Harold Washington Archives and Collections. Mayoral Records. Central Files Records
Scope and Contents
Central Files Records primarily contain correspondence received by the Mayor’s Office, and a small amount of reports and publications. Much of the correspondence was sent by Chicagoans asking for help and, as such, are closed for privacy reasons. There is one small box of files that relate to Harold Washington directly (box 36) which includes a program from his graduation from Roosevelt College in 1949, notification of the reinstatement of his law license in 1976 and handwritten notes taken by the Mayor. The collection also has the files of Harold Washington’s Executive Secretary, Dolores Woods. Woods maintained these files as they often contained information that the Mayor would consult frequently or wanted to keep near for reference. Records include correspondence, memoranda, reports, research files and studies.
- 1949 - 1987
- Majority of material found within 1983 - 1987
- Washington, Harold, 1922-1987 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restriction.
Conditions Governing Use
Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.
Central Files Records is composed of correspondence received by the Mayor’s Office. Dolores Woods, Harold Washington’s Executive Secretary, handled all of the certified and registered mail, any mail that was considered personal and telegrams. All other mail was opened, sorted, dated and stamped by the Central File Clerk. This mail was then forwarded to relevant offices according to subject and need. A detailed explanation of the Central Filing System can be found in box 37, folder 5.
Dolores Tucker Woods was born on August 31, 1936, in Chicago. Woods worked for Chicago Public Schools for over 20 years and, in 1964, began to work for Harold Washington following his election to the Illinois House of Representatives. She continued working for Harold Washington as his Executive Secretary as he won elections to the Illinois Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and as Mayor of the City of Chicago. Following Washington’s death in 1987, Woods continued to work with Acting Mayor Eugene Sawyer. She moved to the Chicago Public Library to oversee the establishment of the Harold Washington Archives and Collections and curated the opening-day exhibit in the new central library, the Harold Washington Library Center, which drew heavily from the archival collections. Woods was one of the founders of the Harold Washington Archives and Collections Advisory Committee. Following her retirement in 1992, Woods returned to education, earning a Bachelor’s degree from Northeastern Illinois’ University Without Walls program, and she continued to volunteer at DuSable Museum and at her church. Dolores Woods died on February 21, 2011.
Harold Washington was the first African American mayor of Chicago, elected in 1983.
Harold Washington was born on April 15, 1922, at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. His parents, Roy Lee and Bertha Jones Washington, divorced when he was young, and he lived with his father in Chicago and attended boarding school in Milwaukee. Washington entered Chicago’s DuSable High School in 1939, served in the Civilian Conservation Corps for six months, enlisted in the military from 1943 to 1946, and returned to DuSable High School to graduate in 1946. After earning a bachelor degree at Roosevelt University in Chicago and a law degree at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, Washington enjoyed a career as a practicing attorney before he turned to politics.
Washington’s political career encompassed roles at the municipal, state and national levels of government. He served as Illinois State Representative for the 26th District from 1965 to 1976. He then became Illinois State Senator for the 26th District from 1976 to 1980. Washington ran for mayor of Chicago in 1977, but lost. In 1980, he became a U.S. Congressman for the 1st District and served in that post until 1983. Washington again ran for mayor in 1983, winning the Democratic primary election in February of that year and the general election in April. He was inaugurated on April 29, 1983 and was re-elected in 1987. Harold Washington died at 1:36 PM on November 25, 1987 of a cardiac arrest, just a few months into his second term as mayor. He is buried in Chicago’s Oak Woods Cemetery.
63 Linear Feet (in 55 boxes)
Language of Materials
The Central Files Records consist of correspondence received by the Mayor’s Office. Incoming mail was sorted by Harold Washington’s Executive Office using the Central Filing System. Included in the collection is a small amount of papers from Harold Washington and the files of Dolores Woods, Harold Washington’s Executive Secretary.
Central Files Records are arranged in four series:
- Series 1: CLOSED -- Routed Correspondence (Case Files), 1985-1987
- Series 2: Papers of Harold Washington, 1949-1987, undated
- Series 3: Files of Dolores Woods, 1974-1987 (bulk dates 1983-1987)
- Series 4: Reports and Publications, 1971-1987 (bulk dates 1983-1987)
Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please request materials at least 24-hours prior to your research visit to coordinate access.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Chicago Public Library acquired the records after Harold Washington’s death.
- Budget -- Illinois -- Chicago Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Business correspondence. Subject Source: Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms
- Chicago (Ill.) -- Politics and government -- 1951- Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Records (Documents) Subject Source: Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms
- Washington, Harold, 1922-1987 (Person)
- Woods, Dolores (Person)
- Guide to the Harold Washington Archives and Collections. Mayoral Records. Central Files Records
- Originally processed in 1996. Updated by Morag Walsh, 2022. Uploaded into ArchivesSpace by Sarah Zimmerman, 2022.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in Englsih
Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository
Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States