Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Douglas, William O. (William Orville), 1898-1980.
William O. Douglas Oral History Interviews
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
1 box
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1


William O. Douglas served as Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1939-1975, the longest term in the history of the Supreme Court. The collection includes audio and transcripts of interviews which cover Douglas's government career through the time of the interviews.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Consists of tapes and transcriptions of conversations between Associate Justice of the Supreme Court William O. Douglas and Walter F. Murphy, professor of politics at Princeton University. Recorded on 18 separate occasions, the interviews took place from 1961 to 1963 and were transcribed in the Library, but were not edited by either participant.

The interviews cover most of Douglas's government career. Names which occur frequently in the conversations include Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Charles E. Hughes, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harlan Stone, Harry Truman, Fred Vinson, and Earl Warren. There is also discussion concerning the issues of civil rights, habeas corpus, desegregation, and religious freedom, and various case histories including the Rosenberg case, the Minnesota Tea case, Brown vs. the Board of Education, United States vs. South Eastern Underwriters, and Kramer vs. United States.


The tape-recorded conversations were transcribed in one 384-page volume, in chronological order with an index of names. There are 19 actual cassettes, numbered 1-18 (with 7A & 7B).

Collection Creator Biography:

Douglas, William O. (William Orville), 1898-1980.

William O. Douglas was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939. His nearly thirty-seven year tenure as a Supreme Court justice was the longest in the history of the court.

Murphy, Walter F., 1929-2010

Walter Murphy, a political scientist and constitutional scholar, served as the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University. Born on Nov. 21, 1929, and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, Murphy was an alumnus of the University of Notre Dame, George Washington University, and the University of Chicago. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Korea, receiving the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart, a Presidential Unit Citation and three battle stars. Murphy joined the Princeton faculty as an assistant professor of politics in 1958. He was named the McCormick Professor in 1968 and retained that chair until his retirement with emeritus status in 1995. He remained in the Marine Corps Reserve, retiring in 1974 as a colonel.

Collection History


William O. Douglas donated the recordings of his oral history to the Princeton University Library in 1965. Douglas's interviewer, Walter F. Murphy, gifted his copyright interest in the recordings to Princeton University in 1999.


No materials were separated from this collection.

Processing Information

In 2000, the original paper transcripts of the recordings were converted into electronic form using optical character recognition software. The text of the transcripts were then coded in HTML, and the transcripts were made available via an old version of the Mudd Library's website.

In 2015, the Microsoft Word documents created by the optical character recognition software were converted to PDFs, and these PDF transcripts were made available via this finding aid.

During a 2020 survey the original 384-page volume of transcriptions was not located, researchers should use the transcriptions that are posted online with each individual interview.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

William O. Douglas Oral History Interviews; Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1

Find More

Other Finding Aids

An introduction to the collection was written by Walter Murphy in 2000 and is available here.

Existence and Location of Originals

The transcripts available online were created by converting the original paper transcripts into electronic form using optical character recognition software. The original paper transcripts are no longer available.

Subject Terms:
Civil rights -- United States -- 20th century.
Freedom of religion -- United States -- 20th century.
Habeas corpus -- United States -- 20th century.
Judges -- United States -- 20th century -- Interviews.
Judicial process -- United States -- 20th century.
Political scientists -- New Jersey -- Princeton -- 20th century -- Interviews.
Genre Terms:
Audio cassettes.
United States
Frankfurter, Felix, 1882-1965
Murphy, Walter F., 1929-2010
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945.
Rosenberg, Julius, 1918-1953.
Vinson, Fred Moore, 1890-1953
Warren, Earl, 1891-1974.