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William R. Ratchford Papers

Identifier: 1984-0021

Scope and Content

The collection contains the records of Ratchford's congressional career and includes correspondence, reports, studies, press releases, speeches, photographs, scrapbooks and multimedia. Specific issues of interest to Mr. Ratchford are detailed in the descriptions of each series.


  • undated, 1961-1986


The collection is open and available for research.

Restrictions on Use

Permission to publish from these Papers must be obtained in writing from the owner(s) of the copyright.


Born in Danbury, Connecticut, on 24 May 1934, Bill was the son of a hatter. He attended public schools and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1956. Ratchford was editor of the student newspaper and involved in many student activities, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. His interest in the world outside the classroom continued at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.

After receiving his law degree in 1959, he practiced law in Danbury and became active in Democratic politics. In his first campaign, he was elected to the State House of Representatives, where he served six concecutive terms, from 1963 through 1974. After just two terms, he assumed his first leadership position, Assistant Majority Leader, to be followed in the next term by a successful bid for the Office of Speaker of the House.

As speaker, Ratchford also followed state legislative issues nationwide, and in the 1973-1974 served as President of the National Legislative Conference. Following an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1974, he was appointed by Governor Ella Grasso to chair a Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate the Nursing Home Industry in Connecticut (1975-1976), focusing public and legislative attention on the problems confronting the state's elderly. The Governor named him Commissioner on Aging in 1977. He resigned in 1978 to begin a successful campaign for the Fifth Congressional District seat.

Ratchford's first-term Democratic colleagues in the House elected him Chairman of the 96th Congress New Members Caucus in 1980. In March 1981, the bi-partisan New England Congressional Caucus elected him co-chairman of its Transportation Task Force. His committee assignments include the Elementary, Secondary and Vocational Education, and Labor Standards subcommittees of the Committee on Education and Labor; the Accounts, and Personnel and Police subcommittees of the Committee on House Administration; and the Health and Long-Term Care, and Human Services subcommittee of the Select Committee on Aging. He represented Connecticut in the House of Representatives from 1979 until January 1985, having been defeated in the 1984 by John Rowland.

From 1993-2001, Ratchford was assistant administrator of the General Services Administration for congressional affairs. William Ratchford died January 2, 2011.

[Based on information found in the Ratchford for Congress Committee's Congressman Bill Ratchford: A Life in Public Service (1981) and the Congressional Biographical Directory.]


215.3 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Materials pertaining to Mr. Ratchford's term of office as United States Congressman representing Connecticut's fifth Congressional district.


Series I: Administrative Assistant (1979-1985) contains the files of Mary Scheckelhoff, administrative assistant to William Ratchford. The files consist of correspondence on microfiche, guest books, notebooks related to the various types of databases used by Ratchford's office, and other administrative files. The latter comprises information covering a wide range of administrative functions; typical files are mailings, weekly schedule, and campaign files. Also included here is information on congressmen who solicited Ratchford's support for their nominations to various committees, such as the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Series II: Legislative Assistants (1979-1985) is divided into four subseries according to the name of the assistant who created the files. Each subseries is arranged alphabetically by topic. The legislative assistants were responsible for informing Congressman Ratchford about issues that were of importance to his constituents. Series II supplements and supports Series III: Legislative Files, and Series IV: Committee Files.

The subseries Cynthia Bradley (1983-1984) contain her subject files dealing with diverse topics including agriculture, communications, energy, environment, natural gas legislation, science, transportation, whales, and women's issues.

The second subseries consist of the subject files of assistants Pat Kery and Laura Jewett (1980-1984). Major topics in this subseries include education, banking, tax reform, trade, and business cases. Also represented are a large number of files about the advisory groups with which Ratchford was active including blacks, business, education, environment, hispanics, veterans, and women. There are also files designated “special projects” which constitute a catch-all category dealing with forums, legislative files, and other matters.

The third subseries, Bob Godec(1983-1984). The major issue represented is concerns of the elderly, especially those in Connecticut. Their concerns are reflected in files dealing with the House Select Committee on Aging, the budget, health issues, hospices, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. A section of “Dear Colleague” files reflects Congressman Ratchford's views, for or against, on a wide range of legislation.

The final subseries, Peter Sloane (1979-1984) consists of Sloane's office and research files of that legislative assistant. Topics included are: the budget, the economy, education, foreign affairs, health, handicapped regulations, the House Administration, small business, the Standby Economic Recovery Act, and Connecticut cities and towns. There is a particularly large amount of information in theses files on the Age 60 Airline Pilot Retirement Rule hearing, nursing home legislation, and Social Security legislation.

Series III: Legislative Files (1979-1984) is divided into three subseries: General Legislative Files, Floor Files, and Record Votes.

The General Legislative Files are the general research files used to provide background information on various legislative issues (1979-1984). They are arranged alphabetically by subject. Subjects which are especially well represented in these files include: aging, commerce, economics, education, energy, the environment, ethics, judiciary, labor and taxation. Contained in the material on ethics are letters written to various world leaders on behalf of individuals arrested for political reasons.

The Floor Files (1982-1984) are arranged in chronological order. Included in the files is documentation on the issues and bills that were discussed in the House of Representatives, summaries of these bills, bills that were passed, and subsequent amendments.

Record Votes (1980-1982) consists of a compilation by the Democratic Study Group of all votes taken in each session of the 96th and 97th Congresses. Each session's record is accompanied by an index and voter sheets which summarize various elements of each vote: vote number, roll number, date, descriptive title, description, commentary, references, and the vote breakdown. Of these elements, the description and commentary will be useful; the former provides factual information on the vote, the latter endeavours to place it in a political perspective.

Series IV: Press Secretaries (1979-1985) contain the working files of Congressman Ratchford's press secretaries. These subject files contain correspondence, reports, draft releases and similar types of material. This series is divided into three subseries by name of the individual press secretaries.

The first subseries, Kevin Lynch (1981-1985) is arranged alphabetically by topic. Subjects which are especially well represented in this subseries include the aged, taxation, budget, environment, industry, Reagan, social security and unemployment. Jason Isaacson files (1979-1980) are arranged alphabetically by topic. The third subseries, Steve Singer (1983-1985) is further subdivided by format: Press Files, Press Releases, Issue Updates and Newsletters, and the Ratchford Columns. The Press Files are subject files and include information on a wide range of local issues such as acid rain in New England, budget proposals and their effects on Connecticut businessmen, nuclear war and children, contract awards, social security, economic programs, gas prices in Connecticut, and unemployment. The Issue Updates and Newsletters consists of printed letters and newsletters to constituents providing them with an update of Ratchford's activities. The Ratchford Column (1983-1984) contains the background preparation for his weekly column and includes some photographs. Series IV is largely the working files of Congressman Ratchford's press secretaries. The Press Files, Series V, is a better source for Ratchford's public responses and attitudes.

Series V: Press Files (1979-1983) is divided into five subseries by format: Postal Patron Mail, Ratchford Column, Press Releases and Statements, Issue Briefs, and Town Meeting Notices.

Postal Patron Mail (1980-1982) represents the mass mailings to Connecticut state residents. The mailings include information on Ratchford's area office hours, town meetings, newsletters, issue updates, and informative mailings such as a guide for older Americans and a social security fact sheet.

Ratchford Column (1980-1983) contains the weekly column written by William Ratchford on political, economic and social issues. Included in the political category are issues related to foreign aid, international terrorism, American involvement in El Salvador, America's relationship with Iran and the hostage crises of 1980, and the Polish solidarity situation. On the subject of economics, Ratchford wrote about President Carter's economic recovery plan, the federal budget, international trade, federal spending, the effects of oil decontrol, President Reagan's economic policies and the deepening recession, the plight of American workers and unemployment. With regard to social issues, Ratchford's column contained material on the social security crisis, the protection of the elderly from shameful abuse, and education. Although a small subseries, it covers Ratchford's attitudes and public responses to state legislation, presidential actions and statements. This material is arranged in chronological order. (The 1983-1984 Column background material is in the Steve Singer subseries of Series IV.)

Press Releases and Statements (1979-1983) include press releases dealing with a diverse range of topics such as finances, the appointment of new staff, announcements of grants, gas shortages, decontrolling oil prices, social security plans, concern for the elderly, nuclear crises, and international issues such as aid to El Salvador and the Middle East peace talks. Many of the releases assist in providing one with an understanding of Ratchford's views, not only on a wide range of legislative issues but also on congressional action.

Issue Briefs (1979-1980) are arranged in chronological order. The Issue Briefs provided constituents with a summary of Ratchford's legislative activities in Washington from the beginning of his term and furnished a description of the foreign policy challenges which the United States faced in the 1980s. These periodic updates on major topics ranged from energy to inflation, health care to foreign affairs, and environment to the elderly. They were designed to create a heightened awareness of decisions emerging from Congress.

Town Meeting Notices consists of notices to Connecticut towns of meetings with Congressman Ratchford and demonstrate Ratchford's interest in listening to his constituents' views on issues of concern.

Series VI: Committee Files (1979-1985) are comprised of the files of committees on which Ratchford served. The committees were responsible for proposing, examining and debating bills. Materials in these files are divided by committee: Select Aging Committee, Education and Labor Committee, House Administration Committee, House Appropriations Committee, and Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The subseries Select Aging Committee (1979-1983) provides the researcher with the most complete and lucid view of Ratchford's concern for and interest in services provided to the elderly. Included are the Health and Long-Term Care Subcommittee files. The files are arranged alphabetically by topic.

Education and Labor Committee (1979-1982) comprises not only propositions related to the protection of children from violence, abuse, alcohol and drugs but also of proposals to improve their nutrient intake, their educational facilities, employment opportunities and economic opportunities. Document types include subject files, hearing transcripts, and house resolutions. The Subcommittee on Post-Secondary Education files are located in this subseries.

The third subseries House Administration Committee (1979-1980) reflects Ratchford's involvement with the Federal Election Commission, the Legislative Service Organization and the Public Financing of Elections. These files are arranged alphabetically by topic.

The subseries House Appropriations Committee (1982-1985) is further divided into Interior Appropriations Committee and Transportation Appropriations. The Interior Appropriations consists of correspondence and reports detailing the work of the Interior Appropriations Committee, budget justifications of the Department of Interior for the fiscal years 1983-1984 and 1984-1985, and finally, transcripts of the hearings of this committee. The Transportation Appropriations Committee section contains committee hearing transcripts, 1983-1984, information on the meetings and actions of the committee, and budget estimates for the different transportation departments for the fiscal year 1985.

The fifth subseries, Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Committee (1979-1981) contains correspondence and reports on environmental issues and material reflecting the measures that were designed to protect the environment and natural resources. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by topic.

Series VII: Issue Mail (1979-1984) contains the incoming correspondence from constituents and Congressman Ratchford's responses to the correspondents. Correspondence control was assisted via an automated system. The Issue Mail is subdivided into Text Summary and Form Responses, Master Directory, and Correspondence and Attachments. The Master Directory is a cumulative, alphabetized compilation of all the constituents' correspondence received and entered by Ratchford's office in 1984. The Directory contains the name and address of the correspondent, an assigned document number, the date of the correspondence and assigned subject codes. To understand the coding of the correspondence topics, it is necessary to refer to Text Summaries and Form Responses (boxes 102 and 103). Correspondence and Attachments contains all of the original correspondence received and entered by Ratchford's office; the 1984 is reproduce on microfiche (box 140). Unless otherwise desired, the researcher is advised to refer to the Master Directory for a cumulative, alphabetized compilation of these records and to the Text Summaries and Form Responses for a decoding of the subjects.

Series VIII: Political Files (1978-1984) document Ratchford's campaign strategies: methods, fundraising efforts, campaign correspondence, campaign debates, political broadcasting, analysis of various polls, information on constituents, expenditure reports, election issues statements, election successes and failures. This series is divided into three subseries: 1978-1982 Campaign, 1983-1984 Campaign and Campaign Releases. Researchers may find the polls and surveys of particular interest in the Campaign subseries. The Campaign Releases contain the campaign press releases from April to October 1980; these are arranged chronologically. The existant radio campaign tapes are located in Series XII.

Series IX: Casework Files (1979-1984) is arranged alphabetically. This series is comprised of correspondence between certain business concerns and Congressman Ratchford. These papers are not tied to one particular issue in business, but to a large spectrum of problems experienced by the business community of the district. In most instances, the business correspondence has included appeals for Ratchford's aid in resolving financial problems, securing of government contracts, securing of import permits and re-export licences or the facilitation of payment by government agencies for completed contracts. To emphasise the urgency of their plights, many businesses have attached company records and company brochures to the correspondence forwarded to Ratchford. Of significance also is the business correspondence related to preservation, environmental issues, and the rehabilitation of bridges in the Danbury area district. The business correspondence related to these different topics is therefore indicative of Congressman Ratchford's concern for business affairs and environmental issues of his district. There are some nonbusiness cases in the series.

Series X: Ratchford Journal (1979-1986) is William Ratchford's handwritten diary of Congressional activity. His journal of events includes descriptions of floor debates, current issues, committee work, and individuals, this small series of material will prove to be invaluable and interesting to every researcher of the Ratchford Papers.

Series XI: Newspaper Clippings (1979-1982) consists of clippings from various state newspapers. The value of these clippings lie not only in the documentation ofWilliam Ratchford's political career but also in providing the researcher with public assessment and judgement of his work.

Series XII: Audio and Visual Recordings (1979-1984) is further divided in three subseries by format: Video Tapes, Movie Films, and Audio Recording Tapes. The Video Tapes are of “The Ratchford Report.” The Audio Recording Tapes contain the Congressman's comments on issues such as acid rain, the budget and its effects on employment, civil rights, disability reviews, federal loan programs, the gas shortage, health care, and oil price deregulation. The audio tapes also include some of his 1982 and 1984 campaign radio spots.

Series XIII: Photographs and Memorabilia (1961-1984) consists of photographs, plaques, certificates, scrapbooks and miscellaneous memorabilia. The Photographs of congressional sessions, constituents, family members, political figures and staff are valuable not only in documenting William Ratchford's political career, but also his political campaigns. Additional photographs are located in Series IV. The Plaques and Certificates which have been awarded to him by different organizations in recognition of his contributions and services to various fields, are indicative of the diverse range of activities in which Ratchford was involved. The Scrapbooks contain newspaper clippings, photographs, letters and notes; they convey information on Ratchford's career and his commitment to improving home care and other facilities for the elderly of his constituency.

Acquisition Information

William Ratchford donated his Congressional papers to the University of Connecticut in December 1984.

William R. Ratchford Papers
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Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US