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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS 601706

John Pershing papers


Pershing was an authority on public works financing and the bulk of his papers relates to his involvement in that capacity at the federal, state and municipal levels. Included is Pershing's diary from his fifteen months with the early Public Works Administration.


  • Creation: 1920-1982

Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.


1 collection (7 boxes and 1 Paige box)

The 1,800 items in the papers of John Pershing (1900-1982) span the years 1920-1969; there is a small number of obituary clippings of 1982. The collection includes correspondence (letters received and carbons of letters sent); memoranda; minutes of meetings; reports; drafts; outlines; lecture notes; examination papers; legal and government documents; legislative bills; clippings; and other printed items.

John Pershing was an authority on public works financing, and the bulk of his papers related to his involvement in that capacity at the federal, state and municipal levels. Forty-one folders contain a state-by-state study of public works financing and practices which Pershing made while serving as assistant director of the legal division of the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, the forerunner of the WPA, from February 23, 1934 - May 28, 1935. These folders contain essentially memoranda requested by Pershing and submitted to him and his office by officers of the various states; also included are reports, copies of briefs and legislative acts, notes of John Pershing, drafts of his article "Revenue Bond Remedies" which first appeared in the Cornell Law Quarterly of December, 1936.

An interesting segment relating to Pershing's fifteen months with the early Public Works Administration is his diary of that period, recording day by day staff meetings, and conferences with officials from states and municipalities who had come to Washington to report on public works in progress or were submitting proposals for public works.

Other subject files in the Pershing papers relate to his participation in the meeting of the President's Committee for Traffic Safety, held in Miami Beach, Florida, 29-30 May 1958; his Public Corporation Finance seminar at the University of Virginia Law School (1957-1962); speaking engagements (1957-1962); his role as executive director of the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike Authority (1956-1970); his drafting of a Model Turnpike Act; his activities as a member of the Section of Municipal Law of the American Bar Association (1953-1954); his participation as judge in the Ames Moot Court finals at the Harvard Law School (22 November 1950); and trips abroad in 1962 and 1965. There are eight folders of "personal" correspondence (1950-1953, 1967) which include some professional matters. The only correspondence sequence of any length with one individual is Pershing's correspondence with the dean of the University of Virginia Law School, F.D.G. Ribble.

The files marked "Speaking Engagements" include invitations to speak, arrangements for delivery of speeches and remarks, and typed manuscripts of these talks.

Pershing's student notebooks were transferred to the Law Library collections.

Historical/Biographical Information

b. 22 March 1900, Denver, Colorado

A.B. Princeton University, 1921

LL.B. Harvard University, 1924

m. Margaret Jane Simms, 1924; children: John Pershing, Jr.; Dr. Hugh Simms Pershing; Pamela Pershing Herrick

Law practice in Denver, 1924-1934

Assistant Director of the Legal Division of the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works from February 1934 - June 1935, Washington, D.C.

Partner in law firm of Mitchell and Pershing, New York, New York, specializing in public works finance, 1935-1956; was bond counsel for the financing of many state turnpikes, including the Richmond (Virginia) - Petersburg Turnpike Authority.

Retired from New York law practice in 1956; moved to Richmond, Virginia.

General manager and executive director of the Richmond - Petersburg Turnpike Authority, 1956-1970; retired in 1970.

At one time, was president of the American Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association.

Chairman of the Committee on Special Revenue and Authority Obligations of the Section of Municipal Law of the American Bar Association.

Lecturer on public corporation finance, University of Virginia Law School, 1957-1961.

Chairman of the Virginia delegation to the President's Committee for Traffic Safety, 1959.

d. 5 January 1982, Richmond, Virginia.

Author of:

  1. "Revenue Bond Remedies," 22 Cornell Law Quarterly 1 (December 1936) 64-82.
  2. "Revenue Bond Financing of Public Off-Street Parking Facilities," 36 Virginia Law Review 8 (December 1950) 1019-1027.
  3. Draft of Model Turnpike Act

Series List/Description

  1. Series I. Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works,

    Folders 1-1 to 5-8.

  2. Series II. Writings, Speeches, Research, Professional Activities other than FEAPW,

    Folders 5-9 to 7-5.

  3. Series III. Personal,

    Folders 7-6 to 7-19.

  4. Series IV. Revenue Bond Financing,

    Paige box.

Within each series and/or subseries individual items or folders are identified by box and folder number. For example, the number 5-2 corresponds to box 5, folder 2.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of John Pershing's daughter, Pamela Pershing Herrick in 1983.


(1) Contracts [Williston?] n.d.

(2) Equity, Vol. III [Chafee?] n.d.

Processing Information

Prepared December, 1983.

Pershing, John. Papers, 1920-1982: Finding Aid.
Harvard Law School Library, Cambridge, MA 02138
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository

Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.

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