This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Presidential Records Act of 1978: Its Development From the Right to Know and the Public's Demand for Federal Records Ownership




Burge, Kevin

Type of Degree





The Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978 established public ownership of presidential records, erasing the previous tradition of presidents retaining records ownership. In 1974, Richard Nixon broke with tradition by signing an agreement with General Services Administrator Donald Sampson that called for the destruction of many of Nixon's Watergate records. This set into motion a string of events, culminating in the PRA. This thesis explores the development of the demand for public access from the 1940s through the passage of the PRA. In addition, the thesis will examine why Congress only sought presidential records ownership when the public demanded ownership of all federal records.