Warner B. Ragsdale (1898-1986) was a reporter, editor, and author interested mainly in politics. Throughout his career Ragsdale held positions with numerous news organizations including the Associated Press and U.S. News and World Report. The collection documents Ragsdale's career as editor and writer on the political scene through reference files, interview transcripts, manuscripts, notebooks, publications, and photographs.
This collection is open for research.
Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.
9.00 Linear Feet
The Warner B. Ragsdale papers include material covering the years 1917 to 1985. The bulk of the material is evenly distributed between the years 1928 and 1970. Most of the papers were Mr. Ragsdale's reference files that he kept as a reporter and editor. These files were primarily composed of newspaper clippings, wire service reports, typescript news stories and office memoranda. But Mr. Ragsdale also kept a great number of interviews. Two of these stand out in the collection, the ones of John Nance Garner and Sam Rayburn; Mr. Ragsdale kept the transcripts as well as the revisions of the interview given by John Nance Garner. The majority of the remaining interviews are transcripts of telephone conversations whose contents were used as background information for Mr. Ragsdale's various books on the elections. There are also many drafts of Mr. Ragsdale's personal writings. The collection includes 5 bound volumes, created by Ragsdale's granddaughter, Becky Lallier, after his death. These volumes contain his Sunday school lesson plans as well as drafts for A Political History of the United States, a book that Ragsdale was working on throughout his life. Other materials in the collection include mementos from the 1928 and 1932 presidential campaigns, monographs, personal writings, reporter's notebooks, certificates, and photographs.
Warner Bernice Ragsdale was born on December 21, 1898 on a farm near Hiram, Paulding County, Georgia, the son of Joseph Robert Ragsdale and Sarah Emma Bullard. He attended public schools in Paulding and Cobb counties. From 1914 to 1917 he studied at Young Harris College in Towns County, Georgia. He was also in the Student Army Training Corps at Georgia Tech University during the fall and winter of 1918.
Mr. Ragsdale married Claribel Kemp on October 21, 1922. They had two children, Warner Bernice Jr. and Ruthmary.
In the autumn of 1920, Mr. Ragsdale began his professional career working as a "cub" reporter for the Florida Metropolis in Jacksonville, Florida.Over a span of four years, from 1920 until 1924, Mr. Ragsdale changed jobs ten times and worked for at least seven different news organizations. These organizations included The Evening Public Ledger in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; International News Service in Birmingham, Alabama; and the Charlotte Observer in Charlotte, North Carolina. In December of 1924, he took a position at The Associated Press where he remained for seventeen years, until 1941. His first major assignment for the AP came in 1925 when he covered the Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee. At the AP he gained extensive experience covering politics. He reported on the Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential campaigns in 1928, the presidential campaigns of 1932, the Democratic party split over FDR's third term, and the 1940 presidential campaigns. In 1937 he recived the "best feature story award" from the Headliners Club of Atlantic City, New Jersey, for a story on the Purple Gang, a criminal organization in Detroit.
In 1941, Mr. Ragsdale joined the staff of what was then known as U.S. News . There he concentrated his writings on the field of politics. He covered every congressional and presidential election campaign from 1941 until he retired in 1969. He was well-respected and liked among major political figures. Both John Nance Garner and Sam Rayburn were close friends of Mr. Ragsdale. Sam Rayburn, before passing away in 1961, gave his last interview to Warner B. Ragsdale. Mr. Ragsdale also covered other events such as the States' Rights convention in 1948, the Progressive Party Convention, also in 1948, and the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's. Even after he retired from U.S. News and World Report in 1969, he continued to work in their book department until 1972.
Mr. Ragsdale was a member of the Executive Committee of Periodical Press Galleries from 1949 to 1969 and Chairman from 1963 until he ended his membership. He was also actively involved with the National Press Club.
Mr. Ragsdale authored many books and articles. These included Presidential Campaigns (1936); The Origin of the Constitution (1937); U.S. Politics-Inside and Out (1970); Guide to the 1972 Elections (1972); Three Weeks in Dayton (1975) and chapter 1, "The Campaign Trail in 1932," of The Making of the New Deal: The Insiders Speak (1983), edited by Katie Loucheim.
Warner Bernice Ragsdale died on December 25, 1986
This collection is organized as nine series.
The Warner B. Ragsdale papers were donated to the University of Maryland College Park Libraries in 1987 by his son, Warner B. Ragsdale, Jr. In 2010, Warner B. Ragsdale's granddaughter, Becky Lallier, donated 5 bound volumes she produced of Ragsdale's writings.
The papers had no apparent order when received, except at the folder level where all documents pertaining to a single subject were kept together. At this level, an inventory was made of the collection. Similar file folder headings were then brought together to form each series. All metal fasteners were removed and the material was refoldered into acid-free folders. The documents within each file were divided into separate categories e.g., wire service reports, memoranda, typescript news stories, etc., but were maintained under their original subject heading. The collection includes 5 bound volumes, produced by W.B. Ragsdale's granddaughter, Becky Lallier, which were placed into their appropriate series. Most newspaper clippings, which were not annotated in any way were discarded. The folders were then labeled and then boxed and the guide written. Oversize items have been placed in the map case and photgraphs have been transferred to the Photograph collection. Memorabilia items have also been separated and transferred to the Memorabilia collection (#848-849).