Ross gives congressional papers to OBU

Daniel A. Marsh/Contributing Writer Published December 12, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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Daniel A. Marsh/Contributing Photographer

Ouachita Baptist University President Rex Horne, left, and U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., sign an agreement for the congressman to donate his official papers to Ouachita’s archives collection.

ARKADELPHIA — Fourth Congressional District U.S. Rep. Mike Ross apologized to those who had gathered Friday at Ouachita Baptist University to hear the announcement that his official papers will be donated to the university’s archives.

“One of the things I’ve always prided myself on is never being late, and with 27 days left to go, I screwed it up,” Ross said, joking, referring to a traffic snarl on Interstate 30 that delayed his arrival in Arkadelphia. He also referred to his imminent return to the private sector after serving six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Ross, who also served 10 years as a state senator, did not seek re-election this year. His current term will conclude on Jan. 3.

Ouachita President Rex Horne welcomed Ross and said he is proud the congressman has chosen to donate his official papers to the university.

“This is a worthy addition to our archive collection,” Horne said. Ouachita also houses the official papers of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, U.S. Sen. John McClellan and U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey (whom Ross referred to as “the guy I beat”).

“I don’t look on our archive as just a repository where things are preserved,” Horne said. “This is something that can be studied by future generations, that can tell us about the man and times in which he served. It’s my hope there will be a young man or woman with an assignment who will work their way through [Ross’] papers and … find themselves committing to a life of public service.”

Ross said 200 boxes of printed material, 16,000 digital photos and 300 gigabytes of digital files will be delivered to archivist Wendy Richter.

“I will be the first to donate a significant amount of archives in digital format,” Ross said. “I still can’t believe that anyone would be interested in my notes, but looking back, it’s been a historic time. The 9/11 terror attacks occurred eight months into my first term; we’ve had the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the worst economic recession since the Second World War, so it’s important these materials be preserved.”

The collection will include press releases and meeting papers, newspaper ads and letters from constituents — “even the nasty ones,” Ross said.

It will take months, if not years, for the materials to be sorted and made available to the public. Ray Granade, director of library services at OBU, said the biggest

challenge will be figuring out how to properly archive the electronic material.

Horne and Ross signed an agreement to house the papers in the archives of the Riley-Hickingbotham Library Special Collections. The agreement specifies that Ross’ materials will be “arranged, preserved and protected with the same care and in the same manner accorded its other collections.” Once the materials are processed, the resources will be “made available to students, scholars and other qualified researchers who wish to use them for research or educational purposes.”

Ross said he believes the materials need to “stay in Arkansas. I got to looking at all these things, and I thought, ‘What are you going to do, put them in a shoebox until someone throws them away?’ They should be preserved for future generations, to give a better understanding of the challenges we faced. I hope they’ll instill in someone a spirit of public service.”

He said Ouachita is a “destination” for students of political science, and that its archives “lend themselves to compelling study and research opportunities.”

Politics should never “become a permanent career,” Ross said. “I look forward to joining those who never put their name on a ballot.”

He said he wasn’t sure there was “one moment” that best defined his career in Washington. “For me, it was about helping people and being a voice. I always came home on the weekends so that I could take [constituents’] issues back to the Capitol.”

Such issues as the “fiscal cliff” really wouldn’t be that difficult to deal with, Ross said, if members of both political parties would “call a truce and decide they’re going to work this out on behalf of the American people.”

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