Watergate case files donated to MU

The files from a former Senate lawyer and MU graduate are expected to attract researchers.
Friday, November 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:45 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Scholars, historians and political scientists studying the Watergate period will now have reason to stop in Columbia to continue their research.

A collection of personal papers from a former Senate lawyer involved in the Watergate investigation was recently donated to MU. The papers belonged to Don Sanders, the deputy minority council for the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities. In 1973, it was Sanders who indirectly asked whether there was a recording system in the White House, perhaps the most important question in the Watergate hearings, the university said in a news release.

“This is likely to add to the overall knowledge of the Watergate affair,” said Jim Cogswell, the director of the MU Libraries. “It’s a collection of boxes of personal papers and detailed, handwritten notes from meetings with people — some of whom were the most prominent people in American government in the 1970s.”

Sanders, who earned his law degree from MU, died in 1999, and the 34 boxes of papers from his career were donated by his widow and other family members. The papers date back to 1969 and follow Sanders’ career through the early ’90s, Cogswell said.

Cogswell said the papers are the most significant gift to the library that he’s seen during his two years there.

“There is a cadre of scholars whose business is to research the inner workings of government and the political landscape of the latter part of the 20th century,” he said. “Scholars will have to seriously consider studying these papers harder to get the full picture of the Watergate hearings.”

So far, Cogswell said, no one has looked through the materials in great detail. He estimated that it would take six months to organize the papers and make them available to researchers.

Sanders began his career as a lawyer in Columbia in 1959. He served for two decades in Washington, D.C., working for the FBI, the House Committee on International Security and the Watergate committee. In 1983, he returned to Rocheport and served as Boone County Commissioner from 1989 to 1990.

Cogswell estimated that about 12 of the 34 boxes contained information from the Watergate era. Although this is what will capture most people’s attention, Cogswell said the other 22 boxes of information from Sanders’ career could also be significant.

“This will shed some light on the individual who had to make some political and personal choices and who showed a degree of integrity that is rare in public persons,” he said. “We don’t know what’s in there. Who knows? Maybe Sanders knew who Deep Throat is.”

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