Helen Sioussat (1902-1995) was the Director of Talks and Public Affairs for CBS radio from 1937 to 1958. In that role, she regularly oversaw as many as 300 broadcasts a year addressing government, labor, education, religion, civil rights, and international affairs. In 1941, Sioussat created and hosted the TV program Table Talk, the first roundtable discussion program on television. She also wrote a book about broadcasting, Mikes Don't Bite, published in 1943.
The collection spans 1926 to 1995 and contains correspondence, press releases, transcripts, manuscripts, citations, photographs, financial records, photo albums, and other items.
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53.50 Linear Feet
The Helen Sioussat Papers contains a variety of material from every aspect of Sioussat's career. Included are: correspondence, press releases, media, artifacts, transcripts, manuscripts, citations, photos, financial records, photo albums and other material as well as a complete, hardbound run of Talks Magazine and an interview of Helen Sioussat by Fay Gillis Wells, recorded on October 3, 1979. The papers of Helen Sioussat spans the years from 1913 to 1992 and contains some undated materials. The bulk of the collection dates from 1937 until 1958.
Helen Johnson O'Doyle Sioussat (1902-1995) was an American broadcasting executive. She was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of Maurice and Helen Sioussat. She attended Goucher College in 1921 but left to take a 30-day business course, securing a job two days before the course was finished. Taking a year off from the business world, she spent ten months touring on stage, headlining with partner Raphael Sanchez, as a Spanish Adagio dance team. Ending up in Kansas City, Missouri in 1927, she began a career in business.
Returning east to Washington, DC, in 1935, she became Assistant to the Treasurer of the Planning & Coordinating Committee for the Petroleum Industry, during the last year of the National Recovery Act (NRA). In Washington she met Phillips H. Lord, actor and producer of many popular radio programs such as "Gang Busters," "Seth Parker." and "Mr. District Attorney." She became the Washington, DC manager for his radio programs. To help facilitate getting official information from closed files upon which the radio series was based, Sioussat was given an office next to J. Edgar Hoover in the Department of Justice. Her friendship with Mr. Hoover lasted for many years and she kept up a correspondence with Hoover until his death in 1972. Later, she transferred to New York City and became manager of all Lord productions.
In 1936 she decided to try employment at one of the radio networks, and on her way to NBC for an interview, stopped off at CBS to see if any jobs were available. Told that the new director of Public Affairs, Edward R. Murrow, was looking for an assistant. She was hired two days later and became Assistant Director of the Talks and Public Affairs Department. The following year when Murrow went overseas to become chief of CBS's foreign correspondents (and subsequently to cover World War II), Sioussat took over his job.
As Director, Sioussat was responsible for arranging the network's public affairs programming. In this capacity she scheduled broadcasts (often numbering more than 300 per year) featuring an incredible array of speakers on topics of current interest. Spokespersons for these programs came not only from politics and government, but from education, labor, industry, religion, civil rights, international affairs and other related areas. She also took part in formulating policy for all CBS public service programs. In 1941 she created, produced and hosted one of the first round-table discussion programs on television, "Table Talk with Helen Sioussat." She was CBS liaison with the White House and Congress and regularly attended the political conventions of both parties. In 1945 she led the CBS delegation to the San Francisco Conference that heralded the formation of the United Nations.
Sioussat was promoted to the Executive Offices of CBS in Washington in 1958, where she served primarily as a liaison between the network, Congress and federal agencies. She continued in this capacity until her retirement in 1962.
An acknowledged expert on speech techniques, Sioussat was in great demand as a lecturer and author. In addition to numerous articles and pamphlets, she wrote a book, "Mikes Don't Bite" (L. B. Fischer, 1943), a collection of amusing anecdotes from her radio career.
Sioussat received the George Foster Peabody Foundation Award in the category of the Best Educational Program of 1954 for the series "Man's Right to Knowledge." Sioussat was also the composer of songs, including: "Unathletic Me" (which was recorded by Sioussat's longtime friend Julie Wilson), "My Beloved," "Meet Me at the Waldorf," and "Beautiful Cat Cay."
Sioussat passed away in her Washington home on December 2, 1995. She had no immediate survivors.
The collection is organized as ten series:
The Helen Sioussat papers were donated to the Library of American Broadcasting at the University of Maryland Libraries in 1995 by Fay Gillis Wells, a longtime friend of Sioussat.
Additional correspondence was received in 2018 from David Rosen. David Rosen received the letters from Linton Wells II, the son of Fay Gillis Wells.
An interview of Helen Sioussat by Fay Gillis Wells, recorded on October 3, 1979, is housed with other LAB audio materials.
In 2018, additional material was added to the collection and interfiled in the appropriate place within the correspondence series. An audio series was added and 28 discs that were part of the original accession were added to the finding aid.
6 boxes of books were deemed out of scope and weeded from the collection.