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Special Collections Research Center

 HOURS for December 15, 2018:  

John D. Whisman Collection



Seven series are described. These range from the earliest school reports that Whisman saved through the voluminous records that he kept as a Federal bureaucrat. The papers so far arranged illustrate Whisman's personal and professional interests as well as the breadth of his associations and friendships. Some significant sub-series in the collection include drawings and caricatures that Whisman made as a teen-aged Kentucky House of Representatives page, military records of his service as a bombardier and navigator in the U.S. Army Airforce during World War Two, memos and letters he wrote as President of the Kentucky Junior Chamber of Commerce, the seminal report called "Program 60" that he drafted to plan for eastern Kentucky's developmental future, and the speeches he made while he served as States' Regional Representative to the Appalachian Regional Commission. The following record series include these documents and much more of interest to the student of twentieth century Kentucky indeed of twentieth century America.


1. Pre-1958 Series (1936-58)

This series comprises records of Whisman's youth and early manhood. It takes 1958 as its cut-off date because it was in that year that he launched his career as a champion of an integrated local-state-federal approach to regional development. Before 1958 he had served as a page to the Kentucky House of Representatives, attended college both at Eastern Kentucky State Teachers' College and at the University of Kentucky, served in the U.S. Airforce as a bombardier and navigator during World War Two, organized his own advertising business, and worked for the Kentucky Division of Publicity and for Irving Air Chute Company. All these activities produced documents, drawings, and printed materials that Whisman saved.

A. Kentucky House page, 1936, 1938

Contains drawings, caricatures, house bills, and roll call rosters. (2 folders).

B. High school, 1934-39

Contains Powell county high school report cards. (1 folder)

C. Early college, 1940-43

Whisman attended college part-time in the early 1940s. Includes Eastern Kentucky State Teachers' College newspaper. (1 folder)

D. Father, 1919-58

Contains a First World War newspaper, documents of a court action in U.S. federal court, and records of the family business, Cabinet crafts, Inc. (4 folders)

E. Military Service, 1943-46

Includes records of enlistment, training, combat bombing missions, and demobilization. Some photographs are included. (17 folders)

F. University of Kentucky student, 1946-50

Whisman graduated with a B.A. in Journalism. He also had some advanced graduate work in advertising. This sub-series includes reports, stories, drawings, and quite a bit of material regarding veterans' issues. (15 folders)

G. ADCO [Whisman's advertising agency], 1948-55

Comprises business records, brochures, drawings, designs, correspondence, and samples of his printed ads. (20 folders)

H. Kentucky Division of Publicity, 1950-55

Whisman's first job after college was in Kentucky state government. His work for the Division of Publicity often consisted of designing exhibits and brochures and planning tours through Kentucky. Included here are brochures, tour planning documents, publications, correspondence, and photographs. (56 folders)

I. Political activities, 1949-57

Includes campaign brochures and documents relating to Bert Combs's campaign for governor of Kentucky in 1955. (2 folders)

J. Irving Air Chute, 1955-58

At Irving Air Chute Company Whisman worked as a sales manager and in product development. In conjunction with the Jaycees, he started a national campaign to encourage people to install safety belts in their cars. The files in this sub-series reflect this interest in safety. There are drawings, brochure designs, advertising copy, correspondence, business records, publications, and publicity materials relating to the company. (22 folders)


2. Jaycees (1950-59)

Whisman was an active member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce from the time he was 29 until after the age limit of 36 (which he reached in May 1957). He served in several capacities at the local, state, and national levels. In 1956 he was elected president of the Kentucky Jaycees and later that same year he helped to elect Wendell Ford as national president of the organization. At the national level he was safety chairman and then served as first community development chairman. Both positions reflected longstanding interests. Here included are numerous publications (especially newsletters), correspondence, political action documents, automobile safety-belt brochures and designs, fundraising and outreach programs, and community development records.

A. Lexington, 1950-58

At the local level Whisman served in all the major offices of the Lexington Jaycees except president_vice president, director, and committee chairman. In addition to material by or about Whisman, a large portion of this sub-series concerns the operation of the chapter. There is a substantial run of "Blades of the bluegrass," the local newsletter, from 1951-58. There are also documents that record the various projects such as Christmas programs, beauty pageants, and sporting events that the chapter sponsored. News clippings also are represented. (30 folders)

B. Kentucky, 1951-59

Two sub-series deal with the Kentucky Junior Chamber of Commerce, this and the following one on Whisman's state presidency. The present records deal with Whisman's Jaycee activity before 1956 and with general state activities in which Whisman played a less central role. Included are files on Jaycee community outreach and money-raising projects, dealing with such topics as bookmobiles and libraries, highway safety and automobile safety-belts, outstanding young men awards, sporting events, and political action campaigns. In addition there are collections of newsletters (with some samples from out of state), internal operation papers such as minutes and reports, and several files relating to state conventions and campaigns for state Jaycee office. (102 folders)

C. Whisman's presidency, 1956-57

Whisman won election as state president of the Jaycees in the spring of 1956. That summer his friend and fellow-jaycee, Wendell Ford, was elected national president of the organization. The records here collected document the election campaigns of both men. They also show the enormous amount of travelling and effort that Whisman put into starting up new clubs and energizing old ones. There is a great deal of organizational material here from chartering clubs, to correspondence with state officers, to directories of members. Though there is less material on projects and programs in general, Whisman's particular interests in highway safety and community development are well represented. (69 folders)

D. United States

Whisman served as national chair of the Junior Chamber's "Program number 1," which in 1957-58 was "community development." To Whisman this term meant not simply economic growth. It meant planning for changes that might affect a locality's overall quality of life. Thus much of the national material includes letters, memoranda, and reports dealing with the local economy, transportation, public health, education, recreation, and even politics. These topics are also dealt with more generally in the national material that relates to Whisman's activities outside of his community development chairmanship. Six folders, for example, collect documents having to do with the national "Teenage Road-e-o" automobile safe driving program. There are also annual reports, published executive committee minutes, newsletters, and documents relating to the national convention. (70 folders)

E. Jaycee International and Chamber of Commerce, 1952-58

Whisman maintained a small archive of Jaycee International and Chamber of Commerce records. These materials consist of correspondence, reports and manuals, and newsletters and publications that Whisman seems to have used for reference. (17 folders)


3. Eastern Kentucky Regional Planning Commission (1958-65)

Governor A. B. Chandler formed the Eastern Kentucky Regional Planning Commission in 1957 after the disastrous flood of that year. Whisman was appointed executive director of the Commission in 1958 and he soon became one of its most energetic members. He wrote, for example, "Program 60," which served as the Commission's principal plan for most of the 1960s. The Commission was active not only in seeking federal money for better highways and health care facilities, it also sought the participation of local authorities and businessmen in creating jobs outside of the traditional industries. Whisman thus travelled constantly and his often hurried correspondence reflects this. Records here include meeting minutes and agendas, correspondence, reports, clippings and press releases, speeches, congressional testimony, and numerous planning documents for programs in agriculture, education, forestry, health care, and tourism, to name just a few.

A. Office Records

This sub-series gathers documents that do not directly bear on the various programs that the Planning Commission was studying. Here included are records of the meetings of the Citizens' Advisory Councils of 1957 whose petition to Governor Chandler gave him the authority to set up the Commission. There are subject files on the Commissioners themselves, organizational and internal records of Whisman's office, and materials publicizing the work of the Commission such as the Economic Development Tour of 1958, which gathered business leaders and federal officials to survey the problems of southeastern Kentucky. Other highlights include Whisman's many drafts of the planning report, "Program 60," the records he created in his associate position as special assistant to the governor of Kentucky, and collections of testimony given by himself and the Appalachian governors before Congress and various federal agencies.

B. Programs

The second sub-series relating to the Eastern Kentucky Regional Planning Commission deals with projects and programs that were under study because they might assist the region. Principal subject areas include: agriculture, education, forestry, health, highways, mining, power generation, tourism, and water. Included as well are documents relating more generally to economic and community development. There is a sizeable collection of background and reference materials and there is a file of printed federal and state legislation.


4. Conference of Appalachian Governors (1960-65)

The Conference of Appalachian Governors was formed to address the crippling poverty and under-development of Appalachia. The conference was instrumental in the formation of the Appalachian Regional Commission and in lobbying for federal money to support developmental projects and programs. Eight states were originally members. These were New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Whisman represented Kentucky's governor and was Executive Secretary to the Conference while Bert Combs served as chair. This series contains minutes of meetings, reports, memoranda, and program applications.


5. Area Program Office (1961-66)

The Kentucky Area Program Office was the umbrella agency, that coordinated development throughout Kentucky. Created in 1961, it oversaw the activities of the Eastern Kentucky Regional Planning Commission of which Whisman had been Executive Director since 1958. Whisman took over direction of the Office with its creation and thus extended his planning duties to cover all of Kentucky. Records of this series include correspondence, minutes, memoranda, and various reports, some of which deal with the operation of the Office's programs.


6. President's Appalachian Regional Commission (1963-65)

President Kennedy formed the President's Appalachian Regional Commission to study the possibilities of regional cooperation and development among the Appalachian states. With the successful passage of the Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965 the President's Commission's work finished and it was dissolved. Whisman served as the States' Representative to this body, which meant that he acted as liaison between the federal agencies involved and the governors of the states of Appalachia. This series comprises mainly statistics, reports, memoranda, and transcripts of meetings.


7. States Regional Representative

When the Appalachian Regional Commission was formed in 1965, the office of States' Regional Representative was created to represent the viewpoint of the Appalachian governors much as the States' Representative had done under President Kennedy's study commission. Whisman was the second to hold the post, beginning in 1966, and held it for ten years. He was thus crucial to the Commission's early success. The principle other officers with whom he had to deal in Washington were the Executive Director of the ARC and the Federal Cochair, who represented the viewpoint of the President. This series comprises almost 1000 folders and includes records of almost every type. There are many reports, project proposals and studies. Correspondence and memoranda as usual make up a large part of the series. Congressional testimony and bills are also well represented. Principal subject areas are: extension of ARC legislation, financing state projects and proposals, and the formation of additional regional

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