Tennessee Responses to the Rosenbergs

Written by Sarah Calise, Project Archivist

On August 11, 1950, Ethel Rosenberg was arrested on the charge of conspiracy to commit espionage against the United States. Her husband, Julius, was arrested a month earlier. They were accused of passing along top-secret information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union.

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg separated by a wire fence after being found guilty of espionage. [Courtesy of Library of Congress]

The trial began in 1951 on March 6, and the jury convicted Ethel and Julius a few weeks later on March 29. Judge Irving Kaufman sentenced the two to death in the electric chair. The Rosenbergs’ attorney, Emanuel H. Bloch, fought for an appeal for two years. Ultimately, his appeal attempts failed.

During the two years of appeals, United States citizens and others across the globe were split on their feelings toward the couple. Some regarded them as traitors, while others saw them as victims of McCarthyism and the hysteria of anticommunism. For the latter, the death penalty seemed too cruel of a punishment.

On June 13, 1953, the Supreme Court denied the Rosenbergs a stay of execution. The couple’s punishment was to be administered on June 18, but Justice William O. Douglas granted them one last stay of execution after a Tennessee lawyer, Fyke Farmer, argued that the court tried the supposed spies under the wrong law. After years of delay, those Americans who saw the Rosenbergs as traitors thought the decision by Justice Douglas was also an act of treason.

Serving as a U.S. Senator at the time, Albert Gore Sr. received telegrams and letters from citizens of Tennessee demanding the impeachment of Justice Douglas. Here are a couple of samples (click each document to view larger):

Senator Gore responded to many of the letters on June 19, 1953–the same day the Supreme Court overturned Justice Douglas and ordered the execution of the Rosenbergs that evening. In his response, Gore stressed the seriousness of the death penalty and the responsibility of the justice system to ensure that “every accused is innocent until he is proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” He acknowledged that the two years of appeals following the Rosenbergs’ conviction and sentencing may have been “unusual,” but he reminded these constituents that “no time, effort, or patience is spared to see that defendants have every opportunity to take advantage of all reasonable efforts to establish” reasonable doubt. He also refused to speak lightly about whether or not Justice Douglas should be impeached.

Here is an example of Senator Gore’s response:

Gore to Palmer on Rosenberg case001

Proclaiming their innocence right up to the time of their deaths, the Rosenbergs were the only American civilians to be executed for espionage activity during the Cold War. These documents demonstrate how some Tennesseans responded to the court’s actions, and how Senator Albert Gore Sr. emphasized the importance of due diligence in the criminal justice system.

Note: all documents came from the Albert Gore Sr. Senate Papers, Special Files Series.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Forrest Hall Digital Collection Update

Written by Sarah Calise, graduate assistant

Today is my final day as a graduate assistant at the Albert Gore Research Center, and I would like to dedicate this blog to the project I’ve been pushing for since September 2015.

Quickly following the Charleston shooting on June 17, 2015, black students at Middle Tennessee State University called for an end to the Confederate symbols that still plagued the campus. The protests mainly surrounded the ROTC building honored after Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. This was the fourth major protest against Forrest at the university. The first demonstrations, led by student Sylvester Brooks, occurred in the 1960s after integration. Two other movements happened in the late 1980s and in 2006. Finally, the fourth protests began last summer. Although, an examination of Sidelines articles shows that debates about Confederate symbols and racism on campus have appeared intermittently since the 1960s.

josh crutchfield leads chant in front of Forrest Hall

Graduate student Josh Crutchfield leads students in a chant following a protest in front of Forrest Hall on November 23, 2015. (Photo credit: Daily News Journal)


With the support of the university archivist, Donna Baker, I began the development of a digital collection that would capture this fourth major protest as the history unfolded. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, many archivists around the country realized that waiting to receive personal papers related to these demonstrations years from now may be too late. History is happening now and, in the digital age, sources can disappear faster than it takes to tweet 140 characters.


forrest hall digital collection.png

Screenshot of the current holdings in the Walker Library Digital Collections related to the search term “Forrest Hall.” Accessed May 5, 2015.

The development of this digital collection was a slow process that involved a lot of convincing, relationship-building, and learning-as-we-go strategies. As a graduate student, there were many times I felt overwhelmed. As an emerging archivist, there were many times I made mistakes. As a human being, there were days of frustration and much needed self-care.

The digital collection is not perfect but it exists, and sometimes that is half the battle when a university neglected to document the voices of students of color for decades. Right now, the Forrest Collection contains mostly photographs from protests and public forums during the 2015-2016 academic year. Overall, there will be more than 200 items–documents, newspapers, yearbook pages, photographs, videos, and social media posts–housed in the digital collection that covers the relationship between Forrest, Confederate symbols, and MTSU dating back to the 1930s.

After today, I pass on the future duties of the digital collection to Donna Baker, and I know it is in trusted hands. I want to thank her for her unwavering support throughout this entire project. She was the first person I pitched the idea to the day after the protest in August.

Finally, I want to thank the courageous students (both past and present) who fought long and hard against the white supremacy and Confederate symbols at our university. We will win.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Z is for Zadie Key

Zadie Key was active in Rutherford County political and community organizations from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. A student and later employee of MTSU, her organizational ties include the United Way, Rutherford County Historical Society and Rutherford County Democratic Women’s Club, in which she served as president. The Zadie Key Papers include the following photographs, the first being Key, Albert Gore, Jr. and two unidentified people at an event supporting Jimmy Carter for president. The second photograph depicts Key (far right) with her fellow officers of the Rutherford County Democratic Women’s Club.

From everyone at the Albert Gore Research Center, we hope you have enjoyed our AGRCAtoZ blog series this semester. If you have any feedback on how we can improve it next semester, please let us know.

Written by Bradley Harjehausen, graduate assistant


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Y is for Yummy

1914 charity circle cookbook009.jpg

Nothing says summer like a fresh salad–check out some of these recipes! This 1914 cookbook comes from the Records of the Charity Circle of Murfreesboro. Founded in 1910, the Charity Circle is a women’s charity organization that assists Rutherford Country residents with basic needs and services that improve the quality of life. In the earlier years of the organization, these women focused on assisting the poor and advocating for education, temperance, and, later, suffrage. They are still an active group, visit their website here: http://www.charitycirclemboro.com/index.html.

Written by Sarah Calise, graduate assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The AGRC Celebrates Earth Day 2016


2011-01-02D Larry Sizemore

Larry Sizemore inside the greenhouse for the MTSU Magazine.

In honor of Earth Day 2016, the Albert Gore Research Center proudly presents our newest collection: The Larry Sizemore Horticulture Collection processed by graduate assistant Julie Maresco and University archivist Donna Baker.

Larry Sizemore served as the Grounds Services supervisor of Middle Tennessee State University. The Larry Sizemore Horticulture Collection includes maps and keys, letters, notes, photographs, slides, pamphlets, booklets, magazines, and teaching guides. It surveys and documents Sizemore’s contributions to horticulture development at MTSU and the Homer Pittard Campus School. It also contains educational materials to teach students about horticulture.

A 1971 MTSU Alumnus, Larry Sizemore grew and supervised the planting of over 10,000 flowers and plants on MTSU’s 500 acre campus. He was originally MTSU’s Greenhouse supervisor and later became the Ground Services supervisor. Larry Sizemore retired on December 23, 2015. Below are some images from this collection.

Work sign

Sizemore Collection437                Sizemore Collection470

In 1970, the year of our first Earth Day, the movement gave voice to an emerging consciousness, channeling human energy toward environmental issues. Celebrate Earth Day and find out how you can help protect our planet by attending Murfreesboro’s event on April 23, 2016. (See link below)


Murfreesboro Earth Day Celebration-Saturday April 23, 2016

Written by Julie Maresco, graduate assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“X” is for X-Files


Today’s AGRC A to Z is dedicated to- wait for it – ALIENS! Okay, technically, or rather “officially” none of our collections have much to do with extraterrestrials, but it is the end of the semester and sometimes graduate students have to invent creative ways to trudge through our final weeks. While our collections may not specifically mention life outside of Earth, we do have a few items that discuss space and MTSU’s astronomical endeavors.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the Robert LaLance Papers, there is a proposal for a new planetarium on campus in 1985. The proposal was perfectly timed with MTSU’s 75th anniversary as well as the upcoming passing of Halley’s Comet, whose orbital rotation passes Earth every 75 years. The previous planetarium was constructed in 1963 and had fallen behind in technical innovations. The new proposed planetarium would expand seating, encourage more science majors, and cost roughly $198,000. Unfortunately, it appears that the proposal was not accepted and the old planetarium was deconstructed in 1990.

However, if you’re still in the mood for some aliens in the archives, you can check out the Blue Book Archives, a digital archive that contains all of the available documents of the Air Force investigations involving UFOs. The archive has a search engine that can also narrow locations; we found an intriguing story from Memphis housekeeper in 1946.

So, for now, our search for eXtraterrestrials at the Gore center continues. The truth is out there…in the archives!


Written by Casey Gymrek and Sarah Calise, graduate assistants

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“W” is for Bob Womack

BW 25-04-47D Tn Teachers

These are the personal papers of MTSU Education Department Emeritus faculty member Bob Womack related to his research interests. In addition to his expertise in the field of education, Womack also fostered an encyclopedic knowledge of The Civil War, Tennessee Walking Horses, and the Evolution vs. Creationism debate. These personal research interests are documented in this collection of lectures, correspondence, research materials, and other papers.

Bob Womack was a professor in the Educational Leadership Department at Middle Tennessee State University, where he taught for more than 36 years. Womack earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1948 and his Master of Arts degree in 1952 from Middle Tennessee State College. In 1956, he completed his Education Doctorate at George Peabody College. Womack is a recognized expert in two areas outside teaching- the history of the Tennessee Walking Horses and the history of the Civil War.

In addition to his personal papers, we also have an oral history interview with Bob Womack in the Q. M. Smith Oral History Project.


Written by Julie Maresco, graduate assistant


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment