Collection ID: MSS079
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Carson, Julia
Julia M. Carson (July 8, 1938-December 15, 2007) was the first woman and African-American to represent Indianapolis and the second African-American (after Katie Hall of Gary, Indiana) to represent Indiana in the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1997 until her death. Prior to entering Congress, Carson, a Democrat, served as a state representative and a state senator in the Indiana General Assembly and as Center Township trustee in Marion County, Indiana. The collection is composed primarily of Carson's records from her years in Congress, including biographical materials, committee records, legislative records, subject files, caucus records, meetings and events records, speeches, correspondence, press releases, newsletters, and flyers, office administration records, and audiovisual materials.
34.6 cubic feet (34 cartons, 1 document box, 1 flat box)
English .
Preferred citation:

Cite as: Julia Carson Papers, 1978-2007, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, IUPUI University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis.


Biographical / Historical:

Julia Carson was born in Louisville, Kentucky on July 8, 1938. Her family later moved to Indianapolis, where Carson graduated from Crispus Attucks High School in 1955 and later attended Martin University and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

In 1965 Carson joined the staff of newly elected congressman Andy Jacobs, Jr. as a caseworker in his Indianapolis office. In 1972, at Jacobs's suggestion, she ran for and won a seat as a state representative in the Indiana General Assembly. In 1976 she was elected to the state senate and held that seat until 1990.

In 1990 Carson won the election for the office of Center Township trustee in Indianapolis. This office had suffered for several years from budget deficits, structural inefficiencies, and fraudulent claims. During her six years as trustee, Carson put the office on a sound financial footing, reduced welfare costs, started a workfare program, and eliminated waste and fraud.

In 1996, Andy Jacobs chose to retire rather than seek reelection to his 10th Congressional District seat. Carson gained the Democratic Party nomination in the May primary election and won the seat in the November general election.

Carson represented the 10th Congressional District for her first three terms in Congress. Following the 2000 federal census, Indiana lost one congressional seat. The 2002 redistricting plan placed most of Marion County into the new 7th Congressional District. Carson won the seat for the 7th District in the general election of 2002 and was reelected in 2004 and 2006.

Carson served on three Congressional committees during her years in the House of Representatives. She was on the Committee on Financial Services (known as the Committee on Banking and Financial Services during her first two terms) for all six of her terms. For her first three terms she also served on the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and during her last three terms she was a member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The Democrats were the minority party in the House of Representatives for all but the last year of Carson's time in Congress. This fact, combined with the Congressional seniority system, limited the amount of influence Carson had in Congress. She was, however, able to accomplish some of her legislative goals, most notably the passage of legislation to award a Congressional Gold Medal to civil rights leader Rosa Parks. Other major legislative efforts included bills to exonerate Captain Charles McVey III, commander of the cruiser U.S.S. Indianapolis that was sunk in World War II, and to mandate the use of trigger locks and other gun safety measures. She also put great emphasis on service to her constituents.

In September 2007, while treating Carson for a leg infection, doctors discovered that her lung cancer, which had been in remission, had returned. Carson succumbed to the cancer on December 15, 2007. Carson laid in repose in the rotunda of the Indiana Statehouse on December 21, 2007, and thousands of people passed through to pay their respects. Her funeral took place the next day, and she was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery.

Scope and Content:

The Julia Carson Papers document Carson's activities as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Most of the papers cover the years 1997-2007, but some materials are from earlier years and deal with Carson's involvement in local and state politics.

The collection consists of ten series:

Biographical Materials, 1978-2007 Contain copies of "My Neighbor as Myself," an autobiographical piece written by Carson, biographies of Carson written by schoolchildren, award certificates, and newspaper clippings about Carson from the years before she was elected to Congress.

Committees, 1997-2007 Contain records relating to the three House committees and various subcommittees Carson served on. Records include correspondence related to committee meetings and the legislation being considered by the committees, copies of Carson's statements at the meetings, and her questions to witnesses appearing before the committees.

Appropriations, 1997-2007 Contain records relating to appropriations of money to government departments, agencies, and programs. Records include correspondence to Carson from various Indiana communities and agencies discussing their requests for federal funds and Carson's correspondence to committee chairs and ranking minority members requesting funds for specific agencies and projects. Some of the requests would be made jointly with other members of Indiana's Congressional delegation.

Legislation, 1996-2007 Contain records relating to legislation sponsored by Carson and legislation being considered by the House of Representatives. The legislation sponsored by Carson includes a bill to award civil rights leader Rosa Parks a Congressional Gold Medal, a resolution to exonerate Captain McVey for the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, legislation authorizing the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial in Indianapolis, bills to promote and support responsible fatherhood and to protect children from the hazards of firearms, and resolutions to honor Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, and Serena Williams.

Other records relating to legislation include legislation that Carson co-sponsored, sign-on letters (petitions signed by members of Congress and sent to Congressional leaders or members of the executive branch), Dear Colleague letters (letters sent to or received from other members of Congress requesting co-sponsorship or support of legislation, help in defeating legislation, or thanks for actions taken), records of Carson's voting record on legislation, ratings of Carson by various organization, and correspondence and lobbying materials relating to legislation.

Subject Files, 1980-2007 Contain records relating to a variety of issues. Some of the files pertain to subjects being dealt with by Congress or various federal departments and agencies, while other files are about concerns specific to Carson's district or Indiana. The files contain correspondence, newspaper clippings, publications, and background information.

Caucuses, 1996-2007 Contain records dealing with the various Congressional caucuses to which Carson belonged. Most of the files relate to the Congressional Black Caucus. One of the caucus's activities is an annual legislative conference. Members of the caucus host sessions on various topics. Carson hosted sessions dealing with juvenile justice, promoting responsible fatherhood, domestic violence, livable cities, and meeting the mental health needs of black women.

Meetings and Events, 1997-2007 Contain correspondence, newspaper clippings, scheduling information, and other records concerning meetings and events attended by Carson and/or members of her staff. The meetings and events involve a wide range of people and groups, including lobbyists, constituents, civic organizations, special interest groups, representatives from industry, and other politicians. The records show the demands on Carson's times and document her interaction with several different segments of the public.

Public Communications, 1996-2007 Contain records documenting the ways that Carson communicated with her constituents, the media, and others. Records include texts of her speeches, correspondence, press releases, newsletters, and flyers.

Office Administration, 1996-2003 Contain records relating to the operation and the staff of Carson's Washington, D.C. office. Records include memoranda and information about Carson's schedule.

Audiovisual Materials, 1996-2003 Contain audiocassette tapes, videotapes, DVDs, and photographs. Most of the audiocassette tapes are from Carson's appearances on the Greg Garrison Show on radio station WIBC and The Bottom Line with Willie Frank Middleton on radio station WTLC. The videotapes include Carson campaign commercials, Carson participating in a debate from the 1998 election and other events, and videotapes related to legislation sponsored by Carson. The DVDs are of a 2004 election debate and a homeless persons' memorial service held in Indianapolis in 2007. The photographs are from various events Carson took part in. Many of the events and the people in the photographs with Carson are not identified.

Acquisition information:
Presented by Sam Carson, Indianapolis, Indiana, July 8, 2010. A2010/11-004.
Rules or conventions:
DACS-Describing Archives: A Content Standard
General note:

Rights Statement: The text of this webpage is available for modification and reuse under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License and the GNU Free Documentation License (unversioned, with no invariant sections, front-cover texts, or back-cover texts).

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Cite as: Julia Carson Papers, 1978-2007, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, IUPUI University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis.

IUPUI University Library
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Room 0133
Indianapolis, Indiana 46202, United States