Resolution.

Javits was also a tireless advocate for education and the arts during his 24 years in the Senate. Inspired by his wife Marian’s research and active role in the arts, he was responsible for legislation that led to the formation of the National Endowment on the Arts and the Humanities. In 1986, he established the Jacob K. Javits Foundation, when the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to support the Javits Senate Fellows Program. 

After leaving the Senate, Javits continued an active life despite complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. During his illness, he continued to teach public policy for two semesters at the International School at Columbia University. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom and more than 42 honorary degrees. Senator Javits wrote four books: Discrimination--U.S.A.; Order of Battle: A Republican’s Call to Reason; Who Makes War: The President Versus Congress with Don Kellermann; and Javits: The Autobiography of a Public Man with Rafael Steinberg.

The Senator Jacob K. Javits Collection includes: 2,460 document boxes; 3,000 photographs, slides and cartoons; 600 reels of audio and video tape recordings; 969 items of memorabilia, and 233 reels of microfilm. The total estimated number of items is 1,810,000, which occupy 1,220 linear feet.

Visit the collection web page at SBU Special Collections and Archives


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