Scope and Content

The papers of Clay Thomas Whitehead (1938-2008) span the years 1957-2008, with the bulk of the material dating from 1968-1974.  Materials are predominantly in English, with scattered items in Japanese.  The collection documents Whitehead’s academic studies and his career working in the White House for the Richard M. Nixon administration as a Special Assistant to the President and as the Director of the Office of Telecommunications Policy; as a businessman with telecommunications companies including Hughes Communications, SES Astra, and Alpha Lyracom; and as a professor at George Mason University.  There is a gap in the materials; the mid-1990s to early-2000s are virtually undocumented.

The collection consists of memoranda, correspondence, subject files, notes, briefing books, position papers, conference proceedings, university coursework, research material, reports, speeches, writings, trip itineraries and records, printed matter, corporate annual reports, photographs, and ephemera.  The materials are organized in the following series: Prior to the White House, The White House Years, 1970s Post-White House Career, 1980s Career, PAS (PanAmSat), George Mason University (GMU), CTW Book, 2002-2008, and Boulder Public Service Division, 1972 2012.

The Prior to the White House series documents Whitehead’s student years at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) and as an economist and analyst for the RAND Corporation prior to joining the Nixon administration.  Volumes from his time as an undergraduate and graduate student at MIT contain his systems engineering and statistical theory notes.  The Prior to the White House series includes correspondence from Whitehead’s time as a graduate student when he both took and taught courses while pursuing his doctorate.  Copies of the thesis and of the general examinations he took in order to receive his Ph.D. are included as well.

The bulk of the collection concerns the development of telecommunication policy in the United States, especially during the Nixon administration, and the global telecommunications industry.  This history is traced through correspondence and memoranda generated between various White House offices; speeches, testimony, and other public communication from Whitehead; and materials he collected as part of his research towards a book on telecommunications.

The largest series in the collection is The White House Years, which is arranged into three subseries:  Special Assistant to the President, Office of Telecommunications Policy (OTP), and Ford Transition.  Of these, the Office of Telecommunications Policy materials predominate. 

The Special Assistant to the President subseries includes materials from Whitehead’s tenure as a Special Assistant to President Nixon. Included are materials from immediately after Nixon’s 1968 election to Whitehead’s promotion to Director of the Office of Telecommunications Policy in September 1970.  There is a wide range of materials in this subseries, including subject files and photographs; the subject files are not limited to telecommunications issues.  As Special Assistant to the President, Whitehead exercised direct responsibility for the Atomic Energy Commission, NASA, maritime policy matters, and was a liaison to the Federal Communications Commission.  Included are materials detailing Whitehead’s work in these areas.  There are also materials on the International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium (Intelsat) and the Communications Satellite Corporation (Comsat), including files about Intelsat conferences between 1969-1972.  Telecommunications-related correspondence, memoranda, meeting records, and other miscellaneous files round out this subseries.

Whitehead’s responsibilities during his tenure as Director of the newly-created Office of Telecommunications Policy are documented in the Office of Telecommunications Policy subseries.  Whitehead was sworn into this position on September 22, 1970; he resigned in September 1974, following Gerald R. Ford’s transition to the presidency.  The bulk of the material in this subseries dates from 1970 to spring 1974.  Subject files related to the formulation of telecommunications policies comprise the majority of materials in this subseries.  Documented are the telecommunications issues Whitehead presided over including:  Open Skies domestic communications satellite policy, deregulation of cable television networks, and funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  Also documented, through testimony and correspondence, is the relationship between the Office of Telecommunications Policy, Congress as a whole, and specific Congressional offices, which provides a comprehensive guide to the issues of interest to the Office of Telecommunications Policy.  Whitehead’s efforts to gain support for the administration’s policies are documented through the extensive speech files.

Two years into the second Nixon Administration the Watergate scandal began to consume the presidency.  It became apparent to Whitehead and others in 1974 that there was a growing possibility that President Nixon would have to resign from office.  Whitehead became part of a team (Philip Buchen, a member of Ford’s staff; Jonathan Moore, a former assistant to Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson; Lawrence Lynn, an Assistant Secretary of the Interior; and Brian Lamb, one of Whitehead’s assistants) that secretly planned for the mechanics surrounding a transfer of power to Ford, including staff assignments and communication logistics.  These events are documented in the Ford Transition subseries.  Included are materials regarding meetings of the transition team and Ford’s eventual assumption of the presidency.  Although the transition team was formed in April 1974, most of the files in this subseries date from August 1974, when the transition took place.  Documented are the brainstorming and meetings that occurred regarding the transition to a new president and the effort to portray his administration as separate from the previous one.  Included are notes and memoranda on the issues and decisions facing the team as it coordinated the unprecedented transfer of power.  Also included are photographs and copies of newspaper articles on the transition.

The 1970s Post-White House Career series contains materials from the period directly after Whitehead left the White House.  Much of these materials document the research and writing he completed while a Visiting Fellow at Harvard University and at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology.  During the mid-1970s, Whitehead prepared a draft of a book on telecommunications; many chapters of this book are located in this series.  Notes and outlines for Whitehead’s book can also be found here, along with drafts of books and articles for his review sent to him by colleagues and acquaintances.  The lengthiest of these is Bruce Owen’s revised manuscript on economics and the freedom of expression.  Much of the series consists of newspaper and research articles and reports collected by Whitehead, in part as research for his book but also to stay current on developments in business, government, and the telecommunications field.

The materials from the 1970s Post-White House Career are closely related to the materials from the 1980s Career series, which is the smallest in the collection.  During this period, Whitehead worked at Hughes Communications and SES Astra, and ran his own consulting firm.  However, there is very little material on any of this work in the collection.  Newspaper and newsmagazine articles from the late 1970s and early 1980s on issues in business and government and about Whitehead himself comprise roughly half of this series.  National Exchange Applications for satellite systems and space segments from 1983 to 1987 comprise the remainder of the series.

The PAS (PanAmSat) series documents Whitehead’s work for the Pan American Satellite Corporation (PanAmSat) and Alpha Lyracom Space Communications during the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Included are materials detailing his activities to expand PanAmSat’s business to Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, and Russia.  Correspondence, business cards, company annual reports, and other materials about Whitehead’s trips to these countries and meetings with government officials and businessmen demonstrate his efforts to promote PanAmSat’s expansion into new markets.

Informational and promotional materials produced by Alpha Lyracom provide information about the technology.  Copies of faxes and other correspondence received document Whitehead’s role in the day-to-day workings of this company.  Files about technologies including digital compressed video and DigiCipher demonstrate Whitehead’s interest in developing telecommunications technologies.  The bulk of this material dates from 1990 to 1993.  Also to be found in this series are information on a private equity investment firm, the stock market, articles, and records from a congressional hearing, during which Whitehead provided testimony.

The George Mason University (GMU) series contains materials from the mid-2000s directly preceding and during Whitehead’s time as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Communications Policy at George Mason University.  The materials in this series include brainstorming notes and a transcript of a lecture that Whitehead gave at the university in 2004.  There is correspondence documenting Whitehead’s growing relationship with university administrators and professors, culminating in his fall 2005 class.

Also to be found are copies of many news and scholarly articles Whitehead read as he was preparing to teach a class on telecommunications policy and law at the GMU School of Law during the fall semester of 2005.  Some of these articles, along with portions of books and copies of memoranda and other materials from his White House tenure, were distributed by Whitehead as required class reading.  As part of this course, Whitehead arranged for several of his former colleagues (including Lamb, Scalia, Don Baker, and Dick Wiley) and others to present lectures to his class; this series includes transcripts and copies of some of these lectures on DVD and digital videocassette.  Notes, emails, and other correspondence regarding organizational aspects of executing the fall 2005 course are included in this series. The bulk of this material is from 2004-2005, the years when Whitehead was most highly engaged with George Mason University.

Concurrent with teaching the GMU course, Whitehead was writing a book on the history of telecommunications policy.  The materials collected for this project and the writing that Whitehead undertook while he was drafting this book comprise the CTW Book Series.  Although the book research incorporated many of the course readings, this series includes additional research materials collected by Whitehead and his research team.  Brainstorming notes, outlines, and drafts of book chapters form the bulk of the series.  Among the topics covered are the early history of telecommunications and that of AT&T.  Also to be found are DVD copies of interviews Whitehead gave for Firing Line and 60 Minutes, while he was Director of the Office of Telecommunications Policy.  The bulk of the material in this series was copied from other archival repositories, especially the United States National Archives.

Copies of oral history interviews and of discussions between Whitehead and his close acquaintances provide information on Whitehead’s career.  The bulk of the original material in the CTW Book series dates from 2005 to 2008. Whitehead attended a few roundtables and forums put on by the Aspen Institute; materials about these are in this series, as they occurred during the same time frame in which Whitehead was writing his book.  For the same reason, correspondence about and drafts of Whitehead’s Wikipedia biography are located within this series.

Following Whitehead’s death, his wife endeavored to collate the chapter drafts he prepared along with obtaining copies of the supporting documentation he used in writing the drafts.  Much of this work was done in conjunction with Susan Burgess and other research assistants.  This material, along with additional biographical information about Whitehead is included here.  Of particular interest may be the remembrances prepared at Whitehead’s death and transcripts of interviews with him, both alone and with some of his former colleagues (Henry Goldberg, Harold Rosen, Brian Lamb).

In late 2012, Roger Salaman, the Nixon-era chief of the Department of Commerce’s Office of Telecommunications’ Boulder Policy Support Division (BPSD), gave the donor a collection of BPSD materials generated during his tenure (1971- 1986).  These materials include historical background information about both the OTP and the BPSD prepared by Salaman, a timeline of OTP activity from its founding to 1976, several collections of documents compiled to demonstrate the activities of the Division, and publications about telecommunications, information technology, and the telephone system.