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James Armsey Papers

 Collection 0083-MMC-NPBA

James W. Armsey (1918-2008) oversaw the formation of educational television for the Ford Foundation in the 1950s and 1960s. He was program director of the Foundation's Fund for Adult Education beginning in 1957 and worked on developing a group of noncommercial television stations as part of the Educational Television and Radio Center. He was also instrumental in the creation of educational station WNDT in 1961. The collection documents Armsey's career at the Ford Foundation.


  • 1992, undated
  • Majority of material found within 1992, undated

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


3 Folders

Scope and Contents

The Papers of James Armsey cover the year 1992 with undated material. The collection documents Armsey’s career at the Ford Foundation. Materials include a list of all of the grants Armsey was responsible for while at the Ford Foundation between the years of 1959 and 1968 and a copy of Don McNeil’s Public Broadcasting timeline with attached comments by Armsey.

Biographical / Historical

James Armsey held a bachelor’s degree in Journalism with majors in political science, psychology, and education. He spent five years in the Army, first in the signal corps, then cryptography, and finally public relations. After leaving the Army, Armsey received his master’s degree in political science and the University of Illinois.

After receiving his degrees, Armsey worked for Henry Heald at Illinois Tech. When Heald became the president of the Ford Foundation in October 1956, Armsey followed as an assistant to the president. In 1957, he became a program director with the Foundation’s Fund for Adult Education, working on the development of a group of noncommercial television stations as part of the Educational Television and Radio Center. The term “the fourth network,” used to describe public television, has been attributed to Armsey.

Armsey was instrumental in the creation of New Jersey educational television station WNDT in 1961. He continued to work for the Ford Foundation, but not on educational television topics.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The James W. Armsey Papers were donated to the National Public Broadcasting Archives, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries by James W. Armsey in July of 1992.

The James Armsey Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2012-10-02: EAD markup checked and verified using Oxgen software by Joanne Archer.
  • 2017-11-12: Reviewed and edited by Rebecca Thayer.
  • 2021-08-20: Jim Baxter re-wrote the collection abstract.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742