Personal Papers of Former Speaker of the MD House of Delegates John Hanson Briscoe to be preserved at St. Mary’s College of Maryland

The personal papers of John Hanson Briscoe (1934-2014), former speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates and longtime St. Mary’s County lawyer and judge, will be preserved at St. Mary’s College of Maryland Archives.

Briscoe’s personal papers, including speeches and photographs, will be at the College alongside the papers of several Maryland politicians and activists including former senator J. Frank Raley, former delegates Paul Bailey and John Bohanan, as well as longtime activist Jane Yowaiski.

Sam Baldwin, Briscoe’s son-in-law who for several years has been working on an in-depth historical piece called the John Hanson Briscoe Historical Project (available online), said the reason he wanted Briscoe’s papers to go to the College archives is because there is a full-time staff member and student interns that can organize the information and make it available to the public.

Briscoe’s widow, Bonnie Briscoe said it is appropriate for these papers to be at the College where young people who might be in love with politics or the idea of politics can find out more about his personal experiences. She said having his experiences passed on to others in this way is a “remarkable remembrance of him.”

Bonnie Briscoe and Jan Briscoe, daughter of John Briscoe, met with St. Mary’s College Archivist Kent Randell earlier this week to officially sign the Deed of Gift.

Randell said, “Being an archivist isn’t just about the ‘stuff, it’s about building community relationships with donors, making students and the general public aware of the collections and assisting folks in using them, working with the professors who will get to teach with archival documents, and giving student workers professional work experience by having them assist in the arranging and describing of archival collections.”

Baldwin said having the papers of former politicians in the College archives is a great way for people to see how these individuals helped shape the county and the state as it is today.

“The dream would be, ideally, that it doesn’t stop with John Briscoe’s papers. There could be other Maryland politicians who see St. Mary’s College as the best place for their own archives. So that the students at St. Mary’s College —  some of the best students in the state — can study the papers of some of the best politicians of the state,” Baldwin said.

This collection will also tie in with many other aspects of St Mary’s County history preserved at the College. For example, the College recently partnered with Historic Sotterley Plantation to assist with preserving its archival collections. Briscoe was a member of the board of trustees for Sotterley and supported the groundbreaking work of Agnes Kane Callum. Callum was an author, member of the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, and descendant of enslaved persons at Sotterley, who also sat on their Board and updated their interpretation mission to include the stories of her ancestors.

The St. Mary’s College of Maryland Archives are located in the basement of Calvert Hall. Contact Kent Randell (kdrandell@smcm.edu) for an appointment during summer hours. Community organizations conducting oral history interviews interested in joining the SlackWater oral history project please contact Randell at 240-895-4196 or via email.

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